Where are librarians in the field of Information Architecture in Australia? Theoretically we are skilled at deciding the best ways to store and retrieve information and design related schema to structure this.
Waaay back in library school… almost a couple of decades ago … I did an exercise where I had to create a thesaurus. The lecturer suggested we get a bunch of index cards and write every topic we could think of related to the subject, then rearrange them into the categories that would logically emerge. We had to know how to structure it heirarchically and use Narrower Terms, Broader Terms and Related Terms. It helped me to understand the structure of large thesauri when I assigned subject headings during cataloguing, but it’s not a skill I’ve used much in my career.
Soooo… fast forward to a recent seminar in Wellington with Donna Spencer, who will soon be in Perth to give a workshop about Information Architecture at the Edge of the Web Conference. This description of how an information architect may decide a schema for a web site seems strangely familiar, Information architecture not simple, even for experts :
A classic way of finding out how people’s minds categorise is to give them cards with the names of narrowly detailed topics and ask them to sort the cards into categories — either adopting previously named categories or defining and naming their own.
And, just check out these session topics from the upcoming OzIA Information Architecture conference mid-September in Sydney. As far as I can see, none of the presenters work as librarians.
Are users really ready for faceted search? Elizabeth Pek Short Session Easy content discoverability is a goal for any business. This session will discuss the faceted search experience and whether a Google style simple search interface works in all contexts. Search and sensibility: Four tales of search Louisa Cameron, Angus Fraser, Scott Bryant, Chris Khalil (News Digital Media) Advanced Session Four highly trafficked online services, four very different takes on search; we share lessons learned and tips for helping users find what they are looking for. Taxonomy, Social Networks and Pace-Layering Roger Hudson Advanced Session Is our growing reliance on search rotting our brains? Will social software replace conventional site taxonomy? Can pace-layering provide an answer to these questions?
- From research fluff to useful tools
- Stephen Cox
- Short Session
- Having lots of research data can be frustrating, what do you do with it all? Learn how News Digital Media transforms its research into practical tools for design.
I think librarians have lost a chance to hone our skills, broaden them to web design and let web designers know what we do. When is the last time your organisation asked its librarians what to do when the corporate website was redesigned? I think it’s possibly too late for us to join the party now – even given that the poster child for Information Architecture, Peter Morville, is a librarian. I hope I’m wrong…
While I’m having a little rant about how our skills aren’t on the radar of web designers, I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, applaud or throw tomatoes at this article by William Hicks from Digital Magazine, Getting The Most Out Of Your Library. It describes what the “bricks and mortar” library can offer a web designer – yes, we are a *building*. Library staff are fleetingly mentioned as people paid to help you find “stuff”. What about our library web sites and catalogues? This:
You will not be happy with many library websites. Libraries are big and beastly, offering lots of services to lots of audiences. Information architecture is rarely pretty, markup is typically much worse. You will get lost. Sorry.
So you found the library catalog, fired off a search and found an item that sounds mildly intriguing. The result page probably didn’t have any real reviews of the book, it is doubtful there was a book cover, nor apparently any other related items. You’re most likely staring at a title, some notes on the author, a bunch of useless publication data, some subject headings, notes, and a string of letters and numbers. Amazon.com it is not. It’s not built for you the user. It’s built for the vendors, librarians, and their staff. For now, you are stuck with it. (Again, sorry.) Help or urge the local librarian to adopt newer ideas into their catalogs.
UPDATE 28 August 2008. There is a librarian presenting at OzIA – Prue Deacon, about Thesauri. Apologies Prue. Good to see you there.