Alexis M Waide

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Folksonomies in the library catalog

I mentioned an article/study I read for my paper that talked about Brunel University in England integrating a form of tagging into its library catalog.  This is the information for the article.  I can’t get the DOI link to come up but hopefully this is enough information for those of you who were interested in reading it.

For a paper in my Understanding Information class last semester, I read a study on a British university that integrated a prototype tagging/folksonomy system into their catalog.  I found it interesting since it wasn’t just a theoretical discussion of the possibilities of tagging, like so many other articles I read while doing research for the investigative report.

The study brought together a panel of five students and one library expert together to discuss what kinds of things they’d like to see in a folksonomy present in a library catalog and then, gasp! actually put those things into practice, albeit in a prototype form.  Things like tag clouds (of course, nothing so pretty as that one), color-coded tagging for different user groups (i.e. undergraduates, graduates, staff), and the ability to click on a tag and see all books with that tag were all put into play with the controlled language and categories in the library catalog.  And what did they find?  It was a hit!  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but it was pretty successful.

Overall, I think it highlights the potential for tagging to improve user experience within the library.  There’s always the question of “rogue” tagging, someone applying tags that make no sense, either on purpose or out of lack of knowledge.  However, it seems that user-applied tags within the catalog system seems like it would do more good than harm.  As I’m learning in my program, the goal of libraries is really to serve the user and those users are able to apply their own terms to items, they might get more use out of the library.

(From an article by Svein Anfinnsen, Gheorghita Ghinea, Sergio de Cesare, “Web 2.0 and folksonomies in a library context”, International Journal of Information Management, Volume 31, Issue 1, February 2011, Pages 63-70, ISSN 0268-4012, 10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2010.05.006.)


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