Librarians are faced with the challenge of classifying knowledge in such a way that users can find exactly those materials in a catalogue which correspond to their field of research or search.
How do we achieve this? The most important instrument for that is the thesaurus: a controlled vocabulary. Depending on the focus of a library, the terms used in a thesaurus for the different media do vary. This process is called “keywording”. Our thesaurus contains many keywords relating to Namibia and its history.
The particular acquisition policy of the BAB resulted in various bodies of titles over time: on the one hand, with regard to the (colonial) history of southern Africa, and on the other hand, with regard to the diversity of languages and cultures of Namibia.
The BAB thesaurus therefore contains terms which cannot be found in other scientific libraries. At the same time, our thesaurus “misses” keywords which are searchable in other public libraries. How can this be?
During the development of the BAB’s thesaurus, certain terms with reference to the literature or media did not exist. Therefore, they were not integrated into the thesaurus. Unfortunately, it is not possible to introduce general terms or categories — such as identity or government for example — retrospectively as the entire collection would have to be searched for such topics.
How Is the Thesaurus Put Together?
The thesaurus can be imagined as a tree consisting of three branches: one is for formal (genre) descriptions, one is thematic and one is geographical. Below each of these three branches are the various keywords which in turn are ordered hierarchically with sub-keywords. Taken together the thesaurus reflects a tree mesh.
Work in Progress
The number of keywords for each branch varies considerably. Often it reflects the thematic closeness with our key area, Namibia. Beneath the general term politics, for example, one finds Namibia-related keywords such as SWAPO, land reform, communal areas, German colonies or, with reference to South Africa, apartheid, forced removals or boycott.
Where necessary, the thesaurus is being reassessed and changes are documented and collated with previous keyword entries. Therefore, the thesaurus is in a state of constant flux as we aim to reflect the various social and geopolitical developments taking place in the present and incorporating these into the thesaurus.
Thesaurus-Bulletin: A Library Thesaurus in a State of Flux
The BAB’s library thesaurus is not static. As socio-political or geographic changes occur, whether global, regional, or language-related, these are reflected in the thesaurus as much as possible. In order to keep track of which changes were made, the library maintains a bulletin, an excerpt of which will serve as an illustration here.