Powering Search: The Role of Thesauri in New Information Environments

The Important Role of Thesauri in New Information Environments

Thesauri have been a primary dimension of the research and development interests of experts in information retrieval, online searching, user interface design, knowledge organization in general, indexing and abstracting, cataloguing and classification, and information search behavior studies. Developments in the age of the World Wide Web have paved the way for the increasingly more extensive use of knowledge organization systems such as thesauri.

Illustrative of these developments are new web-related formats and standards; new internet programming languages and platforms; and, more flexible and functional user interface design methodologies, along with significant increases in the speed, efficiency, and ubiquity of computer systems. These developments relate to the following areas of intellectual inquiry impacting thesauri: Digital libraries, Interoperability, Semantic web, Simple Knowledge Organization Systems (SKOS), Linked data, Taxonomies, Social tagging and folksonomies, Ontologies, Query formulation and expansion, Faceted and exploratory search, Search user interfaces, Information architecture, and Metadata. It is predicted that thesauri and other types of knowledge organization systems will be used in an increasingly wider variety of web services and applications.

The potential is virtually unlimited for web related developments and technologies to present new ways of both reconciling and exploiting multiple thesauri, and the knowledge structures inherent in thesauri, in support of information access and retrieval. My recently published book titled, Powering Search: The Role of Thesauri in New Information Environments  provides a comprehensive treatment of the role, functions and applications of thesauri in new digital information organization, representation and retrieval environments.

About Ali Shiri

Ali Shiri is an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. He joined the University of Alberta as an assistant professor in 2004. Before joining the University of Alberta, Ali worked as senior researcher in the Centre for Digital Library Research at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and was project officer for the NHS Glasgow Health Information Gateway. He teaches courses on digital libraries and knowledge organization. He obtained his associate’s degree in library science from Shahid Chamran University, Ahvaz, Iran, and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in library and information science from the University of Tehran. He holds a doctorate in information science from the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow. His research areas include user search and interaction behavior, digital library user interfaces, and knowledge organization systems and social tagging in digital libraries. He has published widely on thesaurus-enhanced search user interfaces.