For my Foundations of Information Technology class.

Posts tagged ‘library catalog’

Vancouver Public Library – User Generated Content

So now I come all the way across the country to the west coast and I focus in upon the Vancouver Public Library. I have been in the central branch of the VPL and looked at the website but unfortunately living on campus at UBC I do not qualify for a VPL card. That is sad as it seems like a very dynamic and interesting library. Just from my investigations of the website I can see many ways the VPL is adopting Web 2.0 tools to enhance their service to users.

I did some quick searches on the VPL catalog and found that the new catalog system has incorporated many ways for users to interact with the catalog. There is more than just the ability for users to tag records with new subjects. There is a whole section called community activity including a 5 star rating, an area for comments, as well as areas for age appropriate suggestions, summaries, notices, quotes and videos. As in the HLP catalog there is the quick links to social bookmarking and social networking sites so you can share your selection with your friends and others.

 New VPL Library Catalog by BCIT News.

The tagging system seems similar to the HPL tagging system. On the record there is a section labeled tags with a list of the added tags then a link to add tags yourself. You have to log in with you library account in order to add anything to the record. There don’t seem to be as many tags as in the HPL catalog system. This may be because the VLP hasn’t had the tag system for as long as the HPL but I also think that it is entirely up to the users to add the tags whereas I think staff may have had a hand in tagging some of the HLP records. The lack of tags is a drawback but one that is necessary in a new system, and one that will be remedied with time. For an example of the usefulness of tags I looked at a record of a novel Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett. I was surprised to see the library had a subject heading for discworld (imaginary place) – fiction and soccer matches – fiction, so tags for those two things were not necessary but there was a tag “fitting in.” This may not be the best phrasing but reading this tag I understand that part of this novel is a story about someone trying to fit in, or maybe even a group trying to fit in. I think this is useful information and something you would only get from having read the novel, as this part of the story isn’t described on the back of the book.

Ratings. A five star rating system gives users a very quick way to review the material content. 1-5 stars out of 5. But if you feel that just giving the material a rating is not enough you can also include a comment. Comments can be a simple statement to a full review of the material. IT is like an Amazon listing except perhaps more honest because the library is not trying to sell you something and comments are not ranked, they are listed in date of posting, newest comment at the top. Comments can be great to help a user decide whether a material is actually what they want.

The lists function is another way for users to share materials. Users can create lists and publicize them for other users to search and browse. I could create a list called “Best Books for Procrastinating” or “Good Books for Relocating” and another user can use the library catalog to search for lists about relocating or procrastinating and find my list. Then they can read what I think about the books and if they are interested open up the record and find the book. This is a form of social bookmarking without the external site. Instead of clicking a button to create a link to the record on Delicious, I can click a button to add it to a list that I can recommend to all my friends and other library users too. And because it is part of the library website it is easier for a library users to find and make the connection between recommendations and the library catalog.

Sarah Houghton-Jan in her blog Librarian in Black (April 7, 2008) wrote about a seminar she attended where they discussed the use of user generated content in the catalog. Generally it was agreed that user generated content adds to a catalog and adds value for the user. More content is better than better algorithms. The other main point that came out is that user generated content is not neat and tidy. There is a lot of duplication in tags with synonyms, different spellings, plurals and singulars, etc. The catalog will get messy, but if it means the library is providing better, more valuable services, then it is a good thing. Also there are ways to reduce the clutter like aggregating tag concepts so if you search tags for ghosts, you also get the tags ghost, specters, and phantoms. I like tags and other forms of user generated content and I agree that they are good and that they are here to stay. As an information professional in the making I want to go out and find ways to make the best of user generated content, to make it as useful as it can be!

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Halifax Public Library – Social Bookmarking

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.