Taxonomy 101

It's time for Taxonomy 101! We're starting this new blog series to explore the wonderful and ever-changing world of taxonomy here at 211info. This week, we'll start with an overview of taxonomy and show you the ten service categories. In upcoming weeks, we'll highlight a new taxonomy term each week, and bring you information about how we can customize a search based on your needs.

So, what is taxonomy? The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) provides this definition: "Taxonomies are sophisticated tools that help people find the information they need. They are a type of a controlled vocabulary, a standardized set of terms and phrases that are used to index and retrieve information about a particular subject in a systematic, unambiguous way. The AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services sets a standard for defining services and for indexing and accessing the wide variety of human services available in communities across North America."

AIRS standards state that I&R (information and referral) services may adapt taxonomy to the community's size, nature, and organizational needs. 211info uses the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services to index and facilitate retrieval of resource information, and our Resource Team documents the customization rules to ensure ongoing consistency. 

As librarians help you use the Dewey Decimal System to find your favorite book, think of 211info's I&R Specialists using taxonomy to help you find your favorite community resource. As for the ten service categories, they look something like this: 

  • Basic Needs
  • Consumer Services
  • Criminal Justice and Legal Services
  • Education
  • Environmental Quality and Public Health/Safety
  • Health Care
  • Income Support and Employment
  • Individual and Family Life
  • Mental Health Care and Substance Abuse Services
  • Organizational/Community/International Services
  • Target Populations - wait, that's 11! Don't worry; we'll cover this one, too!

Within these categories there are over 9,000 taxonomy terms! WOW! But don't worry: not every single term is activated at any given time. This is where our Resource Team cultivates the appropriate taxonomy term for the service provided, based on the definition, and helps narrow down the specific service, even for target populations. Whew! 

Next week we'll be back and start our discussion on specific taxonomy terms. 

Posted on February 6, 2018 and filed under taxonomy.