[Continued from Part 4]
"Analysis of social tagging and book cataloging: a case study". Yi-Chen CHEN. Department of Library & Information Science, National Taiwan University.
Her premise for the study: little research has been done to examine how social tagging has been applied to books.
So she looked at items tagged in librarything.com
- How can tags be organised to different function types?
- What kind of tags are used?
- How can it help the library?
Study involved a random sample of "most often tagged" Fiction & Non-fiction records in librarything.com
- For Fiction titles, users tend to tag with "Bibliographic Information" (i.e. author, title, publisher)
- For Non-Fiction titles, the tags tend to be "subjects"
- 90% of tags were not reflected in LCSH (i.e. 90% of the tags were unique)
- The overlap (between the user-tags and LCSH) was less than 12% overall
- Tags tend to give more "genre" information, especially for Fiction works
- In tagging, users tend to describe more character names from the books
- Tags often had simpler and informal usage on person names, geographical names
My rambling thinking-aloud
I think when "social tagging" or "folksonomy" is mentioned, there will be some librarians who will inevitably pooh-pooh the former and start extolling the virtues of Authority Control exercised by librarians (i.e. LCSH).
That sort of argument -- of which is "better" -- is is irrelevant. It's like asking, "Is it better to search by author or by subject"?
The answer depends on what you prefer, and what you hope to find.
I noted that the areas of overlap between "social tags" and LCSH is only 12%, i.e. there tends to be different set of results retrieved, depending on whether you use tags or LCSH.
That suggests to me that it's really about different ways to find a book, according to users' preferences.
There are pros and cons: those who aren't familiar with LCSH can go by social tags. It is informal (i.e. not constrained by rules) and hence more easily remembered by those not familiar with LCSH. But there tends to be more misses in finding records, since the nature of social tagging there isn't any effective means of standardising the terms used (unlike LCSH).
I know some libraries are developing a sort of "hybrid systems" that marries -- or tries to bridge -- a structured and more consistent system like LCSHs, and a more user-oriented system like social tagging.