Controlling your Language: a Directory of Metadata Vocabularies
This directory provides details of more than 70 vocabulary sources. It categorises the various types of vocabularies as: Thesauri, Subject Headings, Word Lists, Authority Lists and Classification Schemes.
Thesauri, Subject Headings and Word Lists are generally used to aid the retrieval of resources, whereas Classifications tend to be for organising resources.
Authority Lists help to standardise the expression of values used in metadata elements, for example in the way dates and proper names are entered. Although there are overlaps, broadly, each serves a different purpose in helping to control the terminology used within metadata schemas and in aiding the search and retrieval of digital resources.
This directory can be used on its own, however it is also a companion peice for Jisc Digital Media's Metadata infokit, and readers are urged to familiarise themselves with the basic concepts of metadata highlighted in that resource. The final section of the Metadata infokit has a discussion on the background and aims of using controlled vocabulary.
There are many vocabulary sources already available and depending on particular need there are various options available when using these, such as:
- Using an existing controlled vocabulary as it is
- Adapting or customising a vocabulary - e.g. deciding to use a classification or thesauri to a particular level of detail
- Developing your own vocabulary - not recommended, but sometimes the best solution
- Using "uncontrolled" vocabulary - i.e. keywords entered by your cataloguers or your users
A combination of these approaches could also be used. It is quite reasonable to use multiple vocabularies, for example, a formal controlled vocabulary plus additional keywords the cataloguer thinks will assist in retrieval.
Some things to bear in mind when choosing a vocabulary are:
- Your users - are the terms used going to be meaningful to them?
- The nature and extent of your collection - if your collection is small, you're unlikely to need a highly detailed vocabulary
- The skills and available time of your cataloguing staff - some of these vocabularies will require experience or training to use properly
- Your community - it makes good sense to use vocabularies that similar collections are using
- Copyright issues - you may need to check whether permission or a license is required to use the vocabulary in the way you wish to
This directory presents a selection of formal vocabularies, most of which are available via the Internet.
Thesauri, subject headings and word lists are sources of subject terms and their primary purpose is to aid retrieval.
2.1 General thesauri, subject headings and word lists
- Australian Pictorial Thesaurus (APT)
- Library of Congress Moving Image Genre - Form Guide
- Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Library of Congress Authorities
- SEARS Subject Headings
- Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM) 1: Subject Terms
- Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM) 2: Genre and Physical Characteristics
- Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus
- UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT)
- UNESCO Thesaurus
- WordNet (Princeton University)
2.2 Specialist thesauri, subject headings and word lists
2.2.1 Arts and Humanities
- Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)
- ARTLex Art Dictionary
- British Museum Materials Thesaurus
- British Museum Object Names Thesaurus
- Glossary of Technical Theatre Terms
- HASSET - Humanities and Social Science Electronic Thesaurus (UK Data Archive)
- ICOM Vocabulary of Basic Terms for Cataloguing Costume
- International Index to Film Periodicals: Subject Headings
- Museum of Modern Art Glossary
- National Monuments Record Thesauri
- Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms
- Agrovoc Thesaurus (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation)
- Alexandria Digital Library Feature Types Thesaurus
- Biocomplexity Thesaurus
- BIOSIS Controlled Vocabulary
- CAB Thesaurus
- Canadian Thesaurus of Construction Science and Technology
- ERIC (Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse) Thesaurus
- General Multilingual Environmental Thesaurus (GEMET)
- GeoRef Thesaurus
- IEEE 1998 Keyword List
- INSPEC Thesaurus (Institute of Electronic Engineers)
- MeSH Medical Subject Headings (US National Library of Medicine)
- Multilingual Thesaurus of the Geosciences (MULTHES)
- NASA Thesaurus - Vol 1 and Vol 2
- National Agricultural Library's Thesaurus (NALT)
- Terms of the Environment
- Zoological Record Thesaurus
2.2.3 Social Science
- ASIS Thesaurus of Information Science
- British Education Index Thesaurus
- Eurovoc Thesaurus (European Union)
- Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) Thesaurus
- International Thesaurus of Refugee Terminology (ITRT)
Classifications are sources of subject categories and their primary purpose is to organise resources.
3.1 General classifications
- BLISS Classification
- Book Industry Communication (BIC) Standard Subject Categories
- Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)
- Library of Congress Classification (LCC)
- LCC Outline
- Universal Decimal Classification (UDC)
3.2 Specialist classifications
3.2.1 Arts and Humanities
Covers art history iconography
- ACM Computing Classification System
- Integrated Taxonmic Naming System (ITIS)
- Mammal Species of the World
- Mathematics Classification Scheme
3.2.3 Social Science
- Learning Directory Classification System
- International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO)
- International Family of Economic and Social Classifications (United Nations)
- JACS educational subject classifications
- North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
- PAIS International Broad Topics Classification System
- Social History and Industrial Classification (SHIC)
- United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC)
- Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary (IPSV)
Authority lists help you control names.
4.1 Name authorities
- International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families (ISAAR(CPF)) (International Council on Archives)
- Library of Congress Authorities
- Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names (UK National Council on Archives)
- Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)
4.2 Place authorities
- Gazetteer of British Place Names
- Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)
- Global Gazetteer
- Library of Congress Authorities
If chosen and managed carefully, controlled vocabularies can make cataloguing easier and improve the retrieval and presentation of items from your collection. Careful choice and management of vocabularies are key as:
- Vocabularies can improve retrieval, but only if the terms are obvious and meaningful to your users. If you're using a small or specialised vocabulary, it will greatly assist your users if they can call up a full list of the terms you've used. Consider using multiple vocabularies and adding additional keywords (in another field) to aid retrieval.
- Vocabularies can improve cataloguing consistency, but only if everyone cataloguing your resources is using the vocabulary in a consistent way. It is vital that you write clear guidelines on what aspects of the image or object to describe, produce scope notes for the terms used (including examples), and regularly check and compare work.
- Vocabularies can help your collection 'interoperate' with other collections, but only if you're using the same vocabularies and in the same way. If you adapt or customise a vocabulary you must record the changes you've made and you should be aware that you're reducing the chances of fully interoperating with others.
- Some vocabularies will save you time and money; others might add to your costs, especially if they require a lot of expertise or intellectual effort. Where possible, automate the cataloguing process: use thesauri management software, cut and paste rather than retype.
Published in: Managing