During the past couple of months, I have been trying to come up with an efficient way of constructing synonym rings for query expansion in a library discovery system (i.e., the online search interface of a library). I am doing this because I was given a list of e-books on the subject of Digital Humanities (DH) with the purpose of making them more discoverable on KU Leuven Libraries’ discovery platform. In my previous blogpost, I described what synonym rings are, but simply put, you can think of them as groups of similar words and phrases that should be treated as equivalent for the purpose of information retrieval. An example can be found in Figure 1, where each line forms a different synonym ring. If a user enters a search term that can be found in one of the rings, the rest of the words in the ring will also be added to the query and, thus, the query will be expanded. In this blogpost, my goal is to briefly explain the method that I chose to tackle the task of synonym ring construction.
If you had asked me a decade ago to describe a library, I would probably sketch a place where you can borrow books, find a quiet spot to study, or browse the Internet. This assumption changed when, in 2016, I joined the New York Public Library (NYPL) for an externship, supported by the Embassy of the United States in Athens. My assignment was to assist NYPL’s TechConnect team in designing and promoting the coding classes that they were (and still are) offering to patrons throughout the city. In so doing, I was exposed to a type of library I had not previously encountered and a type of librarian I would have never guessed existed. Witnessing the impact that library initiatives, such as coding classes, can have on patrons’ personal and professional development made me feel that this would not be the last time I would actively support a library’s mission.