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Main Publications, presentations, research papers Kirill Fesenko. Cataloging’s Place in Information Architecture/Know...

Kirill Fesenko. Cataloging’s Place in Information Architecture/Knowledge Management. (2004)


Defining cataloging’s place in information architecture (IA) and knowledge management (KM) is somewhat tricky. Both terms surfaced in the mid-90s on the wave of innovations in the area of information technologies and are still interpreted differently. In attempt to find the cataloging’s place in these two loosely defined concepts, I suggest that we do the following: (1) go over changes of the last two decades that are relevant to the topic of this report; (2) define information architecture and knowledge management; (3) look at some fundamental goals of cataloging; and finally (4) try to pint point cataloging’s place in IA/KM.

What Has Changed (Technology)

The information universe has expanded and became much more complex. In the 2001 study several academic library directors estimated that their budgets for electronic resources were between 15% and 30% and rising steadily to 30%-40% during the next several years. [1] Studies also show that the use of libraries is dropping gradually since early 90s while reliance on the Internet is growing. [2] Everybody, including librarians and catalogers, seem to be overwhelmed with the flood of new sources of information and are under increasing pressure to choose between paper and electronic formats.

The technological change of the last two decades was unfolding at a breathtaking pace leaving us little time to analyze it, adopt to the new environment and even less to actively influence it. However, these developments are not out of general direction of historic progress. As Michael Gorman points out, “the logical outcome of the history of human communication (is that) – each format produces more documents than its predecessor, and each is less durable than its predecessor”. [3] We do indeed witness an explosion of Web Sites, online databases, digital libraries while preservation of these materials is still a challenging discussion topic. In regards to cataloging, one of the interesting developments is that bibliographic data functioning as surrogate records separate from the hard copy documents has become an integral part of electronic documents themselves. [4]

New metadata schemes such as Dublin Core, Text Encoding Initiative and others were developed by specialists from different fields in order to place some control over the chaotic universe of digital resources.  New software tools and technologies were introduced for their organization including search engines, metadata harvesting protocols, etc. In general, “contribution of machines to information organization has increased and the roles of humans in the process of information organization have changed”. [5]

This is by no means a complete picture of changes which effected the library field over the last two decades. However, this short overview might be sufficient in order to move on to the information architecture and knowledge management ideas which grew out of these changed.

Defining Information Architecture and Knowledge Management

There are many definitions of IA and KM which mean “different things to different people”. One of the major attempts to define information architecture undertaken at the ASIS’s (American Society for Information Science) Summit 2000 resulted in this conclusion -- “although the conference ultimately didn’t define information architecture, it did demonstrate that there’s a lot of interest in this area”. [6] I suggest to look at several definitions for a general overview of these two concepts:

Information Architecture

Information architecture is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. Information architecture, however, is currently used to describe the design of user experience for Web-based environments. Elements of the user experience include navigation systems, documents and graphic design. In order to create user experience, an information architect must have skills ranging from document markup to project management to database design. [7]

Information Architecture is the art and science of organizing information and interfaces to help information seekers solve their information needs efficiently and effectively, primarily within networked and web-based environments. [8]

Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management is a discipline that takes a comprehensive, systematic approach to the information assets of an organization by identifying, capturing, collecting, organizing, indexing, storing, integrating, retrieving and sharing them. [9]

Knowledge management is the process that takes an organization's data and information and turns it into knowledge for a strategic advantage.  Knowledge management includes acquiring, cataloging, storing, and distributing of data, information and knowledge. The knowledge management process calls for the organization and cataloging skills of a librarian, the technical knowledge of a computer system specialist, the analytical and research abilities of an historian, and the leadership of a business manager. [10]

Reading through these definitions we can see that several code words are used to describe IA and KM, including:

- “user experience”;

- “navigation systems”, “interfaces”, “networked and Web-based environments”;

- “information assets”, “knowledge”;

- “management” (identifying, acquiring, organizing, storing, integrating, retrieving, sharing).

It is easy to notice that the same or very similar code words apply to the major topics of our own cataloging class. Within its curriculum, for example, we study OPACs and bibliographic systems (“navigation systems”, “interfaces”, “networked and Web-based environments”) from perspective of their convenience for users and possible improvements (“user experience”). “Information assets” and “knowledge” are other words for the records of human knowledge – major object of cataloging. And indeed cataloging is about “organizing, storing, integrating, retrieving, sharing” parts of the “management”.

What Has Not Changed (Fundamental Goals)

Despite the technological changes of the last two decades, the fundamental goals of cataloging remain the same. Men started cataloging records of knowledge as early as seventh century B.C. Ashurbanipal II, who ruled the Assyrian Empire, set up a library which contained 25,000 clay tablets. The library also had a catalog “recording the titles of works and the number of tablets that comprised them”. [11] Through thousands of years cataloging has not just survived passing of many writing materials and formats of knowledge records, but evolved into increasingly complex science and art.

We can confidently assert that cataloging will continue through electronic era as a way of “creating order out of chaos”, as one cataloger described his job. Let’s also consider this, for example,  -- “Cataloging has grown more important as searchers log-on to online catalogs from home. Corporate librarian Lee Stocker of Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan, explains, “Now that employees have access to the catalog from their desks, the catalog might be the only contact librarians have with patrons.” [12]


To sum up, I wish to suggest that cataloging’s place is the center of information architecture and knowledge management concepts. Nonetheless, I also believe that though catalogers are overall best equipped to harness the expending universe of electronic resources, the place of cataloging in the IA/KM field also depends on how effectively and energetically cataloging community is participating in the following:

1. Developing standards and formats for electronic resource description.

2. Developing requirements for search and browse displays for information retrieval systems.

3. Promoting science and art of cataloging back to the LIS community and to information professionals in other fields.

There is a general understanding that cataloging should adapt to the new environment. Most challenging task in this transition is to transcend beyond the traditional cataloging practices without losing core competences and values while maintaining a reasonable balance between different formats.


[1] Sheila S. Intner, “Impact of the Internet on Collection Development: Where Are We Now? Where Are We Headed? An Informal Study,” Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services 25 (2001): pp. 307-322

[2] Dilevko, J., et. al., “Print Sources in an Electronic Age: A Vital Part of the Research Process for Undergraduate Students,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship v. 28 no. 6 (November 2002): pp. 381-392.

[3] Michael Gorman, “Bibliographic Control or Chaos: An Agenda for National Bibliographic Service in the 21st Century,” IFLA Journal v. 27 (2001): p. 309.

[4] Sheila S. Intner, “Struggling Toward Retrieval: Alternatives to Standard Operating Procedures Can Help Librarians and the Public,” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly v. 36 no. 3/4 (2003): p. 74.

[5] Ingrid Hsieh-Yee, “Cataloging and Metadata Education: Asserting a Central Role in Information Organization,” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly v. 34 no. 1/2 (2002): p. 203.

[6] Robin Peek, “ASIS Summit 2000: Defining Information Architecture,” Information Today v. 17 no. 6 (2000): p. 14.

[7] David Robins, “Information Architecture in Library and Information Science Curricula,” Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology v. 28 no. 2, (December/January 2002). Available at: <http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Jan-02/robins.html>.

[8] From the description of Master of Science program in IA & KM at Kent State University. Available at: <http://iakm.kent.edu/ia.html>.

[9] From the description of Master of Science program in IA & KM at Kent State University. Available at: <http://iakm.kent.edu/km.html>.

[10] Daniel Stuhlman, Stuhlman Management Consultants. Available at: <http://home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/>.

[11] Matthew Battles, Library: An Unquiet History (New York: Norton & Company, 2003), p. 25.

[12] Olivia Crosby, “Librarians: Information Experts in the Information Age”, Occupational Outlook Quarterly v. 44 no. 4  (Winter 2000/2001): pp. 2-15.


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