Learning to Use the Taxonomy

Background Materials/References


Learning to Use the Taxonomy

Taxonomy Training

Indexing with the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy:  A PowerPoint presentation by Dick Manikowski formerly with the Detroit Public Library TIP Service. Updated June, 2009.

Taxonomy Overview (U.S. Version) / Taxonomy Overview (Canadian Version):  A PowerPoint presentation that originated from a presentation provided by Mary Hogan of 211 Connecticut to 211 Ontario, which in turn was based on the one created by Dick Manikowski, formerly with the Detroit Public Library TIP Service, and on the model devised originally by Margaret Bruni for workshops offered at AIRS conferences in the late 1990’s, with input from Georgia Sales and others. Remember that because the Taxonomy constantly changes, some of the specific examples of terms and definitions may no longer be valid (although what they illustrate will still hold true). (July 2008)

Taxonomy Training Curriculum:  A standard curriculum with numerous handouts and exercises that can be used by Taxonomy trainers and, if needed, by individuals with the responsibility of training themselves.  As with many resources, it improves with personalization and users are encouraged to freely adapt this to their own I&R software, training style and internal processes.

Introduction to Taxonomy and Indexing:  This online course is available through the AIRS training portal at www.cequick.com/airs. The course is inexpensive, user friendly and qualifies for training hours required for AIRS Certification. Other courses related to resource database work are also available.

Conference Training Opportunities:  There are always several workshops related to using the Taxonomy at the annual AIRS Conference that address Taxonomy indexing and other resource database issues. You may also want check with your state/regional I&R Affiliate regarding the timing and workshop schedule for their conferences. Many have workshops that will help you better understand the Taxonomy and how to use it. A list of AIRS Affiliates is available here:  www.airs.org/affiliates.

Articles and Other Documents

Introduction to the Taxonomy:  Two short pieces by Taxonomy editor, Georgia Sales, 211 LA County which introduce new users to the Taxonomy.  Components include: What is the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy and Why is it Important?  and  Structure and Contents of the Taxonomy  PDF

Indexing with the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy:  A practical guide written by Margaret Bruni of the Detroit Public Library, originally published in "Information & Referral: The Journal of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems" (reprinted with permission). PDF

An Orientation to the Structure and Contents of the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy:  An overview of the organization and contents of the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services, the classification system endorsed by AIRS as the common language for the I&R field. Written by Taxonomy editor, Georgia Sales of 211 LA County, the article was originally published in "Information & Referral: The Journal of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems" (reprinted with permission). PDF

Customization Guidelines:  Considerations for customizing the Taxonomy to meet local needs. Included is a process for evaluating customization options as well as cautions. Written by Taxonomy editor, Georgia Sales, 211 LA County. PDF

Using Filters to Create and Manage Taxonomy Subsets for a Resource Database:  An article by Taxonomy editor, Georgia Sales, 211 LA County and Dick Manikowski, previously AIRS Journal editor, that describes a feature on the Taxonomy website that enables users to create, maintain and share customized versions of the Taxonomy. The article was originally published in Volume 29 of "Information & Referral: The Journal of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems" (reprinted with permission). PDF

How to Keep Your Taxonomy Updated:  A practical guide written by Taxonomy editor, Georgia Sales of 211 LA County, originally published in "Information & Referral: The Journal of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems" (reprinted with permission). Updated June, 2009.

Indexing Using Target Population Terms: A practical and theoretical discussion of how the Taxonomy's target population terms can be used to refine indexing and help users focus their searches more narrowly. Written by Cathleen Dwyer and Diane Gatto Barrett, and originally published in "Information & Referral: The Journal of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems". Reprinted with permission. PDF

Taxonomy/Resource Database Communities

For AIRS members looking for additional resources and support relating to the Taxonomy, there are online communities set up on the AIRS Networker at http://airsnetworker.airs.org which offer peer-based discussion groups and the ability to create and expand searchable resource libraries. Included are two communities for resource specialists who use the Taxonomy in their work, the Taxonomy/Resource Database online community intended for use by all resource specialists, and the Canadian Taxonomy/Resource Database community which provides a venue for Canadian resource specialists to discuss issues relating specifically to Canadian databases and use of the Canadian Taxonomy.

The purpose of the two communities is to provide a forum for discussion by resource database managers of issues relating to use of the AIRS/211LA County Taxonomy for classifying human services as well as broader resource database issues. Resource staff can post questions about indexing principles, the appropriate terms to select in specific situations or the need for new terms or modifications in existing ones. They can thus use the discussion group to solicit the opinions of and exchange information with their peers.

A smaller, less structured group provides ongoing feedback on the Canadian French version of the Taxonomy, and can be accessed by writing cgallois@findhelp.ca or by clicking here:  Canadian French Taxonomy Information.

Note that AIRS Networker is a third party service and is not operated by 211 LA County.  211 LA County has no control over, and has no obligation to review, the content and services made available via the AIRS Networker (including posts by Taxonomy community members). Your use of the AIRS Networker is subject to the privacy practices and terms of use established by AIRS (the provider of AIRS Networker) and we strongly recommend that you review those privacy policies and terms of use.  The link to the AIRS Networker offered herein does not indicate any approval or endorsement by 211 LA County and 211 LA County disclaims any liability associated with AIRS Networker.

Taxonomy FAQs

How do I learn to use the Taxonomy?

What if I can't find the term I am looking for?

How do I ask for a new term?

Why does the Taxonomy change so frequently?

In order for the Taxonomy to remain useful as a tool for indexing and accessing community resources, it needs to accurately reflect the ever-changing landscape of human services.  When new services become available or when the language describing human services changes, the Taxonomy must be modified accordingly to meet the needs of the field. Some important new programs such as the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. require a number of new terms, sometimes entire sections, to adequately represent available services.

Changes to the Taxonomy include straightforward modifications in term names, definitions or use references as well as more complex structural changes including elevation of important Taxonomy sections that are buried more deeply within the hierarchical structure than may be necessary; relocation of sections of terms that have a more intuitive home elsewhere; and consolidation of similar terms currently spread throughout a particularly extensive section of the Taxonomy under new lead terms that clearly identify what the new subset concepts have in common.

While it might be argued that the need for elevations and relocations might be avoided if better decisions had been made when the original structure was developed and new sections added along the way, consolidations are an inevitable outgrowth of the way classifications systems evolve. A new service is identified and added; another similar one emerges a year later and is added to the same section, then six months later, another. If the section is large and placement of these terms is non-juxtaposed, people using the system may have trouble making the connections. Once their number becomes large enough, the need for consolidation becomes obvious. The other great advantage of consolidating terms is the beneficial impact that it has on the rest of the section. What previously seemed very cluttered and difficult to take in becomes a very tidy section by comparison.

The vast majority of additions and changes are prompted by requests from subscribers.  For information on keeping your Taxonomy updated, read the article by Georgia Sales on the topic (Taxonomy Supplements: How to Keep the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy Updated for Your Resource File).

Do I have the use the whole Taxonomy?

No, you do not and should not. Most organizations customize the Taxonomy to meet their local needs before beginning the indexing process. If your software allows it, you can deactivate terms you do not wish to use so that neither your resource managers nor people searching your database see terms you have decided are irrelevant. You can also use the Filters function on the website to develop and maintain your customization. For more information about customization, see the Help Page on filters and these articles above in the section on Articles and Other Documents: (Customization Guidelines and Using Filters to Create and Manage Taxonomy Subsets for a Resource Database).

How often is the Taxonomy website updated?

While changes are frequently made to the working copy of the Taxonomy multiple times a day, the actual www.211taxonomy.org database is updated less frequently, generally about once a month to every six weeks depending on the number of additions/changes. When the online database is updated, an announcement is posted to the Taxonomy/Resource Database and the Canadian Taxonomy/Resource Database communities on the AIRS Networker. To see when the online Taxonomy was last updated, go to the Recent Changes page of the website and click twice on the heading marked "Change Date". The list will be re-sorted and the most recent updates will appear first.

When do I need a license to use the Taxonomy?

Organizations need a license to engage in any use of the Taxonomy. In situations where there is a central database maintained for use by multiple organizations, each of the organizations needs its own license if they are maintaining records in the database and using the Taxonomy as an indexing system. Please contact 211 LA County for more information about licenses.  Here are some additional variations on the theme:

Question:  My software vendor has a license.  Does that mean I don’t need one?
Answer:  There are two types of licenses:  a license for vendors who want to include the Taxonomy in a software product; and a license for individuals/organizations who want to use the Taxonomy to index records in their database. Licensed vendors have two options regarding customer licenses:  they can ask customers to pay their licensing fees directly to 211 LA County or they can make the payment to 211 LA County on behalf of the customer. Your vendor will let you know which arrangement pertains to you.

Question:  I am part of a database collaborative with five members, all of whom maintain data in a common database in the XXX software system.  Do we need one license for the database or five for each of the organizations who maintain the data.
Answer:  Each organization that maintains data within the database requires a separate license.

Question:  I am part of a database collaborative with five members.  We have a common database in the XXX software system, but only three of the five actually contribute and maintain data using the Taxonomy.  The other two only use the database.  Do all five organizations need a license.
Answer:  Only the three maintaining data require a license.  Bottom line:  if you maintain data, you require a license.  If you use data maintained by others, you do not.

Question:  Our organization has a subscription to the Taxonomy, but we have several databases.  Can we use the Taxonomy in all of them or would we need a separate subscription for each?
Answer:  Your subscription permits you to use the Taxonomy as an indexing system for all of the databases you maintain.

Question:  The original subscriber for our agency is now gone and we don’t know how to access the Taxonomy website. What can we do?
Answer:  Contact 211 LA County at taxonomy@211la.org, explain the situation and 211 LA staff will reset your password.

Question:  Can I call 211 LA County and pay for my subscription over the phone using my credit card?
Answer:  No, you must use the credit card payment process on the website.

Question:  How can I download the order form if I want pay using a check or purchase order?
Answer:  The order form is available here:  Order Form


Background Material/References

Acknowledgments:  A cumulative list of the source material for Taxonomy definitions and structure that includes the contributions of people who have supported the Taxonomy throughout its ongoing development as well as bibliographic and other resources that have been used.  PDF

Canadian Taxonomy Development History:  A description of  the development of the Canadian English and Canadian French locales of the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services, a project initiated by the InformCanada Board in 2004 with support from 211 LA County. The initial work on the English language locale was completed in early 2007, the French in 2011, but like its U.S. counterpart, the Canadian Taxonomy will always be a work in progress, reflecting the changes in programs, funding and usage in the Canadian service delivery system.   PDF  

Criteria for Full Installation of the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy in an I&R Software Package:  A document developed by the AIRS Taxonomy Committee and approved by the AIRS Board that provides specifications that software vendors can use to implement the Taxonomy in their I&R software systems. It can also be used by I&R services to evaluate Taxonomy features in software. PDF

Glossary:  A document that provides definitions for terminology relevant to the Taxonomy and the activity of classification. Revised in October, 2013. PDF

Introduction to the Taxonomy and the Taxonomy Website:  A Guide for Subscribers:  A manual that describes how to use all of the features on the www.211taxonomy.org website.  The document includes a description of the Taxonomy and why it is important, information about the Taxonomy’s record structure, an introduction to locales and a detailed look at all of the functions available to subscribers with plenty of screenshots to illustrate the descriptions.  A must for people new to the Taxonomy!   PDF

Taxonomy Development Rules:  A “behind-the-scenes” look at how the Taxonomy is structured including rules for assigning codes, selecting term names, developing definitions and choosing “use” and “see also” references. Georgia Sales, 211 LA County. PDF

Taxonomy XML Format:  Documentation for the Taxonomy XML format including:


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