For my Foundations of Information Technology class.

Screenshot of the HPL's search screen.

The HPL has incorporated social bookmarking and tagging into their new library catalog and search system. They are using a fancy new search system called Discover which is powered by Aquabrowser. Discover makes use of Aquabrowser’s many useful tools like the dynamic word cloud that suggests closely related terms, alternative spellings, translations, and more. IT is a powerful one box search tool and it includes an advanced search function as well for those users who have a good idea of what they are looking for. As interesting as the Aquabrowser system is, it is not, in itself, social bookmarking or blogging and therefore off topic for this blog. If you would like to know more about Aquabrowser check out their site.

The HPL catalog has adopted social bookmarking. Each record has a section where free-text tags can be added as well as a link to a variety bookmarking sites like Delicious. he main record for an item has a section that displays all the tags that have been added to that record and how many times that tag was added to that particular record.

Who gets to tag records? The link to tag records is located right under the tag list on the record but it is password protected. A user has to log into their library account to be able to tag a record. Only library staff and users can tag records. Who does tag records? There is no indication as to which user created which tags, nor is there anything on the site stating when the catalog started using tags. Some records have more than 20 tags, while many records have no tags at all. It seems reasonable to me that library staff started the tagging and possibly continue to do so with new records but older records are left to users to tag, or until a staff member has an interest in that record.

In the materials for this course our instructor discussed the University of Pennsylvania’s Library and how they are using tags. The staff of the library and our instructor highlighted how tagging was not a substitute for the catalog but can increase usability and help professionals about users’ language in relation to the catalog’s controlled vocabulary. That holds true when it comes to the HPL’s catalog. Not all records in the HPL catalog are tagged so if a user was searching only by tags many materials would be missing. I did a search for the tag “ghosts” and got 2585 results. When I searched “ghosts” as a keyword I got 5577 results. The difference isn’t just due to untagged records. When the catalog is searched for just tags, it only searches for that particular tag, when a keyword search is performed it searches for the entered word as well as common synonyms and forms. In the case of “ghosts” it also searches for “ghost”, “specters”, and “phantoms.”

Cases where I found the tags to be very useful is when a book might not be explicitly about ghosts, it is not a important enough theme in the book to make it into the subject headings for that record, but a user found it important enough to include it as a tag. This is especially true for fiction. Catalogers don’t have the time to read through every item in the catalog. Tagging allows users who have read the material and who may have a better understanding of the material to include tags that are important but didn’t make it into the subject headings.This can help users find what they are looking for by giving users more information about the material right in the record. I really like this idea.

The other form of social bookmarking that HPL has incorporated into their catalog is socail bookmarking websites. When a record from the catalog is displayed there is a link to a variety of social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, Digg, and Y! Bookmarks. This makes it very easy for users to bookmark records and share them with others. They can also link the records to various social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Because the bookmarking is done on outside sites the library catalog has not yet included bookmarking annotations, tags, or links into the displayed record like the University of Pennsylvania’s library has, but it is still a good way to facilitate users sharing information and likes with other users. At the very least it gets information about the library’s holding to a wider audience.

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