Svenonius, Elane The intellectual foundation of information organisation. London : MIT Press, 2000. 255 p. ISBN: 0262194333. £40.
First of all: this is not a manual on how to organise information, but rather an ambitious effort towards the understanding of the underlying principles of information organisation. The first half of the book (chapter 1-5) is concerned with definitions and principles and the second half on bibliographic languages (chapter 6-10).
In the first chapter the terms of information and document are defined in a way which seems to be close to Ranganathan's concepts of "work" and "embodiment", while in the second chapter, the objectives of bibliographic organisation are presented, from Panizzi and Cutter up to IFLA's Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. Some of the entities introduced in this document are further developed in the next chapter. In the fourth chapter the author develops the idea of considering bibliographic languages as special purpose languages (LSP), while the fifth chapter deals with the principles underlying these languages.
The second half starts with a presentation of LSP for work description. A distinction is introduced between the vocabulary and its interrelationships and between assigned and derived metadata. Chapter 7 presents the AACR2 as a document description language, while Chapter 8 introduces the concept of subject languages, with its two main subclasses of classified and alphabetic subject languages. The two last chapters deal with the semantics and the syntax of these languages.
The merit of this book is the presentation of a linguistically-based general theory of information organisation, including the underlying principles. The terminology is clear and makes it easy to follow the author through the whole field of information organisation.
Some readers may find it hard to accept a term like subject language, when used to indexing language, but this is not an important inconvenience. It is the author's ambition to get across the boundaries of our discipline with her thoughts, but this reviewer thinks it is already a success if they reach researchers and teachers within the field. Some of us will certainly appreciate this book and be strongly influenced by it.