Exclusive Interview with Margie Hlava, Access Innovations

July 19, 2011

Access Innovations has been a leader in the indexing, thesaurus, and value-added content processing space for more than 30 years. Her company has worked for most of the major commercial database publishers, the US government, and a number of professional societies.


See www.accessinn.com for more information about MAI and the firm’s other products and services.

When I worked at the database unit of the Courier-Journal & Louisville Times, we relied on Access Innovations for a number of services, including thesaurus guidance. Her firm’s MAI system and its supporting products deliver what most of the newly-minted “discovery” systems need. Indexing that is accurate, consistent, and makes it easy for a user to find the information needed to answer a research or consumer level question. What few realize is that using the systems and methods developed by the taxonomy experts at Access Innovations is the value of standards. Specifically, the Access Innovations’ approach generates an ANSI standard term list. Without getting bogged down in details, the notion of an ANSI compliant controlled term list embodies logical consistency and adherence to strict technical requirements. See the Z39.19 ANSI/NISO standard. Most of the 20 somethings hacking away at indexing fall far short of the quality of the Access Innovations’ implementations. Quality? Not in my book. Give me the Access Innovations (Data Harmony) approach.

Care to argue? I think you need to read the full interview with Margie Hlava in the ArnoldIT.com Search Wizards Speak series. Then we can interact enthusiastically.

On a rare visit to Louisville, Kentucky, on July 15, 2011, I was able to talk with Ms. Hlava about the explosion of interest in high quality content tagging, the New Age word for indexing. Our conversation covered the roots of indexing to the future of systems which will be available from Access Innovations in the next few months.

Let me highlight three points from our conversation, interview, and enthusiastic discussion. (How often do I in rural Kentucky get to interact with one of the, if not the, leading figure in taxonomy development and smart, automated indexing? Answer: Not often enough.)

First, I asked how her firm fit into the landscape of search and retrieval?

She said:

I have always been fascinated with logic and the application of it to the search algorithms was a perfect match for my intellectual interests. When people have an information need, I believe there are three levels to the resources which will satisfy them. First, the person may just need a fact checked. For this they can use encyclopedia, dictionary etc. Second, the person needs what I call “discovery.” There is no simple factual answer and one needs to be created or inferred. This often leads to a research project and it is certainly the beginning point for research. Third, the person needs updating, what has happened since I last gathered all the information available. Ninety five percent of search is either number one or number two. These three levels are critical to answering properly the user questions and determining what kind of search will support their needs. Our focus is to change search to found.

Second, I probed why is indexing such a hot topic?

She said:

Indexing, which I define as the tagging of records with controlled vocabularies, is not new. Indexing has been around since before Cutter and Dewey. My hunch is that librarians in Ephesus put tags on scrolls thousands of years ago. What is different is that it is now widely recognized that search is better with the addition of controlled vocabularies. The use of classification systems, subject headings, thesauri and authority files certainly has been around for a long time. When we were just searching the abstract or a summary, the need was not as great because those content objects are often tightly written. The hard sciences went online first and STM [scientific, technical, medical] content is more likely to use the same terms worldwide for the same things. The coming online of social sciences, business information, popular literature and especially full text has made search overwhelming, inaccurate, and frustrating. I know that you have reported that more than half the users of an enterprise search system are dissatisfied with that system. I hear complaints about people struggling with Bing and Google.

Third, I queried her about her firm’s approach, which I know to be anchored in personal service and obsessive attention to detail to ensure the client’s system delivers exactly what the client wants and needs.

She said:

The data processed by our systems are flexible and free to move. The data are portable. The format is flexible. The interfaces are tailored to the content via the DTD for the client’s data.  We do not need to do special programming. Our clients can use our system and perform virtually all of the metadata tasks themselves through our systems’ administrative module. The user interface is intuitive. Of course, we would do the work for a client as well. We developed the software for our own needs and that includes needing to be up running and in production on a new project very quickly. Access Innovations does not get paid for down time. So our staff are are trained. The application can be set up, fine tuned, deployed in production mode in two weeks or less. Some installations can take a bit longer. But as soon as we have a DTD, we can have the XML application up in two hours. We can create a taxonomy really quickly as well. So the benefits, are fast, flexible, accurate, high quality, and fun!

You will want to read the complete interview with Ms. Hlava. Skip the pretend experts in indexing and taxonomy. The interview answers the question, “Where’s the beef in the taxonomy burger?”

Answer: http://www.arnoldit.com/search-wizards-speak/access-innovations.html

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2011

It pains me to say it, but this is a freebie.


One Response to “Exclusive Interview with Margie Hlava, Access Innovations”

  1. Thoughts from an Industry Leader: Margie Hlava, Access Innovations | SLA Rio Grande Chapter on August 8th, 2011 9:01 pm

    […] this interview with chapter board member Margie Hlava at the Beyond Search […]

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