LIS 605 Discussion Questions

Note: The required textbook for this course is: Abbas, June. 2010. Structures for organizing knowledge : exploring taxonomies, ontologies, and other schemas. Many of the discussions will be based on chapters from this textbook.
Additional note: Whenever we do not have time to have our discussion in-class, we will move the discussion online to Laulima, found at Each student will be required to post at least one response per question.

Session Two

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Abbas talks about the "hierarchical pyramid" of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. What is being communicated in the book you have in your hand? Walk us through the hierarchy as you imagine the research for and writing of the book, as well as the reading and subsequent assimilation by the reader of the book's contents.
  2. Imagine that you knew nothing about your textbook, not even the title. What would you need to know about the book (besides the fact that it is assigned) to determine if the book might be relevant to your information needs? For each element or facet you list please explain why it is important in determining the book's relevancy to the user. For example, if you list the title as being an element you need to know, why is the title important in determining relevancy to a user's needs?
  3. Abbas talks about the three threads that will be explored in the book. Below are three records for the same work. The first record is from the Library of Congress online catalog ( The following two are from the Open Library website Keeping in mind the three threads of Abbas, how do these records differ? Who created the records? What rules or standards (if any) were the creators of these records following? When you log onto either the Library of Congress catalog or the Open Library website, how can you get to these records? Talk about the relative utility of these records once you find them.

Session Three

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Abbas mentions the quipu ("talking strings") of the Incans in her discussion of historical structures for organizing knowledge. You can see a picture of a quipu on the National Geographic website at Here in Polynesia navigators made use of "stick charts" in teaching their students. You can see such a stick chart on the National Geographic Education site at Click on the "Fast Facts" tab to get information about the chart. Would you characterize the "stick chart" as a knowledge organization structure? Why do you think it is or is not?
  2. Let us test the boundaries a bit further. Can a novel be viewed as having or being a knowledge structure? Please give the reasoning for your answer.

Session Four

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Visit the Tree of Life website at Based on the reading for this week, how would you characterize the classification scheme used here?
  2. Visit the Explore page on the Flickr website at How are the photos organized on this site? Based on the reading for this week, how would you characterize the classification scheme(s) used here?
  3. Imagine you have just returned from a trip to Paris where you saw a stained glass window in a cathedral with a central motif that looked like this:

    If you were looking for a picture of that stained glass window but were not sure of the name of the cathedral how would you go about searching for such a picture in Flickr?
  4. Bruce Mundy, a marine biologist for the National Marine Fishery Service, wrote a rather lengthy work he titled Checklist of the fishes of the Hawaiian archipelago.* The author lists over a thousand fishes that have been described has having been seen in the waters around Hawai`i and Johnston Atoll. Imagine that you are a librarian for the National Marine Fishery Service here in Hawai'i. You have been tasked with putting information about the fishes listed online. You want the information to be easily navigated by both scientists and non-scientists. Looking back at the different kinds of classification systems you have just read about, how would you organize the information about the fishes of Hawai'i in the online environment?

    Here is a sample record (for the Humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua`a, the state fish of Hawai`i) from the checklist:

    Rhinecanthus rectangulus (Bloch & Schneider)

    Balistes rectangulus Bloch & Schneider, 1801, p. 465, Indian Ocean
    Balistes rectangulus Bloch & Schneider, 1801: Steindachner (1900).
    Balistapus rectangulus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801): Fowler (1900), Jenkins (1903), Snyder (1904), Jordan & Evermann (1905), Fowler (1928, 1931, 1934).
    Rhinecanthus rectangulus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801): Fowler (1949), Gosline & Brock (1960), Hobson (1974), Tinker (1982), Randall & Steene (1983), Okamoto & Kanenaka (1984), Masuda et al. (1984), Randall (1985a, 1996a), Smith & Heemstra (1986), Myers (1989), Winterbottom et al. (1989), Randall et al. (1990a, 1997a), Hoover (1993, 2003).

    TAXONOMY: Randall & Steene (1983).

    COMMON NAMES: Humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua`a (Hoover, 1993, 2003; Randall, 1996a), Picasso triggerfish (Hoover, 1993, 2003), Reef triggerfish (Hoover, 1993, 2003; Randall, 1996a), Wedge picassofish (Myers, 1999), Wedge-tail triggerfish (Randall et al., 1997a), Saddle-shoe fish.

    HAWAIIAN RECORDS: Hawaii Island to Gardner Pinnacles at 1-8 m (Steindachner, 1900; Jordan & Evermann, 1905; Hobson, 1974; Okamoto & Kanenaka, 1984; Hoover, 1993).

    GENERAL RANGE: Indo-Pacific from East Africa and the Red Sea to southern Japan, the Ogasawara Islands, Australia, Lord Howe Island, Micronesia, the Hawaiian Islands, French Polynesia, and the Pitcairn Group. Engybenthic over coral and rock at 1-8 m (Randall & Steene, 1983; Masuda et al., 1984; Smith & Heemstra, 1986; Winterbottom et al., 1989; Randall et al., 1990a, 1997b; Hoover, 1993).

*Mundy, Bruce. 2005. Checklist of the fishes of the Hawaiian archipelago. Honolulu : Bishop Museum Press.

Here is a picture of the fish, taken by Bruce Mundy, who kindly allowed me to show it to you.

Session Five

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. On page 44 Abbas, citing the ISO website, lists benefits of standards. From what you have seen of cataloging thus far, which of these benefits appear to apply? In what way do they do so?
  2. Among her thought questions at the end of the chapter, the author asks the reader to think about: "Who are the major players in the development of standards? Does the process include all of the stakeholders you feel are necessary? If not, who should be involved in the standards development process? In your opinion, do you think that the users of the community are involved at the appropriate level or time in the development and approval process?" How would you answer the author's questions?

Session Six

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Below are the Dublin Core Metadata Elements added to the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative home page. (You can see these elements in context by going to

    Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) Home Page

    The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative is an open forum engaged in metadata innovation and support the development of interoperable online metadata standards that support a broad range of purposes and business models. DCMI's activities include consensus-driven working groups, global conferences and workshops, standards liaison, and educational efforts to promote widespread acceptance of metadata standards and practices.




    Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

    Compare the Dublin Core metadata above to the metadata found in the following standard catalog record found in the UH Voyager catalog for a resource that is available both online and in print:

    How are the records similar? How do they differ? Why do they differ?

  2. On page 62 Abbas, citing Svenonius, lists the "dangers of excessive standardization within bibliographic control." Here in Hawai`i in fairly dry areas off the beaten path we often see the rather scruffy koa haole plant. According to the Tropical Forages website the common names for this plant are numerous:
    guage (Mexico); wild tamarind (Corozal, Belize); lead tree (Florida); lamtoro (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea); ipil ipil (Philippines); jumby bean (Bahamas); false koa, koa haole (Hawaii); tangantangan, tangan tangan, talantayan (Guam, Marshall Islands); talntangan, ganitnityuwan tangantan (Yap); tuhngantuhngan, rohbohtin (Kosrae); telentund (Palau); lopa samoa (American Samoa); fua pepe (American Samoa and Samoa); lusina (Samoa); pepe (Niue and Samoa); nito (Cook Islands); siale mohemohe (Tonga); subabul (India); vaivai (Fiji); cassis (Vanuatu); te kaitetua (Kiribati); kay keo du (Vietnam).

    Below is part of a Library of Congress catalog record for a book on this plant.

    Note the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) in the record. LCSH are used by many libraries in the English-speaking world. Why would these subject headings be problematic for library patrons in the Philippines or in Hawai`i looking for information on this plant? (We will see solutions to this problem when we talk about LCSH authority records.)

  3. That long upholstered object in your living room has been called by a variety of names. Take a look at the record for such an object in the Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online at:¬e=&english=N&prev_page=1&subjectid=300038634.

    How have the creators of this thesaurus dealt with the problem inherent in a standardized terminology that you saw with koa haole?

  4. Please visit the concise online MARC 21 documentation for the 245 field at Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the record. How does the content of that record relate to the author's discussion of standards and best practices on pages 63-64? Now that you are creating MARC-format records yourself, do you find this useful?

Session Seven

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria, and International Code of Zoological Nomenclature all emphasize stability of scientific names. Please return to the record for the Humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua`a in the discussion questions for Session Four. Note the other scientific names that have been used for this fish. Why might this be?
  2. Please return to your project of putting information about the fishes of Hawai`i online. Which of the resources described in this part of Chapter 4 of the textbook would likely be of greatest use to you? How would you use them?
  3. Please do a search for the Humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua`a in the Encyclopedia of Life at What is the source of this article? Does that concern you? Why or why not?

Session Eight

Required reading:

Discussion questions:


  1. We have been working largely with MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data. However, as Abbas mentions there are a total of five MARC 21 Formats. Many public libraries now create records not only for things like books, journals, and audivisual recordings but also for community information such as local agencies that provide assistance to youths, senior citizens, immigrants, or persons with disabilities. Please re-visit the MARC 21 Format site but this time check out the MARC 21 Format for Community Information at Explore the various fields, especially the 2XX and 3XX fields. What differences from Bibliographic MARC leap out at you? What other fields do you think might be useful in Community Information records?
  2. Abbas notes the differences between subject heading lists (like LCSH) and thesauri (like the one offered in Eric). LCSH includes the subject heading: Education of library and information professionals. What descriptor(s) in the ERIC thesaurus would take you to works on the same subject?

    To search the ERIC thesaurus, start at the UHM Library website:

    Click on E-Resources & Databases.

    On the Electronic Resources page type "ERIC" into the search box. De-select "Journals" and "onlinebook," leaving only Databases & Indexes selected. Then click on the Search button.

    When the next page appears, click on ERIC (via EBSCOHost).

    When the next page appears, click on ERIC (via EBSCOHost) again. At this point the system will probably ask you to log in using your UH user id and password.

    When you reach the ERIC database page, click on the word "Thesaurus" in the blue band at the top of the screen. Search for the appropriate descriptor(s).

    If you cannot find an appropriate term in the Thesaurus, you can back out to the main ERIC screen by clicking on the circular EBSCO host logo. This will allow you to perform a search for articles on the subject using a variety of options. When you find an article that seems apropos pull up the record and visually scan the subjects listed. From the list of subjects pick one or more terms that you feel best represent the subject. Now search for your term(s) in the Thesaurus to see if there is a scope note or related terms that might be more appropriate.

    How would you characterize the difference between the LCSH term and the ERIC descriptor(s) you selected? Which gives greater specificity? Which is likely to retrieve a greater number of works? Which term do you think would be better understood by a general audience?


  1. The Library of Congress has been moving away from inverted headings. However, as the introduction to LCSH states, some inverted headings have been retain. The following is a list of inverted headings, all beginning with the word "Art."
    Art, Aboriginal Australian
    Art, Abstract
    Art, Achaemenid
    Art, Achinese
    Art, Aegean
    Art, Afghan
    Art, African
    Art, Ainu
    Art, Akan
    Art, Akkadian
    Art, Albanian
    Art, Albigensian
    Imagine you are at the reference desk of a university. What type of reference questions would the inverted nature of these headings help you to answer?
  2. Both Abbas and the introduction to LCSH talk about types of relationships between headings, characterizing them using the terms "equivalence," "hierarchical," or "associative." Below is an entry for the Library of Congress Subject Heading "Cubism."
  3. Cubism (May Subd Geog)
    BT Aesthetics
    Art, Modern—20th century
    Modernism (Art)
    RT Cubo-futurism (Art)
    Post-impressionism (Art)
    NT Decoration and ornament—Cubism
    Drawing, Cubist
    Purism (Art)

    What are the relationships between the terms in this subject heading record? How would you characterize them using the trichotomy mentioned above? How might these relationships assist you in cataloging a book? Imagine that you are on the reference desk. What types of questions would these relationships assist you in answering?

Session Nine

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Olson mentions a 1971 article by Thomas Yen-Ran Yeh in which that author noted that the word "massacre" was used when Native Americans killed settlers from Europe but "battle" was used when soldiers of European ancestry killed Native Americans.

    Let us explore this issue four decades after that article was written. We will do this by examining the subject headings for well-known incidents in history: one in 1890 at Wounded Knee and the other in 1876 at Little Bighorn. To get an overview of what happened in 1890 at Wounded Knee please visit (There is also information about a later incident in the 1970s.) To get a short synopsis of what happened at Little Bighorn please visit the National Park description at:

    Please perform a title search in the Library of Congress catalog at for the work entitled The Battle of Wounded Knee; the Ghost Dance uprising or the one entitled We are a people in this world : the Lakota Sioux and the massacre at Wounded Knee.

    What are the subject headings applied to these works?

    Now do a search for the work entitled Chief Flying Hawk's tales; the true story of Custer's last fight, as told by Chief Flying Hawk to M. I. McCreight (Tchanta Tanka).

    What are the subject headings applied to this work?

    Why the difference between the subject headings created for these two incidents? What do these subject headings say to you about these events? Do you feel that the current subject headings for these incidents continue to exhibit the problem identified in 1971?
  2. On page 61 Olson talks about marginalizing a topic by emphasizing the "qualities that make it other." She lists a number of terms that marginalize in that manner. Are these subject headings still current in LCSH? (Use the subject-heading authority file at to check). For any subject heading that is no longer current what is the current subject heading? Does the current subject heading address Olson's concerns? If so, how?
  3. Olson identifies LCSH as a Third Space. On page 66 she quotes Homi Bhabha as saying that the symbols of culture can be "appropriated, translated, rehistoricized and read anew." Between the time Thomas Yen-Ran Yeh wrote his article and today is there evidence that a "rehistorization" process has occurred?
  4. Near the beginning of Olson's article, on page 54, the author lists three questions she intended to explore in the paper. Having now read the paper, how would you answer those three questions?

Session Ten

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Below is a table giving the placing and terminology used to denote works about african violets.

    Scheme Terminology
    Library of Congress Subject Heading African violets
    Library of Congress Classification
    QK495.G4 (botany number)
    Gesneriaceae (African violet)
    Library of Congress Classification
    SB413.A4 (plant culture number)
    African violets
    Dewey Decimal System:
    583.95 (botany number)
    Including Scrophulariaceae (figwort family, snapdragon family) ... Gesneriaceae ...
    Including African violets ...
    Dewey Decimal System:
    635.93395 (floriculture number)
    Flowers and ornamental plants ... Taxonomic groupings [Instructions then send the cataloger to the botany section of the schedule for the specific number for a particular plant in this group]

    Why do you think that the terminology differs?

  2. Abbas gives the following thought question:
    Controlled vocabularies and classification schemes have been developed to aid users in finding information. Write about the last time you looked for information. Give details about (1) [the] purpose of the search, (2) which systems you used, [and] (3) what knowledge structures you used to aid in your searching. Explain your answer in depth, keeping in mind the functions of bibliographic subject access tools (controlled vocabularies and classification schemes).

    Follow her instructions. In writing about your information search do not overlook the affective aspect of your search experience. Was your search rewarding? Frustrating? Be prepared to share your experiences with your classmates.

Session Eleven

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. In this chapter Abbas talks about Personal Knowledge Organization. Apply what you read to analyze your own information organization practices. At home, how do you organize your bank or credit union statements, telephone bills, electric bills, credit card receipts, insurance bills, and credit card bills? Are these records paper, electronic, or a mix of both? If you use folders, what labels do you use for the folders (physical or electronic) in which you store this information? Inverted, as in "Credit card—Sears, or direct order? At what level of granularity do you organize? For example, if you have accounts with more than one bank or credit union, do you store all the records together or separate them by institution? If you have both land-line telephones and cellular telephones, so you file all telephone records together or separate them by carrier? Are folders for non-financial information interfiled with folders for financial information? For example, if you have an owner's manual for your washing machine is it filed in the same filing cabinet as your bank statements? Do you have a de-selection policy—perhaps a time limit on retaining certain types of documents?
  2. Working toward a master's degree is in some ways akin to a job. How do you organize the materials in the knowledge space you use when you are doing your assignments while in the LIS program? Is that organization different from the one you use to organize fiscal data? If so, how? And, more importantly, why?

Session Twelve

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Should we be paying attention to social bookmarking and social cataloging sites? If so, why? What can we learn from them?
  2. On pages 185-186 Abbas talks about "system-generated and collaboratively developed information" that is added to a book record in LibraryThing. Looking at the list of things added, which elements would you find sufficiently useful that you would like to see them incorporated into "standard" library catalogs?
  3. Are there drawbacks to allowing users to add information to a public, school, or academic library catalog? What might those be? How could the library deal with those drawbacks, keeping in mind that libraries often lack adequate funding and personnel?

Session Thirteen

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Visit the Penn tags web page at As a library user, do you see these tags as being potentially useful in finding information? How would you characterize many of the tags you see there?
  2. On pages 189-190 Abbas talks about research on the feasibility of integrating elements of social networking, bookmarking, and cataloging sites into library OPACs. From what you have read thus far, should currently evolving folksonomies inform our controlled vocabularies? If so, in what way? For example, how could the Library of Congress utilize what is seen in online folksonomies in the ongoing refinements of the Library of Congress Subject Headings?
  3. On pages 198-199 Abbas mentions that, as a result of the Common Knowledge project at LibraryThing, users may now add data to a book record about characters mentioned in the book. Imagine a scenario in which you are the reference librarian on duty. Under what circumstances might this data be crucial in helping a patron?

Session Fourteen

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Abbas notes on pages 216-217 that Spiteri has suggested adding user reviews to library catalogs. Many commercial websites such as allow users to post reviews of books or audio recordings. How often, if ever, do you read these reviews? Do you take these reviews into account when purchasing books? Audio CDs?
  2. Which types of libraries, if any, do you think should incorporate user reviews in their catalogs? Why?
  3. Abbas on page 220 talks about various activities to be undertaken in "tag gardening." Who would you see taking responsibility for this? Users? Social network site personnel? Librarians?
  4. Now that you have finished reading the textbook it is time for a bit of meta-analysis. Why do librarians in general and catalogers in particular need to know about taxonomies, ontologies, personal information organization habits, and social bookmarking and cataloging activities? How do you think you will incorporate what you have learned from Abbas into your practice as an information professional?

Session Fifteen

Required reading:

Discussion questions:

  1. Cataloging records are being shared throughout the world. Classification schemes developed originally for specific groups of users are now being utilized in catalogs in many different linguistic and cultural environments. Kwasnik and Rubin talk about one area in which this is problematic. Having now briefly studied two different classification schemes that were both originally designed for users on the North American continent (and originally for a particular subset of the populace in North America) in your view are these schemes as they currently exist readily adaptable for use in a global environment? Why or why not?
  2. Is there such a thing as a classification scheme that would be fully understandable and useful throughout a multicultural environment?
  3. If you are familiar with a language other than English, please share concepts that you think might be problematic in a multicultural classification scheme. (For example, if you are familiar with the Hawaiian concept of hānai, where would you put it in the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme?)