Classification Systems as Boundary Objects in Diverse Information Ecologies


  • Hanne Albrechtsen Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Elin K. Jacob Bloomington, Indiana



The notion ofthe classification scheme as a transitional element or "boundary object" (Star 1989) offers an alternative approach to the more traditional approach that views classification as an organizational structure imposed upon a body of knowledge to facilitate access within a universal and frequently static framework. Recognition of the underlying relationship between user access and the collective knowledge structures that are the basis for knowledge production points up the dynamic role of classification in supporting coherence and articulation across heterogeneous contexts. To this end, it is argued that the library should be an active participant in the production of knowledge and that this role can be effected by the development of classificatory structures that can support the needs of a diverse information ecology (Nardi and O'Day, 1996) consisting of a complex web of interacting agents, users and technologies. Within such an information ecology, a classificatory structure cannot follow a one-size-fits-all paradigm, but must evolve in cooperative interaction between librarians and their user groups.