It really never occurred to me that controlled vocabularies are what can change user’s searches (as in the Leise, Fast and Steckel article “What Is a Controlled Vocabulary?,” from Elizabeth Burton to Elizabeth Taylor) to bring up relevant results; I had previously thought it was solely for the purposes of cataloging more efficiently and making sure an institution had controlled terms – so people weren’t, as discussed in the aforementioned article, just categorizing things all willy nilly, with even more subjectivity than is inherent in a catalog itself. I assumed its main purpose was to maintain an illusion of objectivity, and a reality of organization, that I keep harping on week after week (how is one to exist in kyriarchal societies without internalizing those biases and having them come out in even the most “objective” areas? I could literally go on for days). I saw this user-centered purpose in indices where I would be directed, upon looking up “this neat thing” to “see This Neat Thing’s Synonym in a Fancier Way.” It’s actually really cool to be told (even though I should have been able to figure this out) that computer cataloging search systems just do that AUTOMATICALLY. Wow. This is the future.
This article and the Broughton excerpt also made the exercise we were doing last week about hierarchies a little more concrete for me, interestingly (interestingly because usually hands-on does it for me). A hierarchical structure of terms is a lot simpler from further away than at the granular level of trying to model your own terms on LC’s hierarchy, and just kind of forcing it.
These two readings made me very curious about how a person learns their institution and/or field’s controlled vocabulary. I imagine it is a lot of practice, but reading about keyword lists made me wonder if there is one way in which they all make sense. No cross-referencing, as in keyword lists would obviously mean just memorizing a list. The hierarchies are much less involved, but then harder to memorize. Memorization is probably not desirable in this area, but as someone compelled to know everything about what I am doing and who is eager to reach peak efficiency, it’s so tempting. I wonder what the best strategy is to be the most efficient as quickly as possible.