Exchanging Ideas: Inspiring Conferences I Attended in 2017

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| By Heather Hedden, Senior Vocabulary Editor, Gale |

Gale participates in a variety of industry conferences, not merely as an exhibitor, but from a thought leadership perspective as well where they have the company’s subject matter experts speak at various conferences beyond the traditional library field. As a senior vocabulary editor who updates and maintains the Gale subject thesaurus, I truly believe that conferences are not just for developing business, but also serve as a place for exchanging creative ideas. I have spoken at a number of conferences this year and have enjoyed both sharing my knowledge and coming away with new ideas.

The conferences I attended throughout 2017 were so empowering, I wanted to share them with you:

Society for Scholarly Publishing | Boston | May 31 – June 2

For this conference, I organized, moderated, and gave the introductory presentation for a 3-hour 6-person panel pre-meeting seminar, “Indexes for Content Findability: New Trends and Technologies,” including indexes for both books and periodical articles. Topics included indexes in ebooks, thesaurus creation issues, automated indexing technologies and mapping index terms to provide third-party content.

Sessions of interest that I attended included those on metadata, publishing and information standards (organized by the executive director of the National Information Standards Organization), and the changing roles of university and society presses. I learned about the importance of journal citations for scholarly authors and the role of “bibliometrics” in citation tracking and analysis in the reputation and careers of scholars. The top three insights I gained from this panel are:

  • metadata is the means to the end, not the goal
  • automation and synchronization are key
  • the story begins and ends with the researcher

American Society for Indexing | Portland, Maine | June 15-17

Gale database records are each indexed to subject and named entity terms, so Gale is a corporate member of this professional organization dedicated to indexing. Usually, a member of our Indexing & Vocabulary Services department speaks at the ASI annual conference. Other speakers and attendees are indexers or other indexing professionals. It’s easy to meet people and exchange ideas in this small conference of under 80 attendees.

This year, I was one of three speakers from our department. Two of my colleagues, metadata operations managers, presented a session on metadata and how it provides accurate and timely access to content, providing examples from Gale products. I gave a presentation titled: “Different Controlled Vocabularies for Different Purposes,” presenting the example of how the subject thesaurus for Gale products is different from the individual discipline taxonomies for Cengage’s learning products. Attendees learned that, just as book indexes are customized to their books, taxonomies also need to be customized for their content set.

This conference is all about best practices in indexing, especially in how they serve users. One session was on usability analysis in the indexing profession, which also showed how usability studies can help improve indexes.

Association for Information Science & Technology | Washington, DC |October 27 – November 1

This conference offered trendy research and presentation topics on: open access and open data, institutional repositories, trust/credibility in information retrieved (with the concern of fake news), information literacy, health information, information seeking and user experience of youth and metadata. While closely related to library science, I discovered that information science can be much more broadly scoped. For example, there was a panel on information architecture and several sessions addressed mobile device use. I also believe this research is of interest to Gale, and perhaps we could pursue some information research partnership studies with scholars or universities. I was also reminded of the importance of promoting Gale’s research products as trustworthy sources and their role in enabling information discovery that may also be considered “serendipity,” a key value for social science scholars in their initial research. We also should consider open institutional repositories within the collections of libraries that are researched.

Taxonomy Boot Camp | Washington, DC | November 5-7

For this conference, I organized and moderated the panel: “Applications of Taxonomy Design Best Practices.” Gale, of course, follows best practices in the design and maintenance of its thesaurus and other controlled vocabularies, but it was interesting to hear how other companies including IBM, Indeed.com, and Cambridge Healthtech, have designed their taxonomies.

A trend I discerned at this year’s conference was the increasingly commonplace use of auto-categorization (automated indexing or machine-aided indexing) with taxonomies. This is because the amount of content to be indexed is growing too fast for manual indexing, and there are more software products that combine taxonomy management with auto-categorization. While there were a number of presentations on e-commerce taxonomies, these are the ones most focused on users, so we can learn from them too.

I also spoke at Taxonomy Boot Camp London this fall, the second year this conference has gone overseas. Co-located with Internet Librarian International, I enjoyed an even more diverse gathering of professionals.

Gilbane Digital Content Conference | Boston | November 28-30

At this conference, I gave a half-day post conference workshop on taxonomies and metadata for content management. Although attendance was small, the audience was very engaged, and we had good discussions. Among the things participated learned is that metadata and taxonomy need to be designed in combination, stakeholders need to be engaged, the taxonomy should be tested and tagging policies need to be developed.

Common themes from conference sessions included: customer experience, content marketing, collaboration, internationalization/globalization/localization/translation of content and applications of artificial intelligence. A session on new machine translation technologies was interesting, since Gale offers automatic translation of its articles, and a presentation on combining named entity recognition technologies was of interest, since Gale utilizes named entity recognition for some of its indexing.

Coming up in 2018

My next conference will be a library conference for a change, Computers in Libraries, in Washington, DC, April 16-19, 2018. I am looking forward to interacting with the librarian community, getting feedback and ideas regarding Gale products, and sharing my knowledge of taxonomies in a pre-conference workshop.

About the Author

Heather Hedden is a senior vocabulary editor at Gale, where she edits the subject thesaurus and other metadata for the indexing and retrieval of Gale research database content and develops discipline taxonomies for educational products. Heather is currently a member of the board of the American Society for Indexing, is author of The Accidental Taxonomist (Information Today Inc., 2010, 2016), and blogs at http://accidental-taxonomist.blogspot.com/




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