You’ve probably arrived here because you’re enrolled (or considering enrolling) in “Organization of Information Resources,” a Master’s-level course offered at the University of Michigan School of Information in Fall 2022! My name is Jesse Johnston. I will be the instructor, and I’m looking forward to being your guide on this journey through various aspects of activity related to organizing and ordering information resources, whether those be paper books on a shelf, specimens in a museum, social media posts, or maybe even things in your kitchen.

This course should be a critical step in your journey toward becoming, or an important stage in your continuing journey as, an information professional. The course has been designed with aspiring librarians, archivists, and curators in mind, but also should be useful for anyone working with taxonomy, classification, cataloging, description, and other information tasks. As Hope Olson wrote in the book The Power to Name, “naming information is the special business of librarians and other information professionals” (2002, 4). Olson was talking about the assignment of subject headings to library catalog records, which is something we’ll talk about during the course, but in a broader sense, this quote suggests the importance of describing information in ways that are useful - in ways specific to specific people in specific times and places through particular systems of searching and accessing - and in ways that can be usefully found and managed (that is, organized and findable in a system). 

We will discuss a variety of topics related to the organization of information, including: 

  • the social and cultural imperatives to organize, and the systems that we create to organize resources;
  • organizing as a fundamental aspect of information work;
  • the nature of the “information resources” that we are ordering and organizing;
  • classification (a systematic sorting and naming of resources into defined categories that facilitates the finding, control, or knowledge about things);
  • description (naming, enumerating, and pointing out the salient features of the things being organized);
  • taxonomies and controlled vocabularies;
  • relationships and differences between ways that machines classify and humans classify;
  • creation of models and standards that specify how things of particular types are described.
  • various standards, structures, and rules that establish the special languages you will use as an information professional.

To start, please look over the course syllabus (it will remain available via Google Docs, though most of the course activity, including access to readings, will take place through the course Canvas site). 

Next, you should visit the course Canvas site, which requires a U-M login and should automatically appear in your course list when you are registered. 

Finally, I look forward to meeting you! We will start class with a discussion of the syllabus, a tour of the Canvas site, introductions, and an initial foray into information organization theories and concepts.