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Group 4 Research Paper: Classification Systems

By: (In order)
1&2: Nancy Roque
3: Angela Kathryn Hood
4: Brendan Driscoll
5: Alexandra de Luna
6: Angela Rivieccio


1 & 2.
The breadth of literature that is created by mankind to chronicle history, science,
and our fictional, creative pursuits, grows constantly without a conceivable end. As an
institution that was created to house information and make it available to the public,
libraries were given the daunting task to create a system of organization that would be
able to grow as the collection of literature grows while still remaining intact and
organized well enough that people can find what they need at any given time.
This request, although challenging, was met with the creation of multiple
classification systems. In order for libraries to continue in the business of servicing
patrons and housing information, the need for organization was met with the creation of
extremely detailed, yet flexible, systems of classification that were put into place to
contain all of the literature that currently exists and may exist in the future.
Classifying information in order to organize it is one of the easiest ways for the
human brain to store information into memory, which is a skill that was easily translated
to the coordination of stock and information within the walls of a library. (Chan, 2007)
According to Lazarinis (2015), “the fundamental purpose of this process is to facilitate
the retrieval of the required information, i.e. to lead the user to the required book or map
or other type of resource.”
These classification systems offer a solution to what was an unfulfilled need: a
way to allow librarians and patrons alike to find the item, or piece of information, they
need in an efficient manner.
As Chan (2007) states, “library classification in particular has been defined as
“the systematic arrangement by subject of books and other material on shelves or of

catalogue and index entries in the manner that is most useful to those who read or who
seek a definite piece of information.” Chan (2007) further clarifies her definition of the
services classification systems aid in by stating that “classification as a term refers both
to the development of schemes for systematic display of all aspects of the various fields
of knowledge and to the art of arranging books or other objects in conformity with such
These statements by Chan (2007) bring about the impression that, although library
classification systems were originally invented to create order, they are now implemented
across the board to preserve order within the growing collections.
The creation of classification system “can be traced back to ancient Greece and
Aristotle’s classical theory of categories and the catalogue compiled by the poet
Callimachus for the library of Alexandria, which arranged entries into at least 10 main
classes” (Lazarinis, 2015).
This classification system, though created long ago in history, represents a human
need to organize as well as a library’s longstanding requirement to systematize. Since
then, multiple classification systems have been created and put to work in libraries
canvasing the globe. Lazarinis (2015) outlines the most comment systems to be the
Dewey Decimal system (DDC), created between 1873 and 1876, the Library of Congress
Classification system (LCC), developed in 1897 as a result of the Library of Congress’
collection growing to a significant size, and the Cutter Expansive Classification system.
These systems vary in degrees of popularity, which is highlighted by the fact that
the “DDC and LCC have been translated and applied in many different human

languages,” with “Dewey (having been) translated into more than 30 languages”
(Lazarinis, 2015).
Although forged from the same common need for organization, it appears that
each individual classification system was designed individually to meet different needs
and levels of organization. For example, the Dewey Decimal system centers its
organization from “ten main classes, subdivided decimally to form a total of 1,000
categories numbered 000-999, and an alphabetical subject index” (Chan, 2007).
The format of the Dewey Decimal system directly contrasts with that of the
Library of Congress Classification system, which “consists of twenty-one classes
displayed in over forty separately published print schedules and a large database, (and is)
continually updated” (Chan, 2007). Additionally, it is important to note that the status of
the library as public, academic or other is an impacting detail on the type of classification
system they implement on their shelves.
Catalogs are necessary in order to maintain traceable catalogs, and are integral to
best serve patrons whether they are seeking information in person or online via databases.
The reason for this is quite clear: without the standardization of an organization system,
books and other media simply would be irretrievable for the most part due to the sheer
volume of works a patron or librarian would have to peer through in order to find the
correct piece of information.
At the most basic level, alphabetization by author or title is a necessity to even
begin to narrow down the search without a proper, complex classification system in
place. Systems such as the Dewey Decimal system and Library of Congress
Classification System create “categories, hierarchies and systematic arrangements” that

create meaningful structure that can be expanded to include new works as time goes on,
allowing the organization of the subject area to remain complete (Rowley and Farrow,
Moreover, classification systems have validated themselves as “necessary”
through the ease in which they demonstrate to library workers what areas of literature or
information are lacking in volume and should be filled or, conversely, removed from
rotation. This occurs because classification systems create a flow of books and records
that can be analyzed by a working looking into the trends of that specific category or
As noted by Chan (2007), “classification is used as a tool for collection
management, e.g., facilitating the creation of specialized branch libraries and the
generation of discipline-specific holdings lists.” These systems also aid in searches and
activities that occur outside of the physical sphere of the library and instead occur online.
Since classification systems of any type, DDC, LCC and others, tag individual books
with easily decipherable information, librarians are able to conduct searches and evaluate
information linked to each book.
“In online public access catalogs (OPACs),” Chan (2007) explains,” classification
also serves a direct retrieval function because class numbers can be used as access points
to MARC records.”
Classification systems additionally give librarians and other information workers
a set structure to follow when creating organization within their system (Rowley and
Farrow, 2000).

Necessary to maintaining physical housing, classification systems of any type
make adding and organization new books and media possible, as every individual piece
can be input into the system and be found a place to be shelved.
These systems, created as complex and flexible entities, give order to subjects and
format citation and filing orders on a shelf-by-shelf level, therefore making the search for
each item less of a challenge when browsing through shelves (Rowley and Farrow, 2000).
Furthermore, classification systems also allow for another necessity, which is a
standard system that spans across multiple libraries. This standardization allows for basic
functions such as interlibrary loans to exist with ease, as, in conjunction with catalogs, all
information can be found easily to allow for this process.
On the most basic level, the main function of classification systems is to create
organization as an answer to the most fundamental need of all libraries. Explaining this
need, Tauber (1956) writes; “The organization of books into well-ordered groups
eliminates for the user of the library the necessity of extensive and frequently fruitless
examination of a great many volumes when a definite subject is desired[…] By arranging
together on the shelves materials which are similar in subject or in form, their use is
Such a level of organization allows items to be collocated, which Rowley and
Farrow (2000) describe as an extremely beneficial side effect of classification systems:
“If we know where a subject is classed,” they write, “we can locate it without having to
search the whole collection; and can moreover expect to find related subjects nearby.”
As a result of this, an individual user who has found the area in which their
originally-sought item was held in can then peruse the direct area to find similar works

they may find interest in whether for personal or scholarly reasons without having to start
their search anew.
Another key function of classification systems within a library is to promote the
retrieval of items in cases where the patron cannot be physically present. As the
classification process itself links individual items to details indicative of their content and
other identifying information, these systems allow library functions such as the
interlibrary loan program to exist.
Rowley and Farrow (2000) expound upon this, stating that classification systems
“link an item on the shelves with its catalogue entry… An item’s classmark forms park of
its shelf mark (also known as call number and book number), which enables items
located within a library catalogue to be retrieved from the shelves.” As a result, books are
linked with important information such as whether they are a first edition, what languages
it is printed in, etc.
When combined with the advent of worldwide catalogues, like WorldCat, the use
of classification system only serves to further streamline the process of finding
information that can then be used to ship an item to the location it is needed at. As a
whole, this leads to the ability that libraries have demonstrated in moving fluidly into the
digital age through these complex organizational systems that maintain their usefulness
even through the transfer into digital usage.
Each system, down to a library-by-library level, can be easily represented through
online documents and become even more advantageous to users when paired with searchengine like features that allow users to see what library their needed item is kept in,

whether it is checked out or not and if it can be ordered to a closer location or what floor,
section and shelf it is located on.
3. Main Types of Classification Systems
There are two classification systems widely used by libraries in the United States:
the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress Classification. The first, The
Dewey Decimal System, has been adopted as an organizational tool by academic, public,
and special libraries in the U.S. and is also utilized by over 20,000 countries around the
world. According to Wiegand (1998), by 1996 the DDC “was being used by 95 percent of
public and school libraries, 25 percent of special libraries, and 25 percent of academic
libraries (mostly at small colleges)” (p. 175). Its first edition was published in 1876. Now
on its twenty-second edition, it has been translated into over thirty languages to become
the mostly widely used classification system in the world. (Chan, 2007)
The DDC, created by Melvil Dewey during his time as a library assistant at
Amherst College, came to be after he spent several months studying numerous books and
pamphlets, as well as surveying in person many different U.S. libraries. The first edition
was comprised of forty-four pages and “contains a brief preface outlining Dewey’s
principles, the schedules for ten main classes subdivided decimally to form a total of
1,000 categories numbered 000-999, and an alphabetical subject index” (Chan, 2007,
p.320). The main class division is based on the earlier system of W.T. Harris, whose work
was derived by rearranging Francis Bacon’s classification of knowledge.
However, Dewey’s version, when compared side by side with the other two
scholars’ works, presents a more modern approach to organizing information.
Additionally, he added two new features to his system, relative location and relative

index, which bring the location of a subject that may often be found in many areas of
study. (Chan, 2007)
According to Chan (2007), “Each of the ten main classes into ten divisions, and
each division is divided into ten sections, with further subdivisions made as required” (p.
327). In the DDC, the main classes are denote with the numbers 0 through 9 followed by
divisions and subdivisions that use the decimal principle to further divide a subject more
specifically. For example, Chan illustrates the following hierarchy of the classification of
categories on page 330:
500 Natural sciences and mathematics
510 Mathematics
516 Geometry
516.3 Analytic geometries
516.37 Metric differential geometries
516.375 Finsler Geometry
Knowledge of each subject is divided in this manner with a few examples, such as “580
Plants (Botany)” (Chan, 2007, p.329), which some debate should be divided into a
subtopic under that category of biology rather than have been assigned its own division
along side the broader subject. (Chan, 2007)
The second system of classification mainly used in the U.S. is the Library of
Congress Classification. The system was developed after the Library moved into a new
building in 1897, and the older Jeffersonian system, as well as the Dewey Decimal
System and Charles A. Cutter’s Expansive Classification, were considered insufficient for
organization of the information to be housed in the space.
The result was the collaborative development of the LCC by specialized groups of
people who created the system’s categories and subcategories according to their expertise

in each. It is praised for its collective creation, for example, in an article by Arthur
Maltby (1975), which calls it “a coordinated series of special classes” (p. 175).
Two men, J.C.M. Hanson and Charles Martel oversaw the creation of the Library
of Congress Classification, using Cutter’s Expansive Classification as a model for the
new system, although they made significant modifications to it. Chan (2007) states that,
“For notation, it was decided at the outset to adopt a three-element pattern” (p. 376).
Single capitol letters were used to identify main classes, one or two additional
letters designate subclasses, Arabic integers subdivided a subject further, and finally,
Cutter numbers (a combination of letters and integers) were used to identify individual
However, as the Library of Congress expanded, decimal expansion of the Arabic
integers and Cutter numbers became necessary, as well as the use of three capitol letters
for some subclasses. (Chan, 2007)
The LCC, like the other classifications of its time, is divided by academic areas or
disciplines; such as History, Geography, or Philosophy. It is then hierarchically broken
down further from general to specific information.
The designation of the main classes was explained by Charles Martel, and are
based on his seven points, listed by Chan (2007) on page 380: “Briefly, these are (1)
general form divisions; (2) theory/philosophy; (3) history; (4) treatises or general works;
(5) law/regulation/state-relations; (6) study and teaching; and (7) special subjects and
subdivisions of subjects.”
For instance, (A) is assigned to General works, followed by (B) indicating the
class that includes philosophy and religion, “which set forth theories about human beings

in relation to the universe” (Chan, 2007, p.378). The main classes are further designated
according to their relation to humanity, and finally to classify mathematics and the
physical and natural sciences.
The main classes are then divided into subclasses. For example, (Q) denotes
Science (general) while (QD) represents the subclass of Chemistry. Each is then
additionally divided even more specifically. (QD) Chemistry is then subdivided with
integers, such as in Chan’s (2007) example, which allow it to be classified with numbers
such as 146-197 to designate Inorganic chemistry.
The subject is then subdivided further by related topics, such as QC135, which
would represent Kinematics in the subclass Physics of the main class Science. Through its
hierarchal process of division, the LCC was able to provide a more efficient system than
others of that time. (Chang, 2007)

4. Differences Between DDC and LCC
A general classification principle followed by Library of Congress Classification
[LCC] and Dewey Decimal Classification [DDC] alike is each classification systems’
focus on identifying an item by progressing from the general to the specific. This
‘narrowing-down’ methodology gives LCC and DDC editors the ability to make additions
and modifications to both systems as well as an opportunity for further precision in the
classification process.
However, these similarities are subject to the era in which DDC and LCC were
created—both were created in the 19th century—as well as the reasoning for their
creation. DDC and LCC were designed with the need for a uniformed classification

system, which allows libraries with exceedingly large collections to give each item a
unique identification code. Aside from their utility, these two classification systems are
fundamentally and philosophically divergent from one another.
LCC and DDC were both created during a post-enlightenment US during the 19th
century. Melvil Dewey primarily developed DDC, and LCC was developed by a team of
subject specialists with the intention of redesigning the currently standing and outdated
classification system in place at the Library of Congress.
Ironically, the team of subject specialists had a much more local and varying
approach than Dewey. Due to the origins of LCC, the LCC system is best suited for
tracking items in individual collections rather than Dewey’s overarching, uniform code.
Unlike DDC, LCC uses mixed notation, which allows for added variety and
newer combinations for LCC identification codes. Instead of being limited to 10 digits or
10 major classes, LCC can be expanded to 21 main classes and a seemingly infinite
number of numerical combinations. However both systems can add digits after the main
subject code in the form of tables and cutters. DDC and LCC both have empty numbers
and letters, respectively, to allow for future expansion and modification.
In light of the philosophical structure of DDC and LCC, the two systems take
classification methodology in entirely different manners. Dewey’s goal in creating DDC
was a reactionary response to contemporary identification schema of the time.
The strength of DDC is incidental to the number of editors constantly updating
Dewey numbers online and with DDC’s red book published every 8 years.
DDC takes the more proactive route and attempts to classify the entire body of
knowledge in anticipation for future publications covering a subject. However, the

classification schema produced is limited to the ontological variety and epistemological
acumen of Dewey decimal classification system editors.
In other words, the information specialist has to take their geographical and
cultural background into account when creating new subclasses or modifying old
information in DDC.
For example, when Dewey created his classification system, he dedicated a large
number of subclasses to Christian-based religious texts but lumped every other nonwestern religion into a set of broadly defined subclasses.
This is an extreme example and editors have striven to rectify these shortcomings
over the last century, but the issue still persists. Dewey has a history of ill-representing
eastern and ancient cultures. With such a large undertaking: to classify all known
knowledge, some subjects can be left behind if there is another, more prevalent issue
facing DDC editors. Instead of working towards classifying potential and extant item
subjects, LCC focuses on items and subject that are readily available and published.
The intellectually gifted may have all ready guessed this, but Library of Congress
staff designed LCC with the Library of Congress in mind. That is, this classification
system was designed to accommodate the needs of an individual library. This doesn’t
mean librarians in 1897 were creating their system without any anticipation of other
libraries using their system. Similar to Dewey, information specialists that can read LC
call numbers can witness the cognitive footprint of the classification system’s developers.
For example, in the 21 main classes there are two main sections about American
history. Letters E and F cover American history and the history of the United States and

its interactions with foreign countries respectively. Meanwhile, C and D essentially cover
everything else. History of the ancient world is bundled with “General” history.
Classic history books contemporaneously written by Romans, Greeks, Assyrians,
etc., suffer the possibility of being shared in the same space as modern works. Crossing
the Rubicon and Lives of the Later Caesars are both history books, yet they are leagues
apart in terms of reliability. This it potentially harmful for a system designed for
serendipitous browsing.
The narrow and localized nature of LC classification allows librarians to create a
system of call numbers that best suits their library. This strength is also the system’s
weakness. Compared to the verbose construction of Dewey classification numbers, which
can be unruly and lengthy if too many subclass numbers are added on, LC’s main
criticism is that the system focuses too heavily on existing collections rather than existing
For example, there is a growing movement in academia and museum curation,
which believes that video games should be treated as an art form. This idea has
predominantly strengthened just within the last 15 years and an astounding number of
works have been published on the subject.
For libraries collecting such types of books and journal entries, LCC may not be
able to accommodate to this new subclass quickly enough. Opposed to DDC, whereas in
this instance, editors may have prepared for the emergence of this subclass and readily
prepared an appropriate subclass.
Cutters and tables share similar uses, both cutters and tables are designed to create
added accuracy to the call number as well as design a unique call number for each item.

Tables differ slightly from cutters in practice. Similar items organized in LCC have a
larger chance to get the same initial alphanumerical call number than DDC. LCC uses
call numbers to further differentiate between the works.
However, as opposed to DDC tables, the initial letter of the cutter is based on the
name of the author, a corporation, geographic location, or title. Tables are given as a
result of the subject of the content. So compared between the two methods, Dewey tables
classify around the ideas and category of the item rather than the item itself.
Dewey and LC are the predominant classification systems in the United States,
with Dewey finding its popularity in smaller public and school libraries and LC
belonging to academic libraries. By this point, both classification systems are tailored to
their strengths and weaknesses.
5. Other Library Classification Systems
While the Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal Classification systems have become
the most commonly used library classification systems in the United States, many
libraries in our country and around the world continue to utilize other classifications
systems to meet their diverse needs. For the purposes of this assignment we will focus on
two popular systems that highlight the versatile natures of library classification schemes:
the National Library of Medicine Classification and the Universal Decimal Classification
The National Library of Medicine Classification
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Classification was developed to meet
the classification needs of the National Library of Medicine and other libraries
specializing in the field of medicine and preclinical sciences.

This system was designed with the goal of creating a classification scheme that
would be compatible with the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system and
occupy the LCC’s vacant schedules at Subclasses QS-QZ and Class W (U.S. National
Library of Medicine [NLM], 2010).
Subclasses QS-QZ are dedicated to preclinical sciences such as human anatomy
and physiology, and Class W is dedicated to medicine and related subjects (NLM, 2010).
The LCC system maintains its own schedules for medicine-related and general reference
materials at Class R: Medicine; Subclasses QM: Human Anatomy, QP: Physiology, and
QR: Microbiology; and Class Z for medical bibliographies (Chan, 2007, p. 411).
Materials that fall outside of the NLM’s purview are classed using the LCC system.
On the topic of notation, NLM follows the general pattern of notation used in
LCC with a few variations to meets its specific classification needs. NLM has developed
class numbers that generally include “one or two capital letters followed by an Arabic
number of up to three digits with possible decimal extensions” (Chan, 2007, p. 414).
This means that NLM class numbers range from 1-999 in contrast to LCC’s number
range of 1-9999.
Cutter numbers play an important role in NLM classification practices as they do
in LCC. Instead of using the LCC’s simple Cutter number table, however, NLM refers to
the more complex Cutter-Sanborn Three-Figure Author Table to determine its item
numbers (Chan, 2007, p. 414). The resulting NLM call numbers do not include a period
before the item number, which is also a departure from the Library of Congress’
traditional call number format.

However, these variations between the NLM and LCC patterns of notation do not
affect the overall compatibility of the two systems.
Chan (2007) notes several advantages of the classification partnership between
the National Library of Medicine and Library of Congress. Since both systems maintain
their own schedules for medicine-related subjects yet adhere to general LCC notation
patterns, NLM’s notational system is fully compatible with LCC.
In other words, a library that organizes their collection using the LC system can
develop a collection including materials that have been classed using NLM’s notations
without issue. Another benefit of the compatibility between these two systems is that a
number of medicine-related materials can be classified using both LCC and NLM
notations. “MARC records of medical literature prepared by NLM for the Library of
Congress through its shared cataloging program contain both Class R (LCC) and Class W
(NLM) numbers” (Chan, 2007, p. 418-419).
For example, consider the second edition of Mary Rudolf and Malcolm Levene’s
Paediatrics and Child Health, a textbook published in 2006. This item can be shelved
using the NLM call number WS 200 L657p 2006 or the LC call number RJ45 .R86 2006
(Chan, 2007, p. 420).
The National Library of Medicine Classification was designed to fulfill the needs
of a special library while maintaining compatibility with an existing classification system.
In this next section we will consider the Universal Decimal Classification, a system that
was originally built on the foundations of a pre-existing classification system and
developed into its own independent scheme.
The Universal Decimal Classification System

The Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) is a bibliographic and library
classification system that enjoys worldwide use in 130 countries and has been published
in over 40 different languages (UDC Consortium, 2015a). The European developers of
UDC based their system on the Dewey Decimal Classification with the intention of
creating a universal bibliography that would index all publications in existence (Chan,
2007, p. 424).
While the goal of a universal bibliography was eventually abandoned, UDC
continued to develop into a freestanding library classification system. In its current form,
UDC is capable of indexing the continuously expanding universe of information
resources regardless of the medium of publication or the language used to convey the
information (UDC Consortium, 2015b).
One of the strongest selling points of UDC is the universality and flexibility of its
classification methods. While UDC adheres to the basic outline of the Dewey Decimal
Classification system, UDC has made great efforts to move away from the decidedly
western-centric biases of DDC. UDC’s Class 2, which covers Religion and Theology,
has been revised to give equal treatment to each of the major world religions by arranging
them in a historical order (Chan, 2007, p. 428).
This is a noticeable departure from DDC’s Class 200, which also covers Religion,
but shows a prominent bias toward Christian resources in Divisions 220-280. All other
religions are relegated to Division 290 which is aptly titled “Other Religions.”
On the topic of notation, UDC has developed a notation system that is
“hierarchically and syntactically expressive: the longer the number, the deeper the
hierarchy, [and] components in complex expressions are indicated by symbols and

punctuation” (UDC Consortium, 2015b). UDC has adopted the DDC’s base notation of
Arabic numerals with a decimal following the third digit; however, UDC does not require
three-digit integers as base numbers (Chan, 2007, p. 428).
Note the numerical difference between DDC’s Class 500 (Science) and UDC’s
Class 5 (Mathematics. Natural sciences). UDC does not require the use of zeros as fillers
within the notation.
Instead, each digit is considered a decimal that represents increasing levels of
division within the main class and results in a hierarchically expressive notation (UDC
Consortium, 2015c).
The decimal point is inserted after the third digit to break up the notation and
allow for ease of reading a notation. An example of increasing notation divisions within
UDC’s Class 5 follows:
5 – Mathematics. Natural Sciences
53 – Physics
539 – Physical nature of matter
539.1 – Nuclear physics. Atomic physics. Molecular physics
Finally, the Universal Decimal Classification’s notation method further departs
from the Dewey Decimal Classification in its use of facet indicators to build more
complex notations. Facet indicators are connecting symbols that not only create links
between different subjects within UDC but also show the nature of the relationship
between those subjects (Chan, 2007, p. 428). A plus (+) symbol, for example, is used to
connect two closely related topics that may reside in two different classes (Chan, 2007, p.

The result is a syntactically expressive notation with the ability to convey
increasingly complex subjects through the connection of simpler topics. The adaptability
and universal appeal of Universal Decimal Classification guarantee that this classification
scheme will remain popular with libraries around the world for the foreseeable future.

6. How are classification systems, controlled vocabularies, semantic web and Simple
Knowledge Organization Systems (SKOS) related?
Classification, or “the process of organizing knowledge into some systematic
order,” by taking “the universe of knowledge as a whole and divid[ing] it into successive
stages of classes and subclasses” (Chan, 2007, pp. 309, 311), has been used in libraries
for more than a century as a tool to “collocate similar ideas or objects” (Taylor &
Joudrey, 2009, p. 383).
From the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) to Library of Congress
Classification (LCC), or from the library shelf to the Internet, the function of
classification is to bring order to chaos, and to make it possible for users to retrieve
specific information with as little difficulty as possible.
Classification systems like DDC and LCC were originally created with more
tangible material items in mind, but with the advent of the computer age and the constant
advances that have come with it, new ways of classifying information have been and are
continuing to be developed.
Controlled Vocabularies
Controlled vocabularies are lists of authorized subject terms that are used to
gather like concepts together and used for information retrieval (Taylor & Joudrey, 2009,

p. 334). Since different patrons will use different wording as they research a topic,
controlled vocabularies will also list narrower and broader terms, as well as ‘see’ and ‘see
also’ references which illustrate concept relationships.
There are several types of controlled vocabularies: Subject Headings, such as
Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), which are used primarily in library
catalogs; Thesauri, used mainly in indexing and which, while similar to subject headings,
differ from them in that they will use both single and “bound terms” to describe concepts
and are less broadly applied (Taylor & Joudrey, 2009, p. 335).
Ontologies, while again similar in nature to subject headings and thesauri, do not
use authorized terms but show “the concepts, entities, terms, and categories in a particular
domain in order to model the relationships among them” (Taylor & Joudrey, 2009, p.
Taxonomies, utilized on the World Wide Web, are “used initially to tag content,
and then to find it through navigation or search” (Warner as cited in Taylor & Joudrey,
2009, p. 378). Although in the past they have been more formalized and hierarchical, as
used on the Internet this is no longer strictly the case.
An example of such taxonomy would be the navigation categorization found on
web sites such as such as ‘automobiles,’ ‘sports’ or ‘parenting.’ A public
participation in taxonomy creation has become known as Folksonomy, where people
create their own tags to be used in classifying and searching for information.
Since this method lacks the formal structure of controlled vocabularies (as in
synonyms and antonyms, plurality, hierarchical relationship, and even spelling), it can

frustrate many search efforts, regardless of its popularity (Taylor & Joudrey, 2009, pp.
Semantic Web
Using a Resource Description Framework (RDF) metadata conceptual model,
which “allows machines to ‘understand’ what is being ‘said’ by the metadata” (Taylor &
Joudrey, 2009, p. 110), “[t]he Semantic Web provides a common framework that allows
data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries”
(Worldwide Web Consortium, 2001).
We think of the World Wide Web as mainly a tool for people to use, but the data
on the Internet can be useful for our computer programs and apps as well. The semantic
web "will bring structure to the meaningful content of Web pages, creating an
environment where software agents roaming from page to page can readily carry out
sophisticated tasks for users” (Berners-Lee, Hendler & Lissila, 2001, p. 36).
The metadata, usually created through XML tags (eXtensible Markup Language),
when placed in the RDF framework, which “which encodes it in sets of triples, each
triple being rather like the subject, verb and object of an elementary sentence,” structures
the data in a pattern that “[…]makes assertions that particular things (people, Web pages
or whatever) have properties (such as “is a sister of,” “is the author of”) with certain
values (another person, another Web page),” which “turns out to be a natural way to
describe the vast majority of the data processed by machines” (Berners-Lee, et al., 2001,
pp. 38, 40).

Interoperability between systems is created through the use of ontologies, thesauri
and Simple Knowledge Organization Systems (SKOS) (Cantara, 2006; MartinezGonzalez & Alvite-Diez, 2014; Stock, 2010).
Simple Knowledge Organization Systems (SKOS)
One of the newer building blocks in the semantic web structure is the Simple
Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) (Cantara, 2006, p. 112). According to
Worldwide Web Consortium (2009):
Simple Knowledge Organization System provides a model for expressing the basic structure and
content of concept schemes such as thesauri, classification schemes, subject heading lists,
taxonomies, folksonomies, and other similar types of controlled vocabulary. As an application of
the Resource Description Framework (RDF), SKOS allows concepts to be composed and
published on the World Wide Web, linked with data on the Web and integrated into other concept

While “[a]ll types of KOS [Knowledge Organization Systems]—and not only
ontologies—are able to form the terminological backbone of the semantic web” (Stock,
2010, p. 1967), SKOS in itself is an ontology, created through the Web Ontology
Language (OWL) for constructing controlled vocabularies, taxonomies and thesauri
(Sequeda, 2012).
It is through the use of controlled vocabularies that SKOS “aims to reduce the
ambiguity of natural language when describing and retrieving items for purposes of
information searching” (Tudhope & Nielsen, 2006, p.4).
The relationship among classification systems, controlled vocabularies, semantic
web and SKOS is one of organization, structure and information retrieval. From the

hardbound book to the computer data file, they create ways for users to search and locate
information in a world where such material increases exponentially on a daily basis.
As classification methods such as semantic web are refined, and even newer
systems are developed, information science will continue to progress toward a more
streamlined, data-integrated world.

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