Friday, March 25, 2016

Taxonomy Books

I am pleased to announce the 2nd edition of The Accidental Taxonomist. The print edition is available to order from the publisher, Information Today Inc., now, and will be available from various online retailers by early June.  Ebook versions will follow. So, this is a good time to survey other books on taxonomy creation.

When I wrote the first edition in 2009, I had looked into other books about taxonomies that were published at the time. Following is what I had written in my proposal to the publisher regarding the “competition,” including my comments at the time ad how my book would fill a gap. (The only change I have made is updating the prices, which are the list prices, but lower prices can usually be found through online retailers.)
  • Lambe, Patrick. Organising Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organisational Effectiveness. Oxford, England: Chandos Publishing. (2007)
    This book is well-reviewed, but published in the UK and somewhat expensive. It takes a somewhat broader approach, looking at knowledge management and not just taxonomies. It is aimed more at the business professional, manager, consultant, rather than the practicing taxonomist. It can be a bit overwhelming to the new MLIS grad or the indexer curious about getting into taxonomy construction. [$70.00]
  • Stewart, Darin L. Building Enterprise Taxonomies. Portland, Oregon: Mokita Press. (2008)
    This book is self-published and not well marketed. It was created to as a book for an online course taught by the author at the University of Oregon Applied Information Management Master’s degree program. Its reviews are generally good. The book is focused on enterprise taxonomies only, though. Its index is horrible. [$39.99]
  • Jagerman, Evert J. Creating, Maintaining and Applying Quality Taxonomies. Zoetermeer, Netherlands: E.J. Jagerman. (2006)
    This book is self-published (Lulu.com) and not well marketed, published in the Netherlands, and only 152 pages.  I have not found any reviews of it. [$43.62]
  • King, Brandy E. and Kathy Reinold. Finding the Concept, Not Just the Word: A Librarian's Guide to Ontologies and Semantics. Oxford, England: Chandos Publishing. (2008)
    Like Lambe’s book Organising Knowledge, this book is also published by Chandos Publishing in the UK and is rather expensive. It is focused on only ontologies and not other kinds of taxonomies, and its audience is research librarians. The inclusion of four case studies is interesting, though. [$61.81]
  • Aitchison, J., A. Gilchrist, and D. Bawden. Thesaurus Construction and Use: A Practical Manual (4th ed.). Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. (2000)
    This book is limited to traditional information retrieval thesauri, is somewhat out of date (based on a first edition published in 1972), published in the UK and rather expensive. [$125.95]
  • Broughton, Vanda. Essential Thesaurus Construction. London: Facet Publishing. (2006)
    This book is limited to traditional information retrieval thesauri, scholarly and not well marketed, published in the UK and rather expensive [$85.00]
  • Bailey, Kenneth D. Typologies and Taxonomies: An Introduction to Classification Techniques (Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences series) Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. (1994)
    This is a short monograph of under 100 pages and focuses on cluster analysis (whatever that is) written by a professor of sociology with a focus on research methods. It is mathematically too technical for most readers. [$15.46]


Of the aforementioned books, the one that I would recommend, and I recommend highly is Patrick Lambe’s Organising Knowledge. The book is indeed worth its price, but is probably more suited for readers who are serious about taxonomies and not merely curious about them.


In the intervening six years a few more books about taxonomies or controlled vocabularies have been published, and I have looked at the following: 
  • Harpring, Patricia. Introduction to Controlled Vocabularies: Terminology for Art, Architecture, and Other Cultural Works. Los Angeles: Getty Publications. (2010)
    This book is focuses on classification schemes, taxonomies, thesauri, or other controlled vocabularies for indexing information within a limited subject area and especially for museum works. It is an excellent book for that purpose, but less relevant for taxonomies or controlled vocabularies in general or for other purposes. [$50.00]
  • Abbas, June. Suctures for Organizing Knowledge: Exploring Taxonomies, Ontologies, and Other Schemas. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers. (2010)
     book gives a broad treatment of knowledge organization systems. While it does not provide detailed instructions on how to create a taxonomy or another type of system, the comprehensive and thorough coverage puts taxonomies, controlled vocabularies, and other classification schemes into perspective and context, and thus is very informative book. [$93.00]
  • Hlava, Marjorie H.K. The Taxobook. (series) Morgan & Claypool Publishers. (2015)
    This book is published as a series of three separate volumes: Part 1: History, Theories and Concepts of Knowledge Organization (54 pages); Part 2: Principles and Practices of Taxonomy Construction (117 pages); Part 3: Applications, Implementations, and Integration in Search (128 pages). The first volume has some interesting insights, but is not information that is needed for practical purposes. The second volume explains the basics of taxonomies and how to create them. The third volume presents more unique information on taxonomy implementation, but may be aimed at others than those who create taxonomies. [$150 for the series, or $50 for each volume]


For more in-depth information on some of these books, I have published book reviews in Key Words the journal of the American Society for Indexing, and have PDF copies on my website:

Hlava. The Taxobook (review forthcoming in late April)


As for where The Accidental Taxonomist fits in, I would consider it the most practical and instructional book on how to create taxonomies and thesauri for all kinds of uses. It is clearly aimed at the practicing taxonomist, as the title implies, especially since the core of the book came out of an online course I had developed a year and half prior. It also has unique information about the field of taxonomy work. It’s also not expensive ($39.50 list price, with discounts periodically available). So, if you already own the first edition, you should consider buying a copy of the second edition as well, which has new information on taxonomy software, SharePoint, metadata, taxonomy testing, etc., a new taxonomist survey, and all new screenshot graphics. Thus, another benefit of The Accidental Taxonomy, 2nd edition, is that it's the most up-to-date book on the subject.

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