INLS 520 (Summer II):  Information Organization

Mon-Fri, 1:15-2:45pm, Rm 208, SILS

Overview| UNC Policy| Schedule | Assignments


Information Organization (IO), conceptualized by Aristotle and Plato and refined from the 17th century onward by scholars from many different fields, undergirds Information and Library Science (ILS).  As we move away from traditional, static methods of search, organization and retrieval and into dynamic realms of knowledge representation on the Web, we need to consider and appreciate new technologies as well as this foundation we inherited over 2000 years ago. In this course, you will be introduced to prevailing thoughts relating to Information Organization, including those from cognitive science and linguistics, computer science and philosophy, and ILS. Lectures from professionals “in the field” of organization will counterbalance the practice and theory of the classroom experience. This approach to learning will enable you to become an authentic member of the IO culture, and you will hopefully feel prepared when it comes time to take the next steps in your professional life and ILS education.

Information Organization makes manifest how we, as users and creators of data, view and organize our world. And, being at the heart of the Philosophy of Information (PI), it brings up many philosophical questions, like: Does classification reveal objective truths about the world? How accurately can our structures map onto the “real” structures that exist out there? How can we determine the real structure and, more importantly, is there one? How does access to certain modes of thinking or information limit or help us in our categorization/organization practice? How much of classification is limited by our wiring? What’s the point of classification? Is classification different from what we call “categorization”? It is different questions like these that will serve as food for thought as we explore IO.        



Instructional Objectives


Advanced BSIS undergraduates and MSIS/MLS students will be able to, upon completion of milestones:



Grading Criteria


Assessment of students  involves a combination of metrics: freewriting, take home assignments, class participation, and completion of a group capstone.


Conduct of the Course



Primary text:

The Discipline of Organizing [electronic resource] | Robert Glushko. (3rd edition). Available for purchase at:

Supporting Texts:

Class materials, other than the required Glushko text, will be provided on Sakai or on eReserves.  All assigned readings will be listed under their respective week in the schedule.

Other materials may include: articles, blogs, forum posts, videos, coding specifications, and portions excerpted from other relevant books.


Evaluation Overview.  

Assignments (UPDATED: July 6th, 2016)

This is a brief overview. For more detailed description please click on the above hyperlink.

Assignment Name

Due Date

Three-pronged assignment: 1) Justify schema domain and scope, with optional ER diagram for extra credit 2) provide vocabulary and encode items in XML, 3) crosswalk one XML item to the Dublin Core

  1. June 29 at 11am
  2. Jul 5 at 11am
  3. Jul 14 at 11am

Taxonomy building

Jul 12, 11am

Faceted classification

Jul 18, 11am

English-to-Logic problem set

End of class on logic workshop day

Final project: Presentation and Paper

Jul 26 11:30am


due 11am on days specified on Schedule (Jun 21, Jun 27, Jun 30, Jul 11, Jul 18)


All assignments (aside from the logic one) are to be turned in via UNC’s course management system, Sakai (  Here, each student will have a dropbox for assignments, as well as forum spaces for collaborative portions of assignments. Select readings aside from Glushko will also be available under Sakai resources.

UNC Policy

All information in the UNC Policy section (below) was taken directly from the SILS Teaching Handbook

Honor Code

The UNC Honor Code prohibits giving or receiving unauthorized aid in the completion of assignments. Students are strongly encouraged to cooperate and assist one another and share insights and respective expertise in this course. I expect that you will acknowledge the support you receive from your colleagues (this may be done in acknowledgements at the end of assignments or projects). It is crucial, however, that in every case where you use the actual written words of others, that these be properly quoted and cited. When you build arguments upon the ideas of others, the originators of those ideas should also be cited. (from INLS 490: Issues in Digital Video, Spring 2010. Instructor: Gary Marchionini)

Grading Policy

Graduate students may receive the following grades: H, P, L, and F. Temporary grades of AB (absent from the final examination) and IN (work incomplete) may also be given; these grades revert to an administrative F (F*) unless replaced by a permanent grade by the last day of classes for the same term a year later. Undergraduate students may receive the following grades: A, B, C, D, F. Grades of A-, B+, B-, C+, C- and D+ are also possible and will be recorded on the student’s transcript with quality point value assigned. Temporary grades of AB and IN (described above) may also be given under the same conditions as for Graduate Grades described above.  

Students with Disabilities

A student requiring academic accommodation must be registered with Disability Services ( This office will send a letter to me identifying what accommodation(s) are needed and what services may be available to the student.  

Adverse Weather

 To determine the current adverse weather status of the University, call the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line at 919-843-1234 for a recorded message. During adverse weather incidents, status updates will also be communicated on the University’s homepage at



Week 1 (Jun 20-24): What is organization? A look at philosophy, cognition, organizing principles, ER diagrams, and defining your own organizational domain and scope 

June 20: Welcome to 520! We will get to know each other through class activity, and I will give you a rundown about myself, the field of information organization as a whole, and why it is important to all ILS individuals to have a grounding in IO.

June 21st: Mental Categories, Early Classification and Ontology.

Read: The first two chapters of The Organized Mind. Available through the e-reserves tab on our Sakai site. (To access: Go to, type in your credentials, then look for INLS520 at the top of the screen. a tab for Course Reserves will be on the left-hand side). This is a brisk read that I hope you'll find enjoyable and informative.

Due: Freewriting 

June 22:  The 6 Questions of Organizing and LIS models.

 Skim chapter 1 of Glushko's Discipline of Organizing. However- Pay particularly close attention to the "6 Questions of Organizing" as you read. Skim parts of Glushko chaps 2 and 3, in chapter 2 focusing on the values and affordances of resource organization (2.4 and 2.5) and in the chapter 3 focusing on the Curation and Identifiers/Names sections.

June 23:  ER diagrams. Read short article on database diagramming by Roman (available in Resources week 1 folder in Sakai). Class activity: design your own DB based on a scenario.

June 24: Workshop time for Prong 1 of Assignment 1-- Scoping & Identifying Resources No reading due. Class work time to suss out your information object domains. (Extra Credit: attempt a simple ER diagram of your information problem to be submitted on Sakai!)


Week 2 (Jun 27-Jul 1): XML and creating your own vocabulary

June 27: Resource Description (pt. 2); An introduction to mark-up: HTML and the eXtensible Markup Language (XML)

To read/do before this class:

Read: Birnbaum, David J. “What is XML and why should humanists care? An even gentler introduction to XML”, January 5, 2012.

Read: Glushko, Robert J. “XML Foundations.” In Document Engineering, 42-72. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2005.

Due: Freewriting.

Jun 28: In class XML activity: Everyone is to bring a laptop for lab time. We will utilize a text editor- you can use Brackets, Notepad++, TextWrangler, Sublime, or oXygen (the latter is available through UNC) or other text editors to create XML records exemplifying a solution for your organizing problem 

Jun 29: Creating a Vocabulary & Descriptions introduction. We will discuss this, having provided the XML foundations, so that you can begin workshopping this assignment. Keep in mind however that the content of following classes, namely controlled vocabularies and authority control, will influence your decisions for creating a vocabulary and descriptions.

Due: Scoping and Identifying Resources (Prong 1), 11am

Jun 30: Controlled vocabularies and authority control

To read/do before this class:

Morville, Peter, and Louis Rosenfeld. “Thesauri, Controlled Vocabularies, and Metadata.” In Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. 3rd ed. Sebastopol, California: O’Reilly, 2006.  In Sakai week 2 folder.

What is a Controlled Vocabulary?

Synonym rings and authority files.

Library of Congress controversy over “Illegal Aliens” heading

Text of the LoC decision switching to "Noncitizens":

News story with draft of bill preventing the change:

Due: Freewriting

July 1: Workshopping/class time of Creating a Vocabulary and Description assignment

Week 3 (Jul 4-8): Classification and Categorization, Metadata  

Jul 4: NO CLASS. Independence Day.

Jul 5: Classification and Categorization

To read/do before this class:

READ Jacob, Elin. Classification and Categorization : A Difference that makes a Difference (pdf available in Sakai)

READ Mai, Jens-Erik. “Shrub” article. (pdf in Sakai)

SKIM the following sections from The Discipline of Organizing:

chapter 6- SKIM sections 6.1 through 6.2

chapter  7- SKIM sections 7.1 - 7.1.5., 7.2., and 7.3

Due: Creating a Vocabulary & Descriptions at 11am

Jul 6: Taxonomy building during class time

Jul 7: Guest Lecturers- People from the “LS” side of IO

Margaretta Yarborough, Head- Resource Description and Mgmt; Caroline Keizer, Lead, North Caroliniana Specialist Cataloguer; Michelle Cronquist, North Caroliniana Cataloguer; Kristina Spurgin, E-Resources Cataloger. E-Resources & Serials Management (ESM)

Jul 8- Guest Lecturers from “IS” side of IO

 Eric Meyer, Senior Software Architect at


Week 4 (Jul 11-15): Dublin Core Metadata; Facets

Jul 11: “New” Metadata: Schemes, Protocols and Approaches to interoperability with a focus on the Dublin Core

During this class, you will be introduced to descriptive metadata in general, challenges and opportunities, and learn about the Dublin Core. This will prepare you to work independently on beginning your “prong 3” of the Dublin Core crosswalking assignment in the following class.

To read/do before this class: review specifications on the basic Dublin Core elements set at: and “dcterms” at .

Freewriting due-- a short one-page reflection comparing the basic Dublin Core v.1.1. elements to “dcterms” (documentation websites for each of these metadata schemes are specified in the reading). Basic Dublin Core elements and the dcterms are both creations of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative ( In your paper, focus on the following question: What do you think, using what you know about resources and attributes and organization, the differences are, the drawbacks are, and the affordances are of using the basic 1.1 element set vs something like dcterms? Provide an illustrative example using one or a couple of the terms if possible.

Introduce: Prong 3- the Dublin Core assignment

Jul 12: Dublin Core (prong 3) workshop time

Jul 13: Facets

To read/do before class: The Discipline of Organizing, chapter 7 (read only 7.4-7.7)

Marcum, D. B. (2009). The Library of Congress and Cataloging ’ s Future. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 45(3), 3–15. (in Sakai resources)

Chan, L. M., Childress, E., Dean, R., O’Neill, E. T., & Vizine-Goetz, D. (2001). A Faceted Approach to Subject Data in the Dublin Core Metadata Record. Journal of Internet Cataloging, 4, 35–47. (in Sakai resources)

Class time creating facets for organizational domain and comparing its utility for your problem to taxonomic approaches.

Jul 14:  Instances, Types, Hierarchy: Logic and the Underpinnings of Information Organization

Guest lecturer: Tyler Easterbrook, department of English, UNC Chapel Hill

Logic, mathematics and philosophy undergirds the theory of classification. It is helpful to know, in addition to the practical applications/information models used in ILS, the logic that informs these things (courses are taught at other institutions focusing expressly on logic before delving into information models and data structures). Tyler will provide  an introduction to the logics which will help you more easily interpret concepts in library and information science to be introduced in the following classes, and clarify some principles introduced in the beginning of this course.

To read/do before class: Frege “On Function and Concept” PDF (in Sakai resources) Note: Do not worry about Frege’s outdated notations here; just focus on his notion of the function and its significance

SKIM The Discipline of Organizing, chapter 5

Jul 15: Logic (continued) English-to-logic exercise (8 problems). Counts as part of your participation grade. Group work for this is highly encouraged!

Due: Dublin Core (prong 3) assignment

Jul 18:  The Semantic Web : Introduction to Programming Theory, Linked Data, and Libraries

Guest Lecturer: TBD, SILS, UNC Chapel Hill

A guest lecturer will in this session introduce you to what is known as the Semantic Web.  Your knowledge of logic from the former class will aid you in understanding this module. They will walk you through the anatomy of the “Resource Description Framework” (RDF) and also explore applications using this nascent technology.

To read/do before this class: The first 3 chapters of Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist (PDFs in Sakai)

Due: Freewriting; Facets w/reflection

Jul 19: Semantic Web workshop (pending agreement with guest lecturer)

Jul 20: We will spend this class talking about the final group capstone. I will be available for appointments in between now and the final project presentations.

Tues Jul 26: Group Presentations.