Lippel, Helen (ed.) Taxonomies: Practical approaches to developing and manging vocbularies for digital information. London: Facet Publishing, 2022. xxix, 258 p. ISBN 978-1-78330-481-3. £50.00.
The first caveat that should be made in the review of this book is as follows: it is not related to research and definitely is not an academic publication. The sure sign of this is the absence of any references to any kind of literature. So, is it worth a review in a scholarly journal?
As I am writing this review, I have given myself a confirmative answer. Here is the signle reason for my decision: many of our readers are involved in academic and/or professional education of information professionals and this book may aid them and their students ito understand taxonomies and work with them in different contexts and with different applications.
The contributors to this book are professionals from English speaking countries (mainly Great Britain). This is important in a book about taxonomies that are basically linguistic tools. Nevertheless, the basics of knowledge organisation and the functioning of these tools are the same in many organisational, cultural and language environments. Besides, the contributors are high level professionals who not only know their job very well, but are also capable of communicating their expertise and knowledge to the reader. Each text is clearly structured and written in a way that can be understood by a beginner, but at the same time up-to-date and dealing with issues that are relevant and useful to other professionals.
One of the greatest merits of this book is, in my opinion, the coherence of it. The editor Helen Lippel evidently has invited the authors to produce a text on specific issues having a clear idea of the whole book. My suspicion is that she has not only structured the whole book and its parts coherently and logically so that they reflect her idea properly, but has discussed the content of each chapter with each author in detail. The result is a very useful, practical and a rather comprehensive teaching aid in the field of taxonomy building and maintenance. This is quite rarely achieved in the books where each chapter is written by a different author. In this case, there are 16 chapters and 17 authors. The editor has contributed an Introduction and co-authored a Glossary, but her firm hand is felt throughout the whole book.
The main part of the book is obviously Part 2, which is devoted to different aspects of creating a taxonomy and definitely covers most of them from the most basic (explanation of taxonomy nature, relations and hierarchies of categories in ch.5 or taxonomy structure in ch.3) to quite soffisticated ones (avoiding bias and respecting justice in ch.4 or interoperability issues in ch.7). The contents of chapter 5 reminded me of the approac to teaching cataloguing basics by one of my colleagues, who was the best loved teacher by the students I have ever met. This entire part of the book is covered in most detail in the index to this text (pp. 253-258).
The other parts are covering the preparation to toxonomy building (Part 1), the applications of taxonomies for different purposes, such as enterprise search in ch.9 or content management in ch. 11 (Part 2), and the issues related to managing taxonomy work in organisations, such as finding champions for taxonomy projects, building and working in teams, communicating with interested parties and organising the work process (Part 4). All the chapters are full of cases from the rich professional lives of the authors. The figures, tables and occassional text boxes help in understanding the tricky issues of taxonomy building and working with them. I liked very much the introduction of the authors by the editor at the beginning of each chapter, where she also provides the reason why each of them was chosen to write about the particular issue addressed in the chapter. The variety of the environments in which the authors are (or were) working helps to understand the ubiquity and omnipresence of classificatory tools in physical and digital environments. This also adds depth to the whole book with regard to diversity of classificatory approaches and cultures.
As suitable for the book on taxonomies, the appendices include examples of a metadata templates of taxonomy terms and of a workbook, list and explanation of ontological principles of semantics, and a comprehensive glossafy of terms related to taxonomy work.
So, I see this book as a useful teaching aid for knowledge organisation or more specific courses on taxonomies. Teachers and students will get many benefits and fun using it in education and learnign. It also can be a very good orientation and 'crash course' for someone just starting ones carrier in information management in any organisation without relevant professional education.
University of Borås
How to cite this review
Maceviciute, E. (2022). Review of: Lippel, Helen (ed.) Taxonomies: Practical approaches to developing and manging vocbularies for digital information. London: Facet Publishing, 2022. Information Research, 27(3), review no. Rxxx [Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/reviews/revsxxx.html]
Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.