Thomas Mann: “On the record” but off the track

Mann, T. (2008). “On the record” but off the track: a review of the report of the library of congress working group on the future of bibliographic control, with a further examination of library of congress cataloging tendencies.

Mann understates capabilities (and potential) of tags and keywords, but his conclusion that they should supplement, not replace, LCSH is well argued and probably right.  (Even if I can’t help but hear an old man complaining about that newfangled “Rock & Roll” in my head when I read him.) Continue reading Thomas Mann: “On the record” but off the track

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 […]

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).

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

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.

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

Tom Steele: The new cooperative cataloging

Steele, T. (2009). The new cooperative cataloging. Library Hi Tech, 27(1), 68-77.

Thomas Mann argues that we need the LCSH now more than ever. He gives the subject browse feature available on most OPACs as one reason. With other search methods, one is limited by the terms they can think of. While tagging assists in providing more terms, browsing subject headings will give the most complete list of materials a library owns in that particular subject. Also, because of free floating subdivisions, browsing the LCSH itself will not give the user the search terms (Mann, 2003). Free floating subdivisions are like tags in this respect, as there is no “master list” of tag combinations. (72)

This is a matter of perspective; if LC had been using some systematic application of tagging for the past one hundred years, and the brand new innovation under discussion was adding subject headings to LC records, undoubtedly there would be traditionalists vociferously defending tagging and decrying subject headings for just the opposite reasons.  Turn Mann’s reasoning on its head and LCSH’s weaknesses are revealed:  One often cannot find the results they seek by using “the terms they can think of;” “browsing subject headings will give the most complete list of materials a library owns in that particular subject” as identified as the primary focus of the materials by LC catalogers, thereby excluding the (likely) broader set of materials tagged by catalogers and users as relevant to a topic; and while LCSH can be browsed to find the extent of subheadings under a given heading, tags can be flexibly combined (including negative combinations, or exclusions) to allow the user to quickly and easily broaden or narrow their browsing results.  In other words, browsing LCSH occurs through a static display of headings, while tags are dynamic, allowing for a remixable display.  The strengths of LCSH Mann highlights are strengths, but he glosses over the weaknesses of LCSH and ignores the complementary strengths of tags.

Continue reading Tom Steele: The new cooperative cataloging

General notes on LCSH and tags

Lots of research on tagging focuses on the most popular items in various catalogs and websites (especially LibraryThing).  In addition, other research shows that tags begin to "stabilize" and become more useful when they reach a critical mass of around 100 times tagged.  It’s clear that tags can be of great value to the […]