The socially responsive design for a library catalogue and thesaurus in a non-profit community organization (Toronto, Canada)

SOGLASNOVA, Lana and HANSON, Mary (2014) The socially responsive design for a library catalogue and thesaurus in a non-profit community organization (Toronto, Canada). Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2014 - Lyon - Libraries, Citizens, Societies: Confluence for Knowledge in Session 166 - Social Science Libraries with Women, Information and Libraries Special Interest Group. In: IFLA WLIC 2014, 16-22 August 2014, Lyon, France.

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Language: English (Original)
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The socially responsive design for a library catalogue and thesaurus in a non-profit community organization (Toronto, Canada)

The thesaurus was developed for a library catalogue in a legal aid clinic in Toronto (Canada). This organization assists low-income injured workers with worker’s compensation claims appeals. A small non-profit with limited resources, it has been actively engaged for nearly fifty years in advocacy and law reform. Its commitment to social justice is also advanced through its work in public legal education, participatory research and community organization, including support of self-help groups. The library serves as an archive of the social history of injured workers’ movement in Ontario, as well as a working law library. The library collection has been developed since the clinic’s establishment in 1969. It includes not only commercially published literature, but also a substantial proportion of grey literature covering a unique range of materials on workers’ compensation in Ontario, the struggles, historical and current, to improve the system and its impact on injured workers’ lives and well-being. The library catalogue is online and made available to the public through a link on a website for injured workers. It is intended to be easily maintained by a community organization that may not have a full-time librarian and/or professional cataloguer. All cataloguing is original and full-level, and the bibliographic records also include tables of contents and annotations to improve access to materials through keyword search. All records are also indexed with subject terms drawn from a customized thesaurus, at present linked to the library catalogue as a static pdf file. The thesaurus, built on freeware, aims to make accessible a specialized terminology and examine its complex meanings and many underlying biases. Our presentation focuses on the stories behind many subject terms in the thesaurus. While many existing sources were used in constructing the thesaurus, it has become clear that much of this vocabulary, such as the term “entitlement”, has specific biases and social sensitivities. The library users include lawyers, researchers, and injured workers from a multicultural population with many non-native English speakers. We discuss the challenges in developing a socially responsive thesaurus to meet the needs of this diverse range of users: • How can both the literary warrant vs. user preferences and sensitivities be best incorporated into a thesaurus entry? • How should one define the primary user group? • What are feasible means for evaluating alternative terms? • How can the thesaurus reflect historical contexts and meanings? Technologies for thesaurus construction and display carry their own challenges as well. An earlier initiative to build and evaluate a thesaurus for the clinic’s library catalogue used the techniques of Vicente’s and Mai’s Cognitive Work Analysis to analyze organization work domains and the selected terms. We present case studies of selected thesaurus terms, addressing socially responsive structure of an entry and technological issues of dynamic implementation and sustainability. We discuss how a thesaurus as a form of controlled vocabulary can also become an educational tool for diverse user groups. The implications for creating a transferable and scalable model for community-based organization of knowledge are discussed.

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