Metadata and thesauri, plus ca change ?

Last week I ran two of the professional development courses which I run from time to time for Aslib (the London-based Association for Information Management). They were both great fun, particularly with the added incentive of Aslib’s new, and very high-class, training facilities at Bonhill House.

The course topics were, I thought, an interesting juxtaposition. One day on metadata – quite a trendy topic, dating most people would say from the 1990s, though traceable back, fairly directly, to Antony Pannizzi at the British Museum Library in the middle of the nineteenth century. And then two days on thesaurus construction – a child of the 1960s and the era of mechanised documentation, the punched card sorters and peek-a-boo viewers that came just before the digital computer took over. Thesauri went a rough patch in the 1960s, when most people imagined that full-text searching, automatic indexing, and folksonomies had rendered them obsolescent, but have made a major come-back, as the limitations of the alternatives have become increasingly clear.

Anyway, it’s nice to see these rather traditional skills of the information professions remaining in demand. There’s an Aslib indexing course coming up in July that should be good.

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