Today was the last day of the 2011 TRB Annual Meeting, which means my 7 day stretch of nothing but conferences is over. Praise be!
One topic that kept coming up over and over again was the need for more controlled vocabularies in transportation. I couldn’t tell if they were doing it because I, one of a handful of librarians at the meeting, was in the room or if they really wanted their own controlled vocabulary, but it all gave me hope.
But then it got to the group with people trying to reinvent the wheel, and tell us what should be done, because clearly the librarians and information managers have no idea how to do it. OK. That’s not entirely accurate. Really, I think these engineers and other folks think it’s easy. I mean, we make it seem easy, but they don’t see the work that goes into the vocabularies. I see a future where every program in every agency has its own vocabulary, with its own terms, and it will be an integration and retrieval nightmare.
This means we need to get out and educate people. Let them know the benefits of controlled vocabularies (and standard metadata), but also that you need to take some thought and care before plowing ahead. So it’s outreach and a discussion. Why do they want these thesauri? (Other than the obvious fact that thesauri rock.)
So there’s opportunity, and I think the road ahead will end up being good, but man we need to get out there and articulate what we can do, and then do it.