Peter J. Rolla: User Tags versus Subject Headings: Can User-Supplied Data Improve Subject Access to Library Collections?

Rolla, P. J. (2009). User Tags versus Subject Headings: Can User-Supplied Data Improve Subject Access to Library Collections? Library Resources & Technical Services, 53(3), 174-184.

Like Merliese, et al., Rolla only compares most popular titles, which limits the applicability of his findings to less popular library holdings.

Today’s library users, who are increasingly comfortable with searching on the Internet, have certain expectations about how to search for information and how it will be displayed. These expectations, however, do not match how information is contained, discovered, and presented in traditional library catalogs. A recent study, for example, found that students using the University of Oklahoma’s online public access catalog (OPAC) performed keyword searches fourteen times more often than subject searches.1 In addition to a reliance on keyword searching, today’s users increasingly use interactive websites that allow them to both upload their own data or content and to connect with other users of the site—the Web 2.0 phenomenon (174).

Providing subject access to collections, therefore, is an expensive part of cataloging work, since it is time-consuming and usually performed by professional staff (175).

User tags would also permit patrons to personalize the library’s website (175)

User tags do nothing to solve the problems of polysemy and synonymy, whereas one of the main purposes of controlled vocabularies is to disambiguate polysemous words and choose preferred terms from groups of synonyms (175).

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Marliese Thomas, Dana M. Caudle and Cecilia M. Schmitz: To tag or not to tag?

Thomas, M., Caudle, D. M., & Schmitz, C. M. (2009). To tag or not to tag? Library Hi Tech, 27(3), 411 – 434. doi:10.1108/07378830910988540

The purpose of this article is to provide a quantitative analysis of the extent to which folksonomies replicate the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to see if folksonomies would successfully complement cataloger-supplied subject headings in library catalogs (411).

The authors studied a small sample of very popular books.  Their conclusions may not have application to scholarly collections and/or the long tail of less popular books in browsing collections.  On the other hand, their work provides very clear evidence for the advantages tagging can offer to items that receive many tags.

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