Brian Campbell Vickery

British information theorist
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Brian Campbell Vickery (September 11, 1918October 17, 2009) was a British information scientist and classification researcher, and Professor and director at the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies at University College London from 1973 to 1983.


  • Facet analysis results in more varied, multidimensional relationships, at least in theory, better reflecting the complexity of subject knowledge
    • Vickery (1960, p. 13) as cited in: Steven Blake Shubert (1996) Subject Access to Museum Objects p. 429.
  • Neither citation nor loan demand is an adequate measure of literature use by a large community. Each is only an indicator, illuminating some aspects of use but with its own inherent bias. The joint study of several indicators gives a more balanced picture..
    • Penelope Earle and Brian Campbell Vickery (1969), "Social Science Literature Use in the U.K. as Indicated by Citations," Journal of Documentation 25: p. 133; As cited in Yasar Tonta, Yurdagül Ünal (2005) "Scatter of journals and literature obsolescence reflected in document delivery requests". JASIST 56(1): 84-94.
  • Citation does not necessarily reflect current demand.
    • Penelope Earle and Brian Campbell Vickery (1969), "Social Science Literature Use in the U.K. as Indicated by Citations," Journal of Documentation 25: p. 134.
  • Information retrieval is now an accepted part of the new discipline of information science and technology... I have concentrated on the field with which I am most familiar, the problems of bibliographic description and subject analysis.
  • The crux of the retrieval problem is that selecting documents to read grows ever more difficult, and new techniques are continually needed.
    • B.C. Vickery (1970) Techniques of information retrieval. p. 5.
  • User needs determine what functions should be provided, and different functions require different structures.
    • B.C. Vickery (1971) "Structure and function in retrieval languages," Journal of Documentation, 27(2), p. 74; As cited in: Alan Gilchrist, Judi Vernau (2012) Facets of Knowledge Organization: Proceedings of the ISKO UK. p. 293.
  • Information science is concerned with every aspect of the chain of information transfer activities, but the heart of its interest is information search.
    • B.C. Vickery (1997) "Metatheory and information science," Journal of Documentation, 53(5), p. 460.
  • I would pinpoint 1958 as a special time in my career. I had for some years been working with the Classification Research Group in London, and in 1957 we had held a small but successful conference to which Jesse Shera, Gene Garfield and others had come from the USA. In 1958 I published my first book, Classification and Indexing in Science, and attended the International Conference on Scientific Information in Washington. This was my first visit to the USA - I flew in a US Army transport plane with Cyril Cleverdon. The Conference papers opened up all kinds of new information vistas - in many ways setting the agenda for the ensuing development of the field. I met many interesting people - some who stand out in the memory are Peter Luhn, Mortimer Taube, John O'Connor and Desmond Bernal. The experience of attending the conference, and of other visits I paid at that time, led to the writing of my second book, On Retrieval System Theory...
  • Throughout life, all people are engaged in activities – practical or mental – trying to solve problems, activities that themselves give rise to problems. To solve these problems, people need knowledge. They can acquire this personal knowledge in two main ways. First, they can interrogate the world – natural and social – by means of closer observation, deeper analysis, controlled experiment, all forms of cognitive interaction. Second, they can enrich their personal knowledge by communicative interaction with the stock of public knowledge that mankind has built up over the millenia, thus acquiring what we may call information. The activities in which people engage also produce two other kinds of knowledge: that embodied in people (skills) and that embodied in their artefacts.
  • John Desmond Bernal (1901-1971) was undoubtedly the most important of the "Western" scientists who, during the twentieth century, accepted the Marxist view of social development. He did more than "accept" it: he tried to sketch the whole history of science from a Marxist viewpoint; he wrote a number of articles explicitly expounding his view of the relation of Marxism to science; and from his student days he played an active role in Communist politics. He has been criticised: during his lifetime, for too readily accepting official Soviet policy, whether relating to society or to science; since his death, for having been too ready to hope that his vision of the use of science for human ends could be implemented by capitalist societies; and at all times, for an allegedly simplistic faith in science as the salvation of mankind.
  • I am always surprised that the information profession, so quick to sing the virtues of literature search for its customers, pays so little attention to its own history. I have been told: “our problems are different from those of the past”. It is not so the problems are often the same, only the technical means available for solution may be new. The thinking and experience of the past can often shed light on the present.
    • B.C. Vickery (2008), "Emanuel Goldberg and his knowledge machine by Michael Buckland". Book review, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 40(2), p. 144.
  • What is now called ‘knowledge organisation’ in this context has a long history. The simplest forms of a knowledge organisation system (KOS) are, after all, the contents list and the index of a textbook. The knowledge is in the text; the KOS is a supplementary tool that helps the reader to find his way around the text. But as such finding aids have become more complex, and taken on wider functions, they have acquired grander names, such as retrieval languages, taxonomies, categorisations, lexicons, thesauri, or ontologies. They are now seen as schemes that organize, manage, and retrieve information.
  • I met Ranga on several occasions. He was a fascinating personality, highly organised, a tireless worker, a fierce enthusiast, a charming man. Speaking of his passion for work, he told me once how his young son had stuck a notice on his study door: “Librarianship is unfair to families”... It really was a privilege to have known him.
  • Interaction is the mode of life of living organisms. Each must feed on its environment, ingesting chemicals or other organisms. This is something more than "interaction", it is activity directed towards the environment. Since the organism must be selective in what it ingests, it needs to discriminate among the entities in its environment. From very primitive forms of discrimination, the sensory mechanisms of organisms have evolved into the senses of man, interpreted by an internal cognitive apparatus, memories of past experiences, and an ability to take rational decisions. By "rational" I mean activity that achieves intended results because it is based on a reliable understanding of the nature of the environment. In interacting with each other to carry out tasks jointly, men have further developed language, leading to a shared understanding of the environment. This shared understanding is knowledge.

Classification and indexing in science (1958)


Brian Vickery (1958) Classification and indexing in science. 2th edn (enlarged) 1958, 3rd edn (completely revised) 1975. Page numbers based on 3rd edn.

  • The classification of subject matter may be carried out for all sort of special purposes - to arrange books on shelves, to group inventions in patents, to classify the raw materials, intermediates and products of importance to a particular manufacturer, and so on. All such arrangements have their particular uses and their particular problems.
    • Preface to the first edition.

Chapter 1: The need for classification

  • Classification in its simplest terms, means putting together things or ideas that are alike, and keeping separate those that are different.
  • The basic rules of classification are
    - Each characteristic of division must produce at least two classes
    - Only one principle of division must be used at a time, to produce mutually exclusive classes.
    - The species of any genius must be completely exhaustive of their parent class.
    • p. 2.
  • In science there are uses many classifications of entities - plants, animals, rocks, soils, stars, diseases, occupations, and so on. In these taxonomies a classification must display genetic relations - for example, an evolutionary family tree of animal species - but its prime purpose is to aid in the identification of entities... Classification enables us to select, from the whole universe of known entities, the one that best matches one newly encountered.
    • p. 3.
  • Scientific information is faced with the following problem. On the one hand, we have the world’s literature of science and technology, past and present, in many languages; on the other, and enquirer with a question. How to select, from a vast mass of words, the few that are the most closely relevant to an enquiry? It is this selection process that makes use of classification.
    • p. 3.
  • The most important characteristic of documentary classification is that it is concerned with subjects, not just entities of taxonomic classification. What is the nature of the specific subjects - the themes on which books, parts of books, articles or parts of articles are written? A study of book titles alone would suggest that literary subjects have simple names like 'War, Religion', 'Boats', 'Musica; pitch', 'Colour', 'Acridines', 'Wild flowers', and so on. But the study of articles on the documentation level reveals that such titles are simple in appearance only. Such a literary subject is in reality a complex aggregate of specific subjects, eahc which is the main theme discussed from one particular aspect.
    • p. 8; Partly cited in Nigerian Library and Information Science Review (1987). Vol 5-8. p. 44.
  • In scientific information, then, we find that subjects - the themes and topics on which books and articles are written - cluster into fields, each of which can be analysed into its characteristic set of facets of terms.
    • p. 11.
  • The scope of a specialised documentary classification is usually designated by its title, the subject field that it professes to classify. It is no easy task to state what is meant by a subject field. In general it can be expressed as Thing-Activity. A definable group of things... is selected, and from the many relations in which they subsist a certain number are selected as relevant.
    • p. 11.
  • Classification in documentation is a tool for selection. It is essentially a 'finding system' for subject items... It is an artificial language, designed as a tool to aid in the selection of information from a store in response to search questions. The classification serves to standardise subject description, so that the description of a subject used by indexer and inquirer are more likely to coincide, thus maximising the probability of finding all items relevant to an inquiry.
    • p. 12-13.
  • The structure if a fully developed classification can be technically described in the following way:
(1) The whole collection (universe) of entities (in this case subject terms) may be divided into a series of fields...
(2) Each field may be divided into a series of facets...
(3) Each facet may be structured into a hierarchy, subdivided stage by stage into a series of characteristics...
(4) Rules may be provided for combining (coordinating) terms...
(5) Each field, facet and term may be coded to fix its position in the whole system...
(6)An alphabetical index to the terms, facets and fields may be provided, showing the code of each
  • p. 14.

Other Chapters

  • History presents a series of cultural epochs. Each is a span of years within which knowledge presents a more or less unified structure which can be expressed in a classification, but each new epoch requires a new classification.
    • p. 147 Cited in: Madeline M. Henderson (1966) Cooperation, convertibility, and compatibility among information systems: a literature review. p. 72.
  • Throughout the nineteenth century, apart from the division in theoretical sciences and arts, classifiers attempted to divide the sciences into two groups. Already they had before them the examples of Francis Bacon (speculative and descriptive) and Hobbes (quantitative and qualitative). For Coleridge, the sciences were either pure (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Mathematics, Metaphysics) or mixed. Arthur Schopenhauer’s similar groups were called pure and empirical, Wilhelm Wundt in 1887 called them formal and empirical, Globot mathematical and theoretical, and the St. Louis Congress of Arts and Sciences (1904) normative and physical. Karl Pearson made similar division of the sciences into abstract and concrete
    • p. 154.

The Structure of Information Retrieval Systems (1959)


B.C. Vickery (1959) "The Structure of Information Retrieval Systems" in: National Academies Press (1959) Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information.

  • Four basic operations in the effective use of graphic records (documents), to store information and make it available, have been listed by Hyslop: A, recording information in documents; B, storing recorded information—documentary items; C, identifying items containing information relevant to a given problem, situation, or subject; D, providing the identified items from storage. Information storage and retrieval in the wide sense covers all these operations. In the narrow sense used in this paper, information retrieval means only C, identifying documentary items by subject.
    • p. 1275.
  • An information retrieval system is therefore defined here as any device which aids access to documents specified by subject, and the operations associated with it. The documents can be books, journals, reports, atlases, or other records of thought, or any parts of such records—articles, chapters, sections, tables, diagrams, or even particular words. The retrieval devices can range from a bare list of contents to a large digital computer and its accessories. The operations can range from simple visual scanning to the most detailed programming.
    • p. 1275.
  • A retrieval system can be studied at three levels:
    1. The way in which units of information, and relevant relations between them, are defined in the system. This is the semantic level of subject analysis.
    2. The general structural features of the system considered as a network of units of information linked to each other and to documentary items. This may be called structural analysis.
    3. The physical mechanisms (hardware) in which the structure is embodied.
    • p. 1275.

On Retrieval System Theory (1961)


B.C. Vickery (1961) On Retrieval System Theory. 2ed edn. 1965, reprint 1968.

  • Four years ago, when the first edition of this book was written, information retrieval was beginning to crystallize out as a unified discipline. The process has gone further today. Several other books... have also offered a general survey, although each has contributed its own special emphasis. Many conferences on the subject have been held, and a constant stream of new articles has appeared, both in documentation journals and in those in the data processing field.
    Information retrieval is now recognized as a discipline, and further advances in theory are being made, What I described in the first edition as the key operation in retrieval — the subject description of documents — is being explored theoretically and experimentally, although we are still a long way from reducing this operation to rule (Chapter 3). There has been less new work on the design of descriptor languages, although ideas on the display of descriptor relations through thesauri and 'semantic maps' have been developed (Chapter 4). Access to files has been examined, particularly by those experienced in data processing.
    • Preface to second edition (1965). p. v.
  • There is as yet no unified theory of retrieval systems, and a good deal of retrieval practice is still an empirical art, unsullied by theory.

Information Systems (1973)


B.C. Vickery (1973) Information Systems. London: Butterworth

  • Systems transfer or transform materials, energy or information - and usually all three. An information system is one whose prime function is to transfer or transform information: the telephone system is an obvious example. This book concentrates on certain types of information system: those concerned with the transfer of information between specialists, mainly with reference to their work, and mainly based on documents. The focus is thus on specialised documentary information systems.
    • Preface; First paragraph
  • The areas traditionally concerned with such systems are: publishing in all its ramification, librarianship, bibliography, documentation, record management, archives and the like. Systematic study of the activities in all these areas has lead to increased recognition of their common features. They are all concerned with information systems, and their study may include in the wider field of 'information science and technology' (as the Americans put it) or 'informatics' (as Soviet writers would have it).
    • Preface: second paragraph
  • An information system is an organisation of people, materials and machines that serves to facilitate the transfer of information from one person to another. Its function is social: to aid human communication. If we take this to mean all reception of signals by the human senses (sight, sound, small, touch, taste,...)- then communication is an incessant and essential accompaniment of all human activity. If we restrict the meaning of signals to flowing between people, much of the daily life of most of us is occupied by such interpersonal acts.
    • p. 1.
  • We communicate with each other to inform, to instruct, to persuade, to amuse, to annoy. Informing and instructing aim to alter the receiver's concepts, whereas persuading, amusing or annoying aim to change his preferences or feelings. In a work situation people do make jokes and enemies, and use the arts of persuasion, but much of their communication has an informal or instructional aspect.
    • p. 1.
  • ”Information science” emerges (a) when conceptual explorations, not directed towards immediate practical or technical ends, begin to take place, and (b) they are seen to be concerned with a definable area of interest [that of facilitating the transmission of information between people].
    • p. 220; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • In its whole sweep, therefore, information work includes: science, that helps us to understand our problems; technology, that helps us to solve them; and the art of participating in each delicate interpersonal communication into which we are invited. The fusion of these three aspects of the craft creates a “triple glow” of optimal service.
    • p. 330.
  • The area of scientific interest is... the study of the objectives, functions, structure, properties, behaviour, performance and effects of informative communication processes and information systems. To this study the name "information science" can legitimately be attached.
    • p. 330; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • … it is most important – particularly in an immature field like information science - to accept that all modes of study and all analytical methods can make useful contributions, and not to denigrate [qualitative] models as “just description”
    • p. 331; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • The field of study [of information science ] is so wide and varied; research is necessarily restricted to accessible areas; it often (and rightly) has the practical aim of providing guidance in a specific situation, rather than searching for generalisations; the isolation of variables for investigation is often so difficult; rarely can confirmatory experiments be undertaken.
    • p. 332.

Concepts of documentation (1978)


B.C. Vickery (1978), "Concepts of documentation," Journal of Documentation, 34(4), 279-287.

  • Documentation is a practice concerned with all the processes involved in transferring documents from sources to users.
    • p. 279 as cited in: Alvin M. Schrader (1983) Toward a Theory of Library and Information Science. Vol. 1. p. 322.
  • In the past, documentation has frequently been compared with librarianship, with some argument as to which comprehends the other. The field is more helpfully characterised if we take its scope to be all forms of document (i.e. any physical carrier of symbolic messages) and all aspects of their handling, from production to delivery. The document system then becomes very much wider than conventional librarianship – it includes publication and printing, distribution, some forms of telecommunication, analysis, storage, retrieval and delivery to the user.
    • p. 279; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • The representation of knowledge in symbolic form is a matter that has pre-occupied the world of documentation since its origin. The problem is now relevant in many situations other than documents and indexes. The structure of records and files in databases: data structures in computer programming; the syntactic and semantic structure of natural language; knowledge representation in artificial intelligence; models of human memory: in all these fields it is necessary to decide how knowledge may be represented so that the representations may be manipulated.
    • As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).

Information Science in Theory and Practice (1987)


B.C Vickery & A. Vickery eds. (1987) Information Science in Theory and Practice.

  • In seeking scientific understanding of the processes of information transfer we have had to go considerably outside the subject limits within which 'information science' as an academic subject is normally constrained... It has become increasingly clear that only by widening its “knowledge base” can information science establish a solid foundation for future development.
    • p. v; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • Information science is identified as... the study of the communication of information in society. This meaning is only beginning to emerge from its practical background, the social activity of facilitating information transfer.
    • p. 1; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • It is with this whole cycle [between generation and use of information] that information science is now concerned.
    • p. 9; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • The term “information science” first appeared in the guise of “information scientist”. Particularly in industry during recent decades, some qualified scientists moved out of research, development of production into a new occupational role, that of providing an active information service to their colleagues. They regarded themselves as “information” scientists rather than “research” scientists. As this kind of work expanded and became formalized the need was seen to provide training for those who would enter the occupation. In time, the content of this training came to be called 'information science'.
    • p. 9-11.
  • The scientific study of the communication of information in society – “information science” in the sense of an academic discipline...
    • p. 11; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • It is essential to stress that information science is not solely concerned with science information, nor indeed only with the provision of information to academic and professional workers, but with all forms of information transfer in society.
    • p. 11.
  • Information systems, at any level of complexity above that of speech, necessarily involve technologies such as printing, telecommunications, or computers. However, to information science technical potentialities and constraints are of importance mainly in that they affect the social relations concerned.
    • p. 14.

Fifty years of information progress (1994)


B.C. Vickery ed. (1994) Fifty years of information progress. London: Aslib

  • [There has been] a widening of the field covered by the concept of “information”, both its theory and its practice. Information transfer has been put on a par with the transfer of matter and energy, as one of the primary natural processes.’
    • p. 7: Introduction.
  • The old-established groups in the information profession... have come to recognise that many other social groups are concerned with information transfer.
    • p. 7; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • The principles of information science apply, whatever the medium of transfer.
    • p. 9.

A Long Search for Information (2004)


B.C. Vickery (2004) A Long Search for Information Occasional Papers No. 213, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • The service professions such as medicine and teaching have proud and age-old traditions. Only relatively recently have we realised that serving people's information needs can be as socially valuable as looking after their health and educational needs.
    • p. 1; Opening sentence.
  • "We do not encourage initiative," said the factory manager. "What you must do is to learn to work to the safety rules." It was my first day in my first job, as a plant chemist in an explosives factory, located in the English countryside, in July 1941. Happily, he was quite wrong. We were not making some old, tried and tested explosive like nitroglycerine or TNT. It was the first large -scale production of a brand-new chemical, code-named RDX-Research Department eXplosive-developed by a government military research department.
    • p. 3.
  • My first encounter with the concept of "information service" came with the reading of The Social Function of Science by Desmond Bernal, first published in 1939-a work that stimulated a whole generation of young scientists to think about the role of science in society, its organisation, its future. In it, he wrote that in every laboratory "there should be someone deputed to watch the whole of current literature for items which might be relevant to the work of the laboratory, and to be able to indicate without loss of time where such items are likely to be found." Such a person "would have to be chosen partly for his comprehensive scientific interests, which need to be much greater than those of the other laboratory workers, and partly for his inclination to systematic thinking." Already I felt that I might be suited to such a role.
    • p. 4.
  • After my first encounter with Colon Classification in the Patent Office, and subsequent use of the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) for the Akers library, I became increasingly interested in problems of information organisation for retrieval. My first paper in the field was "The Structure of a Connective Index" (Vickery, 1950).
    • p. 11.
  • The problems of subject search on the Internet are no different in principle: search engines may permit easy location of verbally expressed topics, but we still seek to improve our methods of navigation.
    • p. 11; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • Bertie Brookes and I shared a common view that, beyond the practical activities of information provision, there could be discerned a more general science of information. He tended towards a mathematical formulation of this: I was more interested in its social aspects.
    • p. 24-25.
  • Varied views were put forward as to the content and priorities of information science, though there was general agreement that its central topics should be information organisation, dissemination and retrieval.
    • p. 25.
  • Theoretical research in information science is still marked by a tendency to play safe... it is still marked by timidity. It could now afford to be more boldly speculative, intellectually exciting and therefore more attractive to intelligent and ambitious students." Have things changed?
    • p. 25; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • Our profession is concerned with three "aspects of the world". First, how people behave when they feel a need for information; second, characteristics of documentary information that constrain how we can manipulate it; and third, characteristics of the physical media that carry the information, whether they be static books or dynamic electronic networks.
    • p. 27.
  • Looking back, I ask myself why so little of the basic research has had an impact on professional practice.
    • p. 27.
  • There does seem to be among some members of our profession a rather desperate search for a "fundamental theory of information", which leads them to attempt to derive our practice from disciplines such as epistemology, or hermeneutics, or discourse analysis, or semiotics, or even "cybersemiotics". Their derivations rarely make adequate contact with the realities of information practice … The theory of a science should spring from deep immersion in its practice.
    • p. 29.
  • Only in a very static profession can one be trained to slot in immediately to an available job, and our profession is far from static. It is more beneficial for the students to give them a generalised grounding in a wide variety of professional activities and concerns, so that they will have some background knowledge for no matter what job is first available. For those who seek it, our subject also has its cultural value, which can contribute to a general education.
    • p. 29.
  • I suspect that teaching the history of our subject is less frequent in our institutions than it was. We are getting short-sighted both in looking forward and in looking backward, to our detriment.
    • p. 29.
  • For the profession as a whole, it is necessary that our hard-won understanding of our discipline be handed on to the next generation in a formal way.
    • p. 30.

Meeting the challenge (2009)


B.C. Vickery (2009) "Meeting the challenge," in A. Gilchrist (ed.), Information Science in Transition, London: Facet Publishing, pp xxi-xxix.

  • Information practice... consists of two activities that we may call diagnosis and prevention. Diagnosis is identifying what is the most probable information need of a user in a particular state of information want. Provision is deciding what action is most likely to meet that need. Information science seeks to understand the potential range of user situations giving rise to information want and needs; to develop methods of identifying the actual information needed; to understand and expand the range of possible ways of satisfying information need; and to develop methods of deciding what way is most likely to be effective in a particular case.
    • p. xxii-xxiii; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • Information practice is concerned with facilitating the interaction between knowledge seekers – through channels – with knowledge (personal and recorded). Stepping back from practice, we may see the role of the science as exploring the characteristics of people and their “information behaviour”, the features of knowledge records of every kind, the variety of channels (oral, written, printed, graphic, digital) that may be used to transmit information, and how the three elements interact.
    • p. xxiii.
  • [The particular concern of the information scientist] is with the process as a whole – the interaction between the three elements [information behaviour, records, channels] that leads to people becoming informed.
    • p. xxiii.
  • All the elements of the process of “becoming informed”... are of interest to investigators other than “information scientists”… The totality of activity related to information today is necessarily a multidisciplinary exercise.
    • p. xxiii; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • [Information] science and technology are now so closely linked that analysis and experiment lead quickly on to invention, to the introduction of new channels (and documents).
    • p. xxiii.
  • The structural tools developed by the profession – hierarchical classifications, facets, thesaural relations, topic maps, the predicates used in ontology – will still be of use, provided that they can in each case pass a test of utility.
    • p. xxvii.
  • Perhaps an underlying cause [of doubt as to the future of information science] is in some cases... the apprehension that information science may become “submerged” in the larger field of computer science.
    • p. xxviii; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).

Information history – an introduction (2009)


B.C. Vickery (2009) "Information history – an introduction: exploring an emergent field". Book review, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 41(4), 245-246.

  • The job of our profession is to facilitate the provision of knowledge (in all forms) to those who need it (for whatever purpose).
    • p. 246; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).
  • Mass communications analysts concentrate on “who sends what information, for what purposes, through what channels, to which people, with what effect”. The information profession is more interested in “who seeks what information, for what purposes, through what channels, from which people and sources, with what success”.
    • p. 246.
  • Perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn from information history is that information provision has been and must be closely related to information need, and that the information sources we provide must be closely matched to the tasks being undertaken by the community served.
    • p. 246.
  • I am whole-heartedly in favour of the profession learning more about the history of [information transfer]. We have a tendency to focus on the newest forms of information provision … neglecting the continued existence and continuing importance of all the previous forms… But our profession is not that of the historian (or sociologist or philosopher) interesting as their work may be.
    • p. 246.
  • The analogy with bibliographic classifications and thesauri is obvious... despite the differences, it is to be regretted that 'ontological engineers' make little or no reference to work in information science. As a consequence, they do not appear to draw at all on the rich experience of constructing knowledge schedules … or... developing concept lexicons.
    • p. 284; As cited in: Lyn Robinson and David Bawden (2011).

Quotes about B.C. Vickery

  • [The Classification Research Group (CRG) members] Vickery, Coates and Mills... hold honoured places in the development of indexing techniques. The 1950s to early 1960s saw the publication of three major works on indexing, which between them span the retrieval problems of the whole spectrum of knowledge. This was the time when Butterworth were publishing a range of classic reference sources for the professional librarian. The first was Vickery’s Classification and indexing in science (1958), followed by Foskett’s Classification and indexing in the social sciences (1963) and finally Langridge’s Classification and indexing in the humanities (1976). These three works, though designed principally as textbooks, expound many universal principles as well as highlighting the specific problems that the various groups of disciplines present and the solutions that have been adopted.
  • Brian was an enormously influential figure in the field of classification and information retrieval, a powerful force in the development of faceted classification and retrieval theory, and a prolific writer and researcher throughout his life.
  • Brian Vickery was a true pioneer of Anglo-American information science, the embodiment of a style, both scholarly and personal, that is today little in evidence. He made lasting contributions to the field and will be missed greatly by many.
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