Who Are Accidental Taxonomists?

Turning to the name of this blog, who are the accidental taxonomists? I sought an answer to this questions through some of the questions of a survey I conducted of taxonomists to gather information on the opening chapter of my book, and more recently I looked at the job titles of those who had registered for my online taxonomies course.

I conducted the survey twice, in late 2008 and May 2015 in order to gather information for my first and then second edition of book. The participants were solicited from various online discussion groups, such as Taxonomy Community of Practice and those of related subjects of content strategy, information architecture, digital asset management, knowledge management etc. So, perhaps there was a slight degree of predetermining the participants by choosing where to announce the survey, although it can be assumed that practicing taxonomists of any background could be members of Taxonomy Community of Practice.

The differences in responses to some of the same questions over that time period are presented in my blog of June 2015 “Taxonomist Trends.” Among other findings, trends in the backgrounds of those involved in taxonomy showed an increase in backgrounds of knowledge management, content management, content strategy and digital asset management; and a decrease in those with a background in Software/IT and database design, development, or administration. Other backgrounds did not change much.

Another source of information on the backgrounds and current jobs of accidental taxonomists, which I did not include in my book, comes from the job titles and introductions of students in the online continuing education workshop “Taxonomies & Controlled Vocabularies,” which I taught through Simmons College School of Library and Information Science for the past eight years (2008-2016) and now teach on my own. I estimate I have had a total of about 500 students take the workshop, which has been offered of average five times per year. It’s impressive what varied backgrounds these “students” of taxonomy have.

Some of the continuing education students were already employed as taxonomists, and they want to fill in the gaps of their knowledge, especially if they had never taken a course on the subject before. Some were librarians, particularly Simmons School of Library and Information Science alumni, since the continuing education program was marketed towards them. These librarians may not need to create taxonomies in their current position, but they are curious to learn about it and perhaps hope to get into taxonomy work later in their careers. A few participants were even current library science students.

However, the majority of the continuing education students are indeed accidental taxonomists. As they explain in their introductions, they have found that the need to learn about taxonomy creation and maintenance is important to their current jobs. As for what their current jobs are, many are involved with content management, digital asset management, or archives. Job titles, based on self-introductions, of those in the past 6 months have included: archivist, business analyst, cataloger, chief operating officer, consultant, data coordinator, digital asset administrator, digital asset cataloger, digital asset manager, director of content standards, information manager, linguist, photo editor product manager, program manager, senior product analyst, and senior records analyst.

In the first chapter of my book “Who are Taxonomists?” there are five pages of job titles, which were obtained from (1) 130 taxonomist survey respondents indicating their job titles, and (2) obtaining job titles from LinkedIn profiles of several hundred people who had “taxonomy” or “taxonomies” in their profile. I did not look at the job titles of my continuing workshop students for my research for that book chapter. There is a slight difference of who is included, because the survey for my book was specifically of those people already engaged in some degree of taxonomy work. Students of my online workshop, on the other hand, may not have done any taxonomy work yet, but are anticipating doing it. They are potentially accidental taxonomists. Their job titles are thus more varied.

Following is a list of job titles that students of the online workshop “Taxonomies & Controlled Vocabularies” put down on their registration form (although some left the job title field blank), over the years of 2009 – 2014. (After 2014, this information was not included in most of the class lists I received.)
Account Representative
Advance Technical Editor
Archives & Digital Collections Manager
Assistant Professor
Business Analyst
Business Research Specialist
Career Resource Consultant
Cataloging Librarian
Classification Model Developer
Collection Development Librarian
Content Management Assistant
Content Strategist
Corporate Data Steward & Taxonomist
Digital Archivist
Digital Asset Coordinator
Digital Asset Librarian
Digital Content Specialist
Digital Content Strategist
Digital Resources & Metadata Coordinator
Director, Information Architecture
Director, Library & Archives
Electronic Services Supervisor
Engineering Records Specialist
E-Records Manager / Analyst
Graphic Arts Accessioner
Graphic Designer
Graphics Project Archivist
GTA/LIS Student
Head Librarian, Collections Management
Head of Public Services
Human Factors Engineer
Information Analyst
Information Architect
Information Consultant
Information Manager
Information Resources Librarian
Information Scientist
Information Specialist
Information Technology Consultant
Instructional Design Analyst
Instructional Services Librarian
Internal Communications Officer
Knowledge & Information Manager
Knowledge & Learning Specialist
Knowledge Management Analyst
Knowledge Management Associate
Knowledge Management Officer
Knowledge Manager
Lead Library Technician
Legal Editor
Library Director
Library & Research Specialist
Library Assistant
Manager, Knowledge Resource Center
Manager, Library Services
Managing Partner
Marketing Director
Media Content Analyst
Metadata Analyst
Metadata Librarian
Metadata Production Specialist
Metadata Specialist
Monographs Cataloger
Operations Specialist
Program Records Manager
Project Analyst
Rare book cataloger
Recipe Processor
Records Manager
Reference & Electronic Resources Librarian
Reference Librarian
Relationship Manager
Research & Information Management Coordinator
Research Fellow
Research Librarian
Research Publications Manager
Research Specialist
Resource Center Customer & Product Specialist
Science Librarian
Search Specialist
Senior Associate Regulatory Affairs
Senior Business Analyst (Records Management)
Senior Business Systems Analyst
Senior Content Manager
Senior Content Strategist
Senior Data Curator
Senior Information Architect
Senior Information Security Analyst
Senior Knowledge Base Specialist
Senior Management Consultant
Senior Market Analyst
Senior Metator/XML Analyst
Senior Researcher
Senior Specialist, Technology & Metrics
SharePoint Lead Specialist
Social Sciences Liaison Librarian
Staff Writer
Supervising Librarian
Supervisor, Knowledge Management
Systems Librarian
Teacher Librarian
Team Lead Data & Quality
Technical Editor / Taxonomist
Technical Services Librarian
Technical Writer
User Services & Cataloging Librarian
UX Designer
UX Project Manager
Visual Resources Curator
Web Administrator
Web Services Librarian
Worldwide Metadata Coordinator

Finally, the industries in which the taxonomy students work included:
Broadcasting & media
Computer hardware & software
Consumer electronics
Engineering technology
Federal government agencies
Financial services
Health insurance
Healthcare information technology
Information services/publishing
Information technology
International agencies
Law firms
Medical devices
Municipal government
Oil & gas
Religious organizations
Research & development
State/provincial government

Simmons College School of Library and Information Science has put its Continuing Education Program on hiatus for evaluation and restructuring. I hope to be able to offer my online workshop again through Simmons in a future year. In the meantime, I am offering this workshop as an online course directly to individuals or groups. This and other taxonomy training offerings are listed on my website: Courses, Workshops, and Training.