Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Tagging in the OPAC

We’ve got a trial of LibraryThing on our OPAC at the moment (sorry – its on the test system which isn’t available off campus so I can’t show it off – all credit to LibraryThing however as it was easy to implement).  I’ve not yet had chance to show it to my colleagues, but I suspect it won’t receive universal endorsement, particularly on the tagging.

I’m expecting the same mix of enthusiasm and scepticism I see whenever the concept of user tagging is mentioned. I can see both sides of the argument: the purists object to users being able to tag items using an uncontrolled vocabulary which makes the catalogue less searchable, and the Library2 fans say that users want this level of interactivity. From a personal point of view I love the idea of tag clouds – they add that graphical approach to subjects that works if you have the kind of brain that works with mind maps. And they add some graphical appeal to our rather dry textual catalogues – especially if there’s no cover art available from your chosen supplier.

However the concept of allowing users to subject tag items is more difficult. It reduces the importance of all those strict rules of cataloguing that we as librarians can get so precious about. Hence if you are a cataloguer I can appreciate that you might have different views than a subject librarian. But one of the ways in which we learn is by applying labels, and if the tags our students use are more meaningfull to them than the list of controlled terms we use who can blame them from wanting to make things more usable from their point of view? Libraries must above all be usable, and in an effort to make things more scientific by creating rigid vocabularies that are separated from the language our patrons use, maybe we are making them more difficult to use than they should be?

There are of course other problems we have to cope with: deciding what is a genuine user tag and what is abuse is one, and just finding the time to check all those tags. And maybe user tagging isn’t for all libraries. But I think in HE libraries we need to give it a try…..


March 10, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , , | 2 Comments

Bowkers and LibraryThing

I heard yesterday that Cambridge Investment Group, which is the parent company for Bowkers and Proquest, has bought a stake in LibraryThing. Bowkers are now the exclusive worldwide distributor of LibraryThing for Libraries.  Maybe it means that LTfL loses a little of that homegrown aura it had, but on the other hand it means that it becomes a far more sellable thing worldwide with Bowkers behind it – they can offer worldwide marketing and support which LibraryThing was still developing.  It also means that Bowkers continues its move to broaden its product range into library catalogues – it was already reselling Syndetics catalogue enrichment and with LTfL combined it becomes a very attractive offering. Combined with Aquabrowser, which CIG already has some stake in  (although for some reason that is resold by Infor in the UK), they have a very attractive suite of products.  I wonder if they will now be looking at picking up one of the LMS companies – I suspect some of them might be available at an attractive price….?

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | | 1 Comment