Taxonomy Overview. With permission of Findhelp Information Services, Toronto. Acknowledgements.
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With permission of Findhelp Information Services, Toronto
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 1990’s, 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)
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.
The Taxonomy’s 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.
Divides all human and social services into ten Service Categories, with a separate 11th Target Group section:
Each section branches into up tosix increasingly narrow classification levels:
BD-1800 Emergency Food
BD-1800.2000-620 Ongoing Emergency Food Assistance
The core of the Taxonomy, and by far the most common type of Term.
Specific activities organizations provide:
Home Delivered Meals
NAMED PROGRAM TERMS
A small number of “shortcut” terms for nation-wide, widely known programs
Describe what an organization is (not what it does)
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.
Reflect the way in which a service is delivered
Should link to a service term:
Disability Insurance ~ Advocacy
TARGET POPULATION TERMS
Groups to which a service is aimed
Should rarely or never be used on their own. Usually link to a service term, such as:
Crisis Intervention ~ Older Adults
Don’t overuse! They can quickly get way out of hand. If a service is generally for most people, don’t use a target term at all.
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 ~ Children’s Issues
The most important guideline of all:
You should almost always avoid using a broader term where you’re 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.
For example, to index services that help people with housing expenses, you should choose either the 3rd level term “Housing Expense Assistance” or choose to use only the individual 4th level terms below it:
BH-3800 Housing Expense Assistance
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
Similarly, you need to decide whether you will be using the general 4th level term “Homeless Shelter” (BH-180.850) throughout your database, OR only always use the more specific 5th level terms:
BH-1800.8500 Homeless Shelter
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-1800.8500-900 Urban Campsites
BH-1800.8500-950 Wet Shelters
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.
Primary Services – yes, index!
Entry point services. These are the only services usually indexed.
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.
Primary services that are likely not worth indexing.
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.”
Activities that facilitate the delivery of a service by another agency
United Way provides funding to agencies offering specific services.
But the United Way does not actually offer the service they’re funding.
Only code the agency providing the service.
But an even more important rule:
don’t change things just because youdiscover 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.
1) Identify primary service
2) Identify most appropriate term to characterize service
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?
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?