By Sarah A. Sutherland
There was a time when many people anticipated taxonomies would disappear. Keyword searching was becoming better at delivering what searchers wanted, and it seemed like it would dominate information finding systems. However, taxonomies continue to be central to the organization of complex information. Free language searching is and will continue to be an important component in systems that present large collections of documents, books, or other types of information sources. But it has become clear that taxonomies will also stay central to the work of information providers.
This is not news to Soutron’s development team. Providing tools that allow for controlled taxonomies has been central to Soutron’s vision from its founding. Now, that same functionality is continuing to grow to allow clients to provide taxonomies as a service to work groups throughout their organizations and to clients outside them.
Graham Partridge, Soutron’s vice president of research and development, presented a new streamlined Thesaurus system at the British and Irish Association of Law Libraries (BIALL) Conference in June. While Soutron has always had taxonomy functionality, the new version provides some important updates.
Soutron’s taxonomy applications have always been poly hierarchical, and the new system continues to build on this using drag and drop technology. A poly hierarchical thesaurus avoids situations where the same terms are used in multiple places in the hierarchy, risking users missing relevant results. Information is categorized everywhere it should be, while still being discoverable regardless of where in the hierarchy it is accessed.
There is also a new taxonomy API, which is not only built into the application but provides the foundation for Graham’s vision to allow system administrators to provide access to their taxonomies both within and outside their organizations through applications like SharePoint and internal intranet pages as well as third party document management and discovery applications.
Soutron administrators can now provide this access to users like practice groups in law firms, records management divisions, or IT departments, supporting uses like classifying remote collections in practice groups’ document collections and branch libraries, as well as supporting ecommerce websites. This can be accomplished while retaining central control of the overarching taxonomy, reducing issues of divergence as a central taxonomy is reused in multiple locations and is changed locally so that is no longer matches the central hierarchy.
Soutron’s Thesaurus software was originally conceived as a separate application, and utilising the new API, it can still be used independently of Soutron’s Integrated Library System. It can also make taxonomies as needed for any applications within organizations: these don’t need to be integrated into the library at all.
The new Thesaurus system integrates the understanding that knowledge-based organizations rely on systems that present information in ways that are accessible and facilitate use. It was designed to be flexible, with the ability to link to relevant documents and provide supporting information – from scope notes to author pages and external websites. The Soutron team understands that each organization has its own priorities and wants to make sure users have what they need to deliver exactly what is required.
Please contact us if you would like to hear more about how Soutron would work for you.
About Sarah Sutherland
Sarah A. Sutherland is principal consultant at Parallax Information Consulting, focusing on legal data strategy. She brings extensive experience in the use of data to drive effective management of legal organizations, developing strategies for organizations to better serve communities around the world. Her book, Legal Data and Information in Practice: How Data and the Law Interact, was published by Routledge in January 2022, and she has been writing a column for Slaw, Canada’s online legal magazine, since 2013. She was also named one of the Fastcase 50 in 2022, an award that honors the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, & leaders.