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Systems of Knowledge Organization for Digital Libraries:

Beyond Traditional Authority Files

report cover

by Gail Hodge
April 2000

Copyright 2000 by the Council on Library and Information Resources. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transcribed in any form without permission of the publisher. Requests for reproduction should be submitted to the Director of Communications at the Council on Library and Information Resources.

About the Author



Executive Summary

1. Knowledge Organization Systems: An Overview

Common Characteristics of Knowledge Organization Systems
Types of Knowledge Organization Systems

Term Lists
Classifications and Categories
Relationship Lists
The Origin and Use of Knowledge Organization Systems

Abstracting and Indexing Services
Trade, Professional, and Governmental Organizations
Internal Projects

2. Linking Digital Library Resources to Related Resources

Expanding Codes to Full Text

Linking Sequence Numbers to Biosequence Databanks
Linking Individual Industrial Codes to the Full Scheme
Linking to Descriptive Record

Linking Organism Names to Taxonomic Records
Linking Chemical Names to Molecular Structures
Linking Personal Names to Biographical Information
Linking Entity Names to Physical Specimens

3. Making Resources Accessible to Other Communities

Providing Alternate Subject Access

Indexing the Material with Multiple Schemes
Retaining Alternate Indexing from Contributions
Mapping Multiple Schemes
Adding New Modes of Understanding to the Digital Library
Providing Multilingual Access
Expanding Free-Text Search Terms

4. Planning and Implementing Knowledge Organization Systems in Digital Libraries

Planning Knowledge Organization Systems
Analyzing User Needs

Locating Knowledge Organization Systems
Planning the Infrastructure
Maintaining the Knowledge Organization System
Presenting the Knowledge Organization System to the User
Implementing Knowledge Organization Systems

Acquisition and Intellectual Property Issues
Making the Link

5. The Future of Knowledge Organization Systems on the Web

6. Conclusion: Enhancing Digital Libraries with Knowledge Organization Systems


The Digital Library Federation

On May 1, 1995, 16 institutions created the Digital Library Federation (additional partners have since joined the original 16). The DLF partners have committed themselves to “bring together-from across the nation and beyond-digitized materials that will be made accessible to students, scholars, and citizens everywhere.” If they are to succeed in reaching their goals, all DLF participants realize that they must act quickly to build the infrastructure and the institutional capacity to sustain digital libraries. In support of DLF participants’ efforts to these ends, DLF launched this publication series in 1999 to highlight and disseminate critical work.

About the Author

Gail Hodge is a senior information specialist at Information International Associates, Inc. (IIa). She has worked in the information industry for more than 20 years, specializing in bibliographic database production systems, information systems planning and development, and standards. She conducts research on scientific information policy, technologies, and standards for the U.S. government and for international and commercial organizations. Recent projects include an analysis of the state-of-the-practice in digital archiving for the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information, and development of controlled vocabularies for the National Institute for Literacy, the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Science Program, and the National Biological Information Infrastructure. Before joining IIa, Ms. Hodge held positions at the Drexel University Library, BIOSIS, and the NASA Center for AeroSpace Information.


I would like to thank the following individuals for their input to this report:

Stan Blum, California Academy of Science
Bonnie C. Carroll, Information International Associates, Inc.
Michael Dadd, General Manager, BIOSIS UK
Linda Hill, Alexandria Digital Library Project, University of
California at Santa Barbara
Ray Larson, University of California at Berkeley
Jessica Milstead, The JELEM Company
Douglas Yanega, Entomology Research Museum, University of California at Riverside


Access to digital materials continues to be an issue of great significance in the development of digital libraries. The proliferation of information in the networked digital environment poses challenges as well as opportunities. The Digital Library Federation is committed to fostering work that addresses these challenges and opportunities while also ensuring the timely dissemination of information about state-of-the-art initiatives.

The author reports on a wide array of activities in the field. While this publication is not intended to be exhaustive, the reader will find, in a single work, an overview of systems of knowledge organization and pertinent examples of their application to digital materials. Technological developments have made it possible to provide alternate subject access through the adoption and use of multiple knowledge organization schemes. The report offers extensive practical information for institutions embarking on digital library initiatives. In particular, the section on planning and implementing organization systems identifies methods for enhancing access to existing digital materials.

Rebecca Graham
Research Associate

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