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Taxonomy - thesauri, thesaurus or thesauruses - ontology - functional thesauri - business classification schemes - information architecture - metadata - metatags - controlled vocabularies - naming conventions - facet analysis - spatial data - faceted classification system, etc - January 2004

With the recent [over the last 12 months or so] expansion of the principal of the desirability for the use of Functional Classification as espoused by the New south Wales [NSW] State Records Authority since 1995 with the release of Keyword AAA = Accuracy - Accessibility - Accountability and later reviewed in 1997-98 and its evaluation and potential "or actual" utilisation by the Public Records Office [PRO] UK and the National Archives & Records Administration [NARA] USA the thesaurus specialists of the world have been taking a closer look at Keyword AAA and what it provides.

In a recent posting on his www site, Leonard Will has made comment on his view as to; What is a "Functions thesaurus"? Available @ Willpower Information Management Consultants - What is a "Functions thesaurus"?

In his article Leonard makes the following observations:

The term "thesaurus" has, unfortunately, been applied to various things which do not conform to the description of an information retrieval thesaurus as set out in the international standard for thesaurus construction, ISO2788 and the USA national standard, ANSI/NISO Z39.19. One of these is the Developing a Functional Thesaurus developed in Australia and used primarily for classification of items in records management systems. The main example is Keyword AAA.

The problem is that a "functions thesaurus" like Keyword AAA is not really a thesaurus in the sense of these standards, despite a statement that it complies with them - it might be considered to be a classification scheme or a scheme for constructing pre-coordinated alphabetical subject headings, and indeed the descriptive texts about it don't appear to recognise the distinction between these types of product, mixing the terms thesaurus and classification somewhat indiscriminately. It uses some of the terminology of the standards for thesaurus construction, but with meanings very different from those which the standards define, so that there is great potential for confusion.

This is not to decry Keyword AAA as a product, for it appears to be a perfectly valid scheme, widely used and well suited to the purposes for which it is intended; it is just misleading to call it a thesaurus. It is primarily a tool for constructing subject headings, for use in file titles or for browsing a sequence of items in an "alphabetico-classed" arrangement. It prescribes certain terms that should be used first in a subject heading string, and then says what subheadings you can use under these, to several levels. In this respect it is more akin to a system like Library of Congress Subject Headings than to a standard thesaurus.

Leonard does not attack the purpose or the desirability of the use of Keyword AAA in his article and identifies: This is not to decry Keyword AAA as a product, for it appears to be a perfectly valid scheme, widely used and well suited to the purposes for which it is intended; it is just misleading to call it a thesaurus.

This identification of Keyword AAA as a thesaurus was also a topic of discussion in a paper presented by Dr Maggie Exon, Senior Lecturer in Information Studies, Department of Media and Information, Curtin University of Western Australia at the Records Management Association of Australia's 1997 Convention in Perth titled; Contemporary Recordkeeping the Records Management Thesaurus which caused some degree of interaction with the New South Wales State Records Authority at the time with a resulting rebuttal article published in the next RMAA Informaa Quarterly [IQ] after the Convention.

With this recent world wide interest in Functional Thesauri, Functional File Classification Schemes or " thesaurofacet" [An indexing vocabulary which combines an alphabetical thesaurus and a faceted classification scheme.] and a part of controlled vocabularies as it broader term as Leonard Will states, we in the business or profession of Records Management should take the opportunity to revel in this increased interest in what is the core of a records management system.

May I be so bold as to state: That without a Functional Thesaurus, Business Classification Scheme (BCS), Functional File Classification Scheme or Controlled Vocabulary [what ever the correct terminology] as the engine at the centre of any Records Management Systems [or whatever we call it Document, Information, EDMS, ERMS, ERDMS etc] we do not have a Records Management System and all the work we put into any system is futile as the system will implode on its on inefficiency

Happy RMing!

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president and national director, has been involved in records management for 30 years. He has his own consulting and training business near Perth, Western Australia, and has tutored in recordkeeping and archival storage and preservation at Perth’s Edith Cowan University. Phone: +61 (0)8 9291 6925; mobile: 0417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

The author, Laurie Varendorff of the Varendorff Records Management Consultancy - TVC - Helping clients manage their e-World gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and non profit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

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