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Taxonomy Overview With permission of Findhelp Information Services, Toronto.

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Presentation on theme: "Taxonomy Overview With permission of Findhelp Information Services, Toronto."— Presentation transcript:

1 Taxonomy Overview With permission of Findhelp Information Services, Toronto

2 2 Acknowledgements The following content originated from a presentation provided by Mary Hogan of 211 Connecticut to 211 Ontario, which in turn was based on one created by Dick Manikowski of Detroit Public Library and on the model devised originally by Margaret Bruni for workshops offered at AIRS conferences in the late 1990s, with input from Georgia Sales and others. Remember that because the Taxonomy constantly changes, some of the specific examples of terms and definitions may no longer be valid (although what they illustrate will still hold true). (July 2008)

3 3 Goals Learn the purpose and structure of the Taxonomy Learn the principles of indexing with the Taxonomy Learn about customizing the Taxonomy for your local needs

4 4 Goals Learn how to start indexing Practice what you are learning and share observations from that practice Help evaluate the workshop and raise questions that may be helpful to other data partners

5 5 What is a taxonomy? A thorough classification system, that distinguishes concepts, names those concepts, and puts those concepts into a hierarchical order. The botanist Linnaeus (1707-1778) developed the original taxonomy, a system of grouping plants and animals into related families that is still more or less in use today.

6 6 But a taxonomy of services ?? Although it classifies things done rather than things, the idea has worked surprisingly well. It provides a structure for your information, tells people what is in your information system and how to find it. The Dewey Decimal System used by libraries throughout the world to catalogue books, is very similar to the Taxonomy.

7 7 The AIRS/211 L.A. County Taxonomy Work on the Taxonomy began at INFO LINE of Los Angeles (now 211 LA County) in 1982 and its first full printed version was completed in 1987. (The Taxonomy is now only available on-line) Full name: A Taxonomy of Human Services: A Conceptual Framework with Standardized Terminology and Definitions for the Field A full-time editor and researcher, Georgia Sales, continually develops the resource, currently encompassing 9,200 terms.

8 8 What are the benefits of the Taxonomy? Structure is comprehensive in scope and has a logical and exclusive niche for every concept. Its compatible with the way services are actually delivered. It incorporates terminology which is accepted in the human service field. Terms are clearly defined and cross referenced.

9 9 What are the benefits of the Taxonomy? The language and structure are simple. Its structure is flexible to permit change and growth. Users can customize to meet their own needs. Believe it or not - there is a $$ savings, versus maintaining your own system. It was developed specifically for community information and referral, and for a computerized environment.

10 10 What are the benefits of the Taxonomy? The Taxonomys structure allows the user to either broaden a search or narrow a search, to whatever point services have been indexed. Because all terms can be rolled up, statistics are easier to collect, as in this example.

11 11

12 12 Structure of the Taxonomy Divides all human and social services into ten Service Categories, with a separate 11 th Target Group section: B Basic Needs D Consumer Services F Criminal Justice and Legal Services H Education J Environmental Quality L Health Care N Income Support and Employment P Individual and Family Life R Mental Health Care and Counseling T Organizational/Community/International Services Y Target Populations

13 13 Structure of the Taxonomy Each section branches into up to six increasingly narrow classification levels:

14 14 Structure of the Taxonomy – a great example B Basic Needs BD Food BD-1800 Emergency Food BD-1800.2000 Food Banks BD-1800.2000-620 Ongoing Emergency Food Assistance

15 15 Structure of the Taxonomy Each term has a unique identification number – its Taxonomy code – that represents its exact placement in the hierarchy. The codes exist to help computers and indexers understand the relationship between terms. In most packages, one doesnt actually input codes while indexing. It is not necessary to memorize codes!

16 16 Structure of the Taxonomy Each Term (also called a Preferred Term) has a code and a precise and concise definition. Use References are non- preferred terms, which point to the preferred terms you should use. See Also References point to other preferred terms of potential interest to your general search.

17 17 TYPES OF TAXONOMY TERMS Service terms Named program terms Facility terms Modality terms Target population terms Orientation/philosophy terms

18 18 Types of Taxonomy Terms SERVICE TERMS The core of the Taxonomy, and by far the most common type of Term. Specific activities organizations provide: Home Delivered Meals Job Training

19 19 Types of Taxonomy Terms NAMED PROGRAM TERMS A small number of shortcut terms for nation-wide, widely known programs TANF Head Start

20 20 Types of Taxonomy Terms FACILITY TERMS Describe what an organization is (not what it does) Hospitals Senior Citizen Centers Administrative Entities (TF-0500) is a facility/organizational type term that is particularly useful, for management offices that organize and control activities but do not offer direct services to the public.

21 21 Types of Taxonomy Terms MODALITY TERMS Reflect the way in which a service is delivered Group Counseling Advocacy Should link to a service term: Disability Insurance ~ Advocacy

22 22 Types of Taxonomy Terms TARGET POPULATION TERMS Groups to which a service is aimed Accident Victims Adolescents Afghan Community Should rarely or never be used on their own. Usually link to a service term, such as: Crisis Intervention ~ Older Adults Dont overuse! They can quickly get way out of hand. If a service is generally for most people, dont use a target term at all.

23 23 Types of Taxonomy Terms ORIENTATION/ PHILOSOPHY TERMS A handful of terms that describe a particular philosophy accommodated by a service. Usually use only when linked to a service term: Individual Counseling ~ Feminist Organizational Perspective Advocacy ~ Childrens Issues

24 24 PRINCIPLES OF INDEXING Not all the services that an organization offers should be indexed. In fact, some types of services should never be indexed. Choose the most specific term available which fully describes what is being indexed

25 25 Principles of indexing The most important guideline of all: You should almost always avoid using a broader term where youre already using a narrower term in your database, or vice versa. You should pick the level that you want to use in that particular branch of the Taxonomy, and stick to it throughout your database.

26 26 Principles of indexing For example, to index services that help people with housing expenses, you should choose either the 3 rd level term Housing Expense Assistance or choose to use only the individual 4 th level terms below it: BH-3800 Housing Expense Assistance OR BH-3800.5000 Mortgage Payment Assistance BH-3800.6500 Property Tax Payment Assistance BH-3800.7000 Rent Payment Assistance BH-3800.7250 Rental Deposit Assistance

27 27 Principles of indexing Similarly, you need to decide whether you will be using the general 4 th level term Homeless Shelter (BH-180.850) throughout your database, OR only always use the more specific 5 th level terms: BH-1800.8500Homeless Shelter OR BH-1800.8500-100 Bad Weather Shelters BH-1800.8500-150 Community Shelters BH-1800.8500-170 Day Shelters BH-1800.8500-180 Environmental Hazards Shelters BH-1800.8500-500 Missions BH-1800.8500-900 Urban Campsites BH-1800.8500-950 Wet Shelters

28 28 Principles of indexing Linking terms together is an important feature for enhanced searching. Especially in large collections, this allows you to zero in on, for example, meals-on- wheels programs for Hispanic seniors, with no false hits: Home delivered meals ~ Hispanic/Latino community Basically, this becomes a sort of new term of its own.

29 29 TYPES OF SERVICES Primary Services – yes, index! Secondary Services – no… Ancillary Services – no… Phantom Services – no… Indirect Services – no…

30 30 Types of Services PRIMARY SERVICES Entry point services. These are the only services usually indexed. SECONDARY SERVICES Services only available to clients receiving primary services. Do not index! For example, a shelter that provides meals for its residents should only be indexed for the shelter, and not for meals.

31 31 Types of Services ANCILLARY SERVICES Primary services that are likely not worth indexing. Examples: Newsletters Speakers/Speakers Bureaus

32 32 Types of Services PHANTOM SERVICES Services an agency claims to provide but really does not. Agency may be over-confident about services they have available, and misrepresent themselves. Beware of agencies that do everything.

33 33 Types of Services INDIRECT SERVICES Activities that facilitate the delivery of a service by another agency Example: United Way provides funding to agencies offering specific services. But the United Way does not actually offer the service theyre funding. Only code the agency providing the service.

34 34

35 35 CUSTOMIZING THE TAXONOMY No center has a need for all 9,200 Taxonomy terms, and it is convenient to carve off (or de-activate) the hundreds or thousands of terms that are not relevant to an I&Rs focus.

36 36 Customizing the Taxonomy Determine the sections that are relevant to the types of resources listed within your I&R. Does your I&R offer resources for the services within every section? Can you exclude certain sections?

37 37 Customizing the Taxonomy Section by section, determine which sections and/or terms in the Taxonomy can be disregarded. What are the inclusion/exclusion criteria for your I&R? What types of resources are available within the community What type of resources are currently in your databases?

38 38 Customizing the Taxonomy Determine the appropriate level of detail. How specific are referral requests? How quickly does the information change? What is the skill level of the staff? How detailed is the index of your directory or other products?

39 39 Customizing the Taxonomy But an even more important rule: dont change things just because you discover you can! This is especially important if you are part of a regional or statewide data sharing system that all agencies stay synchronized – and make the same indexing decisions.

40 40 1) Identify primary service 2) Identify most appropriate term to characterize service SUMMARY OF INDEXING STEPS

41 41 Summary of Indexing Steps 3) Read the definition 4) Review your customized taxonomy to confirm that this is a term you are using 5) Does this level match the level selected during customization of the Taxonomy?

42 42 Summary of Indexing Steps 6) Look at the see also references (Should any of them also be used to index the agency service?) 7) Do you need a modality, facility type term, orientation/philosophy, or target?

43 43 GETTING HELP! Join the AIRS Taxonomy group ( Visit, and browse its many resources. Online Introduction to AIRS Taxonomy course ( – excellent interactive 2-3 hour introduction to indexing with the Taxonomy ($30/person)

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