School of Information Management & Systems.   Spring 2004.
245 Organization of Information in Collections.   Michael Buckland.

Why Take This Course?

Once we accept an inclusive notion of "information" (aka "document") as any representation of meaning -- or any object to which meaning as ascribed -- it is clear that the terrain is large if we pause to consider who uses documents and why:
:   - Lawyers and law courts use documents as evidence, as proof;
  - Educators use documents (textbooks, instructional materials) to teach, both to empower teachers and to instruction teacher-proof;
  - Scientists use documents (articles, offprints) as the archive of achievement, and for status;
  - Media specialists and publicists use documents to persuade;
  - Governments use documents to exercise social control;
  - Religions use documents for authority, to induce adherence;
  - Patriots use documents to commemorate, to induce loyalty;
  - Artists create documents to inspire and to challenge;
  - Commerce is based on documented transactions and the transition to reliable digital documentation is a non-trivial contemporary challenge in commerce,...
    These few examples make it clear that documents pervade our social world. Documents are rarely in isolation. Organizing information/documents in purposeful ways is the central concern of the Information Manager, whether websites, databases, archives, museums, corporate records, or whatever. MIMS graduates should expect that, out in the real world, they will need to create categories and classification schemes, make indexes, create thesauri, describe and represent objects, and so on. That is why all SIMS Masters' students are not only required to take 202 Information Organization and Retrieval but should also extend what they learned in 202 by taking 245 Organization of Information in Collections. With the consent of the instructor, 245 can be taken without 202 as a prerequisite.
    As the enabling technologies (paper, card, printing, microform, digital computers, telecommunications) evolve, the constraints on what is economically feasible has changed in interesting ways and will continue to change during one's professional career. But the principles and problems of creating and arranging descriptions and representations of data, documents, and other potentially signifying objects are substantially independent of the technologies used to implement them. And if you deal with more than one information object, then you have a collection.
    Management skills, programming skills, an understanding of societal and policy issues, and other elements in the SIMS curriculum are all important, but organizing information for specific purposes is a curricular ingredient that you are not likely to pick up from other departments.
    245 also provides the basis for Ph.d field Field 2: Organization and representation of information and is directly relevant to Field 5: Information retrieval.
    245 is designed to complement (and is scheduled in conjunction with) 240 Principles of Information Retrieval, which focuses on algorithms and procedures for finding what has been categorized, described and organized.
    290 Classification and Bibliographic Representation, provides a technical introduction to library cataloging and classification those who want more depth in library cataloging and classification. It can be taken without 245, but is designed to be a supplement to 245.
    Librarians need people with the strengths that SIMS provides. For students who take the right electives I have been writing letters to help explain to libraries that, with these electives, the MIMS degree should be acceptably equal to an accredited Masters degree (Text).