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66th IFLA Council and General

Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August


Code Number: 144-183(WS)-E
Division Number: IV
Professional Group: Bibliography: Workshop
Joint Meeting with: Education and Training
Meeting Number: 183
Simultaneous Interpretation: No

Teaching bibliography, bibliographical control, and bibliographical competence

Mona Madsen
Department of Information Studies. Royal School of Library and Information Science
Copenhagen, Denmark



The basis of this presentation is the subject discipline of Bibliography, in the sense that this is included in the curricula of the Royal School of Library and Information Science in Copenhagen. Until a few years ago, Bibliography constituted an independent subject area, with special courses in bibliographical work, comprising bibliographic theory and methodology, application of bibliographic sources, and methods for the preparation of bibliographies. These courses took place simultaneously with, and to a certain extent in co-operation with, courses held in the fields of Cataloguing, Classification, and Subject Indexing.

Following recent years' restructuring of the education programme at the Royal School of Library and Information Science, as well as the implementation of the current bachelor and masters programmes, all education in Bibliography and Bibliographical Control has been incorporated under the Department of Information Studies, and these subject areas now constitute parts of the mandatory and optional courses within the fields of Information Retrieval and Knowledge Organisation.

This education programme mainly focuses on the typology, theory and methodology of the various subject disciplines, whereas the teaching of concrete works (e.g. individual bibliographies or bibliographic databases) and codes of practice (e.g. cataloguing rules) is only dealt with as examples for the purpose of discussing theoretical and methodological issues.

Our purpose for focusing on theory and methodology instead of focusing on tuition in concrete works and codes of practice, is to enable students to function professionally in the dynamically changing and developing "information universe" - both in the traditional labour market, as librarians in public and research libraries, and as information specialists in other types of organisations.

Within the bibliographical area this means that students should be able to identify, evaluate and use the "conventional" bibliographies, which still represent the vital tools for information retrieval. These are in principle identical to those we have always known; only most of them are now in electronic form. And furthermore, students should now also be able to analyse and apply the many new tools provided by the Internet.

One further crucial element in the theoretical-methodological approach to all education in Bibliography and Bibliographical Control is to strengthen the analytic and critical competence of students with regard to information needs and to those professional, political and economic considerations governing existing information systems.


Information Retrieval and Knowledge Organisation

The education in the subjects of Information Retrieval and Knowledge Organisation has been organised as a number of mandatory courses held during the first four terms of the bachelor education programme followed by optional and specialised courses held during the subsequent terms.

To provide a common background and common qualifications for these courses, students must attend a course in Organisation and searching: Databases and networks, primarily intended to introduce students to various types of database systems (inverted files, relational databases) and networks, to the organisation of various data types, as well as to various search methods (command-driven, menu-driven, navigation) to be used in on-line databases and on the Internet.

During courses in Information Retrieval students work with the application and evaluation of reference works in general, in printed as well as electronic form. The emphasis is however placed on electronic information systems and web-based sources. Within the field of bibliography students must thus be familiar with the main conventional bibliographical categories (National bibliographies, Universal bibliographies, Subject bibliographies, including Abstract services and Citation indexes, and Catalogues), and must furthermore be acquainted with those new types of reference works, which combine bibliographical data and factual data.

As mentioned earlier, emphasis is first and foremost placed on the types, their characteristics and application, in the fields of information retrieval and information analysis. However, we attempt within specific areas to provide students with a thorough knowledge, not only of the typology, but also of the existing specific works. This is the case with national bibliography, where we emphasise the students' familiarity - with a view to their capacity as future Danish librarians - with the entire Danish national-bibliographical system, its basis and framework, as well as their ability to acquire and understand the concept of national bibliography as part of the Universal Bibliographic Control.

Tuition takes place as traditional class teaching, alternating with lectures, exercises and case studies. The courses are organised as follows: 1) an introductory course in basic information retrieval, followed by 2) a course in information seeking and retrieval, during which students work with the entire process from analysing the information needs of the user, selecting the appropriate sources and search strategies to evaluation and preparation of new tools for information retrieval, and 3) a course in advanced information retrieval, during which students especially work with advanced search methods and search strategies for the Internet and for various types of databases, as well as with the possibilities and techniques of utilising these methods and strategies for the purpose of information analysis.

The content of the courses can best be described by the main learning objectives set up for the tuition:

Knowledge of:

  • Theories and methods applying to information retrieval and information seeking
  • Typology and application of information sources
  • Methods for evaluating various information retrieval tools
  • Search methods and search strategies to be used in various types of databases
  • information market organisation

Skills in:

  • Planning and performing searches in various types of information sources
  • Evaluation of the various information retrieval tools
  • Analysis and evaluation of the contents and search systems of information sources
  • Analysis of information needs
  • Selection of appropriate information sources in relation to defined information needs
  • Evaluation of search results in relation to information needs
  • Performance of basic informetric analyses
  • Information processing and presentation

The concept of Bibliographical Control also represents one of the principal subjects of the mandatory courses in Knowledge Organisation (former Cataloguing and Classification). The courses are carried out simultaneously with the Information Retrieval courses. They are organised as follows: 1) a course in indexing theory and document representations, followed by 2) a course in indexing languages and subject representations, and 3) a course in information systems design.

The content of these courses can also best be described by the main learning objectives set up for the tuition:

Knowledge about:

  • Entities in the bibliographic universe
  • Methods and processes in indexing
  • Indexing theory, major problem areas, historical development
  • Functional requirements of the bibliographical record
  • Various types of indexing languages, structure and functioning
  • Preparation of indexing policies
  • Organisation of bibliographic data, both descriptive and subject data
  • Functional requirements of bibliographical information systems
  • Implementation of bibliographic information systems
  • Evaluation methods

Skills in:

  • Analyses of bibliographic entities
  • Evaluation of the functionality of document representations
  • Designing verbal indexing languages
  • Designing classification systems
  • Application of indexing languages
  • Preparation of indexing policies
  • Designing evaluation methods
  • Preparation of conceptual design for bibliographic information systems
  • Evaluation of bibliographic information systems

The general mandatory courses are followed up by optional courses during which students will be able to specialise in, and sound the depth of, certain aspects of the subject fields that were introduced during the mandatory courses. Consequently, students will have to select a course in Information Retrieval and Knowledge Organisation within subject disciplines or knowledge domains that are dealing with the manner in which knowledge and information belonging to a certain subject or domain (within the social sciences, the sciences, or the humanities) is produced, organised, communicated and searched. During these courses students work with the main reference sources of a singular subject area, including the main bibliographic databases, their content, and their application.

At a later stage of the education programme it is also possible to select specialised courses during which students will be able to apply and leverage their qualifications. As examples may be mentioned courses in major research areas within library and information science, such as Informetrics, IR, Relevance and Information Seeking, Bibliometrics and Webometrics, Design of User Interfaces, Design of Information Systems, Design and Organisation of Intranet, etc.



Bibliographical competence represents an extremely important part of any modern librarian's professional ballast. Still heavier demands are made on this kind of competence in a world in which the information technology presents us with an almost infinite number of possibilities for accessing information, but in which, at the same time, the tools and methods for organising and retrieving this information are constantly revised. Although the term of 'bibliography' very rarely occurs in the current curricula of the Royal School of Library and Information Science, the subject of Bibliography and Bibliographical Control is actually incorporated in all educational stages; and it should be evident that bibliographical knowledge and skills, combined with an analytical and critical sense, do in fact represent some of the main objectives of this tuition.


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