Karen G. Lawson: Mining Social Tagging Data for Enhanced Subject Access for Readers and Researchers

Lawson, K. G. (2009). Mining Social Tagging Data for Enhanced Subject Access for Readers and Researchers. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35(6), 574-82.

Gail Richardson of the Oakville Public Library (ONT.) wrote: “People don’t want a library that acts like just a glorified card catalog online. They want a catalog that’s as good as Google and Amazon.”

Researchers are unlikely to want to scan through tag clouds when they are familiar with the precision of Library of Congress Subject (LCSH) headings. LCSH was developed by and for librarians and other information specialists. Extensive training and hands-on experience are required in order to gain proficiency and expertise in applying them. On the other hand, LCSH is often criticized for being slow to make relevant changes. There is an ongoing debate about LCSH as the national standard for subject access to library materials, which has intensified with the recent work by the Library of Congress’s Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control and the response to it from the library community. OCLC is developing the Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) that retains the vocabulary of LCSH while making the schema easier to understand, control, apply, and use (575).

“glorified card catalog online”=most succinct take down of (legacy) catalogs ever.

Different libraries can take different paths, but the national standard, as applied at LC, should be the broadest possible.

While social tagging does consist of a great deal of subjective tagging, there is enough objective tagging available on bibliographic-related websites such as Amazon and LibraryThing that librarians can use to provide enriched bibliographic records (580).

And subjective tags have value to users to users, of course.  On the one hand, one can never predict what users will find useful, and on the other, even the most personal of tags still has value for its creator.  The value that comes from simply allowing users to personalize the catalog for themselves , even in the absence of network effects, should not be ignored.

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