The use of collaborative tagging in public library catalogues
Louise F. Spiteri
ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006
In recent years, significant developments have occurred in the creation of customizable user features in public library catalogues. These features offer clients the opportunity to customize their own library web page and to store items of interest to them, such as book lists. Client participation in these interfaces, however, is largely reactive; clients can select items from the catalogue, but they have little ability to organize and categorize these items in a way that reflects their own needs and language. Digital document repositories such as library catalogues normally index the subject of their contents via keywords or subject headings. Traditionally, such indexing is performed either by a librarian, or else is derived from the authors of the documents. In contrast, collaborative tagging, or folksonomies, allows anyone to freely attach keywords or tags to content. Folksonomies have the potential to add much value to public library catalogues by enabling clients to (a) organize personal information spaces, i.e., to store, maintain, and organize items of interesting the catalogue using their own tags; and (b) supplement existing controlled vocabularies, such as Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), with tags that reflect more closely and specifically their information needs. For example, if clients use the LCSH heading “Motion Pictures” to categorize items of interest, they could use their own terms to sub-divide this category if no parallel terms existed in LCSH. “Cult movies”, for example, is a very popular and well-known film genre, but it does not exist in LCSH, and would make a good narrower term for “Motion Pictures”
In order to understand more fully the potential applications of folksonomies to public library catalogues, it is important to examine how folksonomies are structured and used, and the extent to which they reflect user needs not found in existing controlled vocabularies. The folksonomies of three popular bookmark manager sites will be examined: Del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us), Furl (http://www.furl.net), and Technorati (http://www.technorati.com). These sites provide daily logs of the most popular tags that have been assigned by their members on a given day. Daily metatag logs from each site will be acquired over a one-month period. For each of the sites, the following analyses will be conducted: (a) analysis of the structure of the tags (e.g., use of singular or plural forms, spelling variations, compound terms, etc.); and (b) formation of term “clusters” to determine the main conceptual groupings of the folksonomies, e.g., the terms “films”, “movies,” “cinema” all cluster around one concept. The results obtained in (a) and (b) above will be compared across the three bookmark manager sites to determine structural patterns and conceptual areas of commonality. The final component of the data analysis will involve a comparison of the unique metadata tags acquired in (a) with the LCSH subject authority files. Notice will be made of exact matches, equivalent terms used to express the same concept, and the absence of equivalent LCSH headings.