Laymen as knowledge organizers

We all organize knowledge all the time, although some people are more 'organized' than others. We organize our notes, books, photos, hard discs etc. Some amateurs have impressive collections of different kinds. Sometimes are students in a given field used as LIS-workers in a library in that field. How do they compare to "professional" LIS-workers (people educated within Library and Information Science)?


Scientists also organize knowledge. Famous examples are The periodic system of physics and chemistry and the Linnaean Hierarchy. Such systems are also basis for the way knowledge is organized in libraries and databases by LIS-professionals. In other words: The conceptual structures used in LIS-classification are not primarily constructed by library and information specialists, but by subject specialists.


What then, are the professional competencies of LIS-professionals compared laymen and to subject specialists?


Perhaps the dominating ideology within LIS is that LIS-professionals know how to use advanced technologies to organize knowledge, and that this is the main difference between laypeople and LIS-professionals. There is of course some truth in this, but the application of technology does not form the basis of science or intellectual field of study. Technology is just a tool. Knowledge Organization as a field of study is related to semantic theories, bibliographic theory and the like.


If we, for example, consider a stamp collector, such a person may be more knowledgeable about relevant information sources and how to organize them than a LIS-professional. One idea about the difference between laymen and subject specialists on the one side and LIS professionals on the other side is that laymen and subject specialists are experts in a narrow field from which they may broaden their competencies. In other words: They are working bottom-up. LIS-professionals, on the other hand are working top-down: They start with knowledge about broad interdisciplinary information sources such as, for example, national bibliographies and citation indexes. From this point of departure, they specialize as far as they can.   







Attar, K. E. (2006). Why appoint professionals? A student cataloguing project. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 38(3), 173-185.


See also: Competency in KOFolksonomy; Paraprofessionals (Core Concepts in LIS)




Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 20-09-2006