Abbas, Structures for organizing knowledge

[Full disclosure: I personally know and greatly respect the author of this text. I have met and talked with her at 5 conferences from 2006 to 2009 (4 ASIST Annuals and the 1st NASKO). I have seen her present and moderate panels and have read some of her articles. While the topic of her book is of great interest to me, with my current level of involvement in the field, if it had been written by most anyone else I probably would have skipped it.]

The first thing I want to say about it is that it is edited quite well. I wanted to say that up front as it is increasingly difficult to be able to say that any more. There are a few minor issues but I am sending those directly to the author.


  • Preface
  • Part I. Traditional Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 1. Introduction to Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 2. Historical Perspectives and Development of Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 3. Standards and Best Practices
  • Ch. 4. Disciplinary Uses and Applications of Knowledge Structures
  • Part II. Personal Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 5. Structures for Organizing Knowledge in Personal and Professional Contexts
  • Part III. Socially-Constructed Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 6. Social Knowledge-Organizing Behaviors and Socially-Constructed Structures for
  • Organizing Knowledge: Research and Discussion
  • Ch. 7. Extending Our Thinking: Creating a Structure for Organizing Knowledge from Various Threads
  • Ch. 8. Thinking Ahead: Are We at a Crossroads?
  • Index

According to the Preface, the book:

“Explores and explains how we organize knowledge by looking at three broad questions: (1) How do people organize objects in personal and professional contexts so that they make sense and are useful? (2) What roles do categories, classifications, taxonomies, and other structures play in the process of organizing? (3) What do information professionals need to know about human organizing behaviors in order to design useful structures for organizing knowledge” (xv-xvi)?

It is organized into 3 major threads:

  • Traditional Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Personal Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Socially-Constructed Structures for Organizing Knowledge (xvi)

The intended audience is LIS students as well as the practicing professional. It” is not meant to be a “how-to” guide for developing, applying, or implementing …; rather it is designed to present a conceptual discourse and to inspire thinking about taxonomic behavior, or how and why people organize knowledge, in various contexts. It also serves as a textbook on the historical development of structures for organizing knowledge and the current interdisciplinary theories and research related to the creation and application of structures for organizing knowledge” (xix). “A secondary audience for the work is that of researchers in library and information science and related fields” (xix).

So, basically, it serves as a textbook. Personally, I see it serving as an excellent foundation for a structures of info/knowledge organization course. Mind you, I do not mean a basic information/knowledge organization course like many LIS schools require, although it could work there also. In my opinion, the basic course should be broader than the contents of this work.

In a follow-up course, one which looks at the various structures in which information and knowledge are organized, this book would excel. Flesh it out with some other readings ranging from the highly philosophical (Svenonius or Beghtol, perhaps), to some stuff on XML/RDf and related technologies such as open data and open linking, and even some “how-to” articles depending on what kind of projects and assignments the course included and you would have a great and highly flexible backbone (depending on which supplementary readings used) for an advanced course in the structures used for information organization across time and domains. Of course, the text itself suggests many possible supplementary readings depending on which aspects of the text and the research it covers one wants to stress.

This book fits in a kind of middle ground, I want to say. It is neither a “how-to” as the author said, nor is it any where as deeply philosophical as Svenonius’ The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization. With some judicious selection of supplemental readings one could fashion at least a score of courses around this topic but with highly different focuses.


Def: organizing structures (for our purposes) as “either a physical or a computerized information space that represents an entity or collection of entities, and the patterns and relationships between entities, within the context of the life experiences, connections, understandings, and applications of the organizer” (8).

“[C]an also think of them as ways to recognize, observe, and make sense of the information being organized within the structure” (8).

Further comments

The author rightly points out that “The differing perspectives on the concepts of information and knowledge remain the most problematic and passionate discussions in the field of information science” (9) and then goes on to cover only two, although she did point to what I would agree is “perhaps the most comprehensive overview of the debate and varying perspectives presented by multiple disciplines in their attempts to define information and knowledge” (9). Since the book is not a text on either information or knowledge this is legitimate. As much as would like to see other views covered in this section, it is not in the scope of this text to do so.

Part I, Traditional Structures for Organizing Knowledge, contains four chapters looking at (1) some definitions and scope, (2) historical perspectives and influences on, and kinds of, structures for organizing knowledge, including contributions from philosophy, natural history, and cognitive science, (3) standards and best practices, including the standards development process, and (4) various disciplinary uses and applications of knowledge structures, focusing particularly on biology, library and information science, and the social sciences.

Part II, Personal Structures for Organizing Knowledge, contains one chapter which looks at personal structures for organizing knowledge, but splits this into the two contexts of the personal (home, mostly) and the professional (work).

Part III, Socially-Constructed Structures for Organizing Knowledge, contains three chapters and looks at (1) social knowledge-organizing behaviors and systems, such as social bookmarking and cataloging sites (delicious, Flickr, LibraryThing) and tagging, more generally, (2) a review so far and (3) some thought exercises on how we might combine the threads of the traditional, personal, and social.

Each chapter begins with a list of questions as “Focus Points” and ends with some others as “Thought Exercises.” References are placed at the end of each chapter.

I have no comments on the index as I had no cause to use it while reading the book or in writing the review, although it does appear rather thorough.

I think this book could serve well as a textbook for an introductory class on information and knowledge organization, but that it is far better suited to a follow-on course focusing more specifically on structures for organizing information. This is, in my not so humble cataloger, metadater, taxonomist, indexer, et al., heart of hearts an extremely important topic; one which I wish far more LIS students took seriously.

If you are a practicing professional or an LIS researcher needing to think more broadly about knowledge organizing structures or are looking for an entrée into the current literature on tagging and knowledge organization (KO) or those of personal information management (PIM), human-computer interaction (HCI), and human information behavior (HIB) as they pertain to this topic then this book would serve you as a valuable resource.

Martignette and Meisel, The Great American Pin-up

I quite enjoyed this coffee table book, which left me wanting more. Certainly wanting more pinups and glamour art but also to see the other artworks, including commercial art, created by these talented artists.

The book begins with some illustrated historical essays, “Pin-Up Art: A Historical Commentary” by Walt A. Reed (2 pages), “The “Fine” Art of Illustration” by Louis K. Meisel (4 pages), and “The Great American Pin-Up” by Charles G. Martignette (18 pages). The book is then divided into 3 sections, with individual artists placed within these sections: Art Deco Era 1920-1940, From World War II to 1970 Pin-Up & Glamour Artists, and Additional Prominent Artists 1930-1980.

The book is available in several editions, including the Barnes & Noble edition which we have, which is often available in their Bargain Books section and is, well, a bargain.

There are 100s of images in the book, many of which are full-page. Seeing as the book is an oversized coffee table book (32.5 x 25 cm; 12.5 x 10″) those are large enough to be suitable for framing; assuming one wanted  to cut up their copy of the book. Then again, if it is still available in the B&N Bargain Books section buying two copies would be an option.

One thing brought home by this book was the sheer ubiquity of pinup art in American society from about 1930 to 1970, especially in the 30s to 50s. Pinups illustrated everything from advertising for the full gamut of products, to illustrations for magazine articles, book covers whether romance, fantasy, pulp and other genres, to magazine covers (all kinds, including all of the major ones), to billboards, to the sides of WWII airplanes, and so on. Calendars, of course, were the biggest selling and most prolific form for pinups.

These talented artists produced many other forms of art, including photography, fine art paintings (landscapes, portraits, etc.), commercial illustrations of all stripes, etc. Many of the most iconographic images of the 20th century commercial world were produced by these talented men and women, from the Coppertone girl, the Quaker Oats man, the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, to the Bruce Jenner Wheaties box, among many others. They produced much art for Hollywood, from portraits of stars to movie posters (e.g., The Maltese Falcon). One of them painted a presidential portrait which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

It is much of this non-pinup art, along with many of the pinup & glamour images described in the text but not included, that I long to see. In many cases, due to copyright issues, the most famous images by these artists are not included. While understandable, it is a sad comment on the US copyright situation. Inclusion of those images in a book like this can only increase the value of these images by increasing exposure of them to new generations.

I also understand why none of the non-pinup or glamour art is included. This already large book would need to be even larger or would have to include fewer images which constitute the actual subject of the book. While a fully justifiable trade-off, for reasons of permissions for use to size of book and what is included, I still would like to see some of the iconic images which are described but not shown.

At the time this book was written only Alberto Vargas had received the full treatment of a monograph representing his career and work. Hopefully many more of these talented artists will receive their due soon.

Upcoming fall semester

Thought I’d post a little update regarding my plans for fall. First, a quick update on where I am currently.


My hours at the BCU library were bumped up to 6 (from 5) hours/week so I could take on a weeding project of my own. I had already cataloged the backlog and current acquisitions and I was removing bibs and holdings from our Sirsi catalog and from WorldCat.

About a month ago I started weeding the PZs. I began with the PZ7s and up, skipped the small amount of PZ5s for now (less than one shelf), did the PZ4s, and am now a bit over halfway through the PZ3s. This leaves the PZ1s, which are mostly sets, to do when I finish the PZ3s. So far I have weeded approximately 1000 titles from the collection. Many of these books have not circulated in 30-40 years (or more). Some, of course, had never circulated. A few were in lovely editions over 100 years old. But if they haven’t been checked out in 50-60 years and no one teaches them anymore (if ever) then our small library does not need them. Of course, I have also been removing the bibs and holdings for these.

The wife

The wife is keeping especially busy and is reasonably stressed; reasonably as in she has good reason to be, and also as in not breaking down stressed. All of this year’s incoming freshman at BCU are getting iPads, as are many of the graduate and some of the returning undergrad students, along with many of the faculty and staff. There will be another opt-in period for returning students who have not done so shortly after school starts. As the Director of Educational Technology, this project is kind of her baby. Other folks certainly have their own crosses to bear in this als0; like the head of IT and the hoops she’s jumped/ing through to get the campus wireless upgraded to handle ~500-600 wireless devices where before there were only a handful.

Added on top of that stress for the wife is that we are leaving the country for close to a week right before/as school starts. So she has spent most of this weekend on campus trying to do all that she can to make this all go as smoothly as possible without her direct input when it happens.

Wedding in Germany

We are heading to Heidelberg, Germany for my sons wedding! Both the bride and groom were born there so it is a particularly apt setting. We only wish we had a lot more time to spend in Deutschland; we both miss it dearly.

My fall semester

I am taking one class, which I was asked to take by the professor. Advanced Briar Cliff Review is a one-hour credit class in which interested students, primarily English and Writing majors, do much of the selection work for the short fiction that makes it into the Briar Cliff Review.

I will also be sitting in on 2 classes; Modern Grammar, and Classical Literature and Mythology. I was, as of a couple months ago, planning on sitting in on Shakespeare also but have decided I would actually like some sort of life. Shakespeare is taught regularly and frequently, so I hope to catch it the next time around. There are, of course, several other classes I am interested.  Most were winnowed out earlier due to scheduling conflicts but, despite freeing up some time, I see little point in rebooking that time.

I am looking forward to the upcoming semester. I’ve had a mythology class but this one will focus on myth through the classical lit itself, instead of being condensed versions of folktales, and I can use more exposure to classical lit. As a critic of orthodox grammar and linguistics I can definitely use a formal class. More importantly, I hope it will help me describe and discuss that which I have known at a deep and intuitive level for most of my life. I’m also looking forward to reading the BCR short fiction submissions. I don’t read much short fiction, at least not for a long time, and I look forward to discussing and engaging with it critically. Also, how often does one get asked to take a class by the professor?

Bauer, jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Full disclosure: I have yet to actually make anything from this lovely cookbook. Quality ingredients are difficult to find, to say the least, in Sioux City, Iowa.

This is a beautifully designed, easy-to-understand cookbook for making some of the best tasting foods I have ever had the privilege of eating.

It starts with a promise, Jeni’s story, a quick (2 p.) illustrated guide to the basics of ice cream making, a short discussion of ingredients and equipment [BTW, you probably have most of the needed equipment and the ice cream maker is quite affordable. Ours was a gift from my daughter.], followed by a couple page overview of “The Craft of Ice Cream.”

Next follow 160+ pages of recipes for the best ice creams I have ever tasted. Jeni’s commentary on each recipe is also invaluable. This section is divided into the four seasons, as what is available at any moment in Jeni’s stores is fully dependent on what is freshly available to her.

The last approx. 20 pages cover the basics of bases & techniques, nuts & dried fruits, variegates & fruits, baked goods & candies, sundae accessories and cone making. Also included is a list of sources for quality ingredients.

Once back from my son’s wedding in Germany, I hope to use the source list to acquire some decent ingredients and begin making my own delicious, high-quality ice creams.

For the record, this is NOT a vegetarian or vegan cookbook. You will be using dairy. That said, there are 10 sorbet recipes here along with guidance for making your own sorbet base to be flavored as you like. So, perhaps not strictly off-limits to the vegan.

Peterson. Understanding Exposure. 3rd ed.

This was a pretty decent book which, while I already knew a fair bit of this info regarding exposure, did provide me with some useful tips and techniques.

It does contain a couple of minor editing/typo issues in the first few pages but then I didn’t notice any more after that. Of far more consequence, the images on p. 23 in support of “Understanding the Exposure Info in Your Viewfinder” are a complete mess. It took me a minute or so to figure out what the problem was and I understand this bit. I have real concerns for those to who are experiencing it for the first time and still need to learn it; they will be highly confused.

There are four images of a viewfinder which between them are trying to show correct exposure, 1-stop over- and 1-stop underexposure and 2/3-stop underexposure. All of the annotations/arrows to show this are in the right place on each image, but only one of the sets of labels is correctly matched as to what the light meter is actually showing. This, in my opinion, is a major blunder and might even be the most important thing in the book to have gotten correct.

I find his way of thinking about shots—storytelling, isolation, Who cares?, motion, etc.—to be a quite useful starting point. It’s not that I hadn’t been considering the reasons/techniques for my photos but this higher-level grouping/thinking adds a useful layer for me. Maybe that’s just the classifier/librarian in me, but I think this kind of thinking in advance of shooting might have led to a few of my (technically correct) shots being creatively better. More importantly, it will lead to better photos in the future; those I still have control over.

This book is probably most useful for beginning and fairly experienced photographers, or those new to or wanting to learn how to use a camera which provides a fair bit of creative control, but even those of us photographers in the great middle can learn something from this book.

Also includes access to a website currently with 12 videos on topics of exposure and 2 on important composition tips.


  • Introduction
  • Defining Exposure
    • What is Meant by “Exposure”?
    • The Photographic Triangle
    • The Heart of the Triangle: The Light Meter
    • White Balance
    • Six Correct Exposures vs. One Creatively Correct One
    • Seven Creative Exposure Options
  • Aperture
    • Aperture and Depth of Field
    • Storytelling Apertures
    • Isolation or Singular-Theme Apertures
    • “Who Cares?” Apertures
    • Aperture and Macro Photography
    • Aperture and Specular Highlights
  • Shutter Speed
    • The Importance of Shutter Speed
    • The Right Shutter Speed for the Subject
    • Freezing Motion
    • Panning
    • Implying Motion
    • Implying Motion with Stationary Subjects
    • Making “Rain”
  • Light
    • The Importance of Light: The Importance of Exposure
    • The Best Light
    • Frontlight
    • Overcast Frontlight
    • Sidelight
    • Backlight
    • Exposure Meters
    • 18% Reflectance
    • The Sky Brothers
    • Mr. Green Jeans (the Sky Brothers’ Cousin)
    • Night and Low-Light Photography
  • Filters, Special Techniques & Flash
    • Polarizing Filters
    • Neutral-Density Filters
    • Graduated Neutral-Density Filters
    • Multiple Exposures
    • HDR: High Dynamic Range Exposures
    • Fill Flash
    • Ring Flash
    • Rear Curtain Sync
  • Index