Special Libraries Association

Case Study – Special Libraries Association

The Need:

Special Libraries Association (SLA) members were having problems finding the information they needed on the SLA website – an ironic state of affairs for an organization of information management professionals. The website, although an improvement from earlier versions, was difficult to navigate. Moreover, visitors using keyword searches were getting unsatisfactory results. Members made their dissatisfaction with information accessibility known through discussion list feedback, general comments, and user surveys. SLA’s 2002 Needs Assessment Survey showed only a 62 percent satisfaction rate with the usability of the website. It was clear that an overhaul would be necessary.


The Special Libraries Association is a nonprofit global organization for innovative information professionals and their strategic partners. SLA serves more than 11,000 members in 75 countries in the information profession, including corporate, academic and government information specialists.

SLA launched its website in 1996. The website was completely modernized in 2000 to be database-driven and based on a content management system. Members of each program area of the organization now had responsibility for maintaining relevant portions of the website; however, despite the improvements, they had trouble navigating and searching the website. The membership at large also still had difficulty finding the information they were looking for.

The Solution:

Access Innovations editors used Thesaurus Master software to create a thesaurus for SLA. This thesaurus then served as a basis for navigation and browsing of the SLA website. Additionally, the thesaurus was linked to a rulebase created in M.A.I. (Data Harmony’s computer assisted indexing software) to increase search functionality. On the website, the thesaurus and rulebase were linked to a search engine.

The Result:

The integration of thesaurus and search engine, as exemplified on SLA’s website, improves the retrieval rate of related items in a collection. The integration of the indexing rule base with the search engine adds a way to link search words with the thesaurus and in context. The new thesaurus and associated rulebase greatly improved the outcome of keyword and full-text searches on the SLA website. As explained by John Latham, director of SLA’s Information Center, “Based on a thesaurus prepared with the generous assistance of Access Innovations and taxonomy software donated by Data Harmony, we have developed a hierarchy within the website to significantly improve access and search capabilities.”