Tagging, social bookmarking, folksonomies, reference management, LibraryThing and the Library

Tomorrow the 32nd ELAG symposium starts. The ELAG symposiums are special in the way that workshop around pre-selected subject form the mainstay of the conference. So they told me. The workshops not the ordinary workshop, where you passively attend to learn something. The idea behind these workshops is that the participants brainstorm over a subject, perhaps that the workshop leader knows some more of the background of the subject, but the workshop itself is a true group exercise.

I was asked to moderate the workshop of social-tagging. Until now the distribution of articpants over the workshop is a bit uneven, so I need to sell my workshop on “social tagging” tomorrow in a sales pitch to the attendents of the symposium. So what will I tell them?

The title of the workshop Social tagging is a combination of two terms, tagging and social bookmarking. At first sight they don’t seem to be the most spectacular subjects to ponder over in the ELAG workshops. But when the constituency of your library is adding tags to all kind of video’s, photographs and websites, wouldn’t you at least not give them the possibility to tag you library resources as well? Is it already possible in your library OPAC? Well, what about the bibliographic databases that your library licences, why can’t users tag those items yet? If they are tagging ‘your’ resources already the obvious questions to ask are, which items are they tagging and what tags are they using. What can we learn from our users.

Can we use those tags from to improve the recall and ranking from our library systems? How should these folksonomies be combined, enhanced, complemented with our formal taxonomies?

If your users can tag any item on your library system, where should the tags and tagged items be collected. Should it be a homegrown system like they have developed at Pennsylvania University Library (Penntags), Harvard Law Library (H2O) or recently at Michigan (MTagger), should we advise to use the tools developed by the big scientific publishers such as 2Collab from Elsevier, Connotea from Nature or Scholar from Blackboard? Or should our academics and their precious labour on tagging be shared on common bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us, furl and the like. Is CiteUlike perhaps the best solution after all?

When it comes to saving library items we supported already reference management programmes such as EndNote and Refworks. What is the relations between social bookmarking sites and the very popular reference management programmes. RefWorks is much better than EndNote at handeling websites, but they haven’t been developed as social bookmarking sites yet. On the other hand, Connotea and 2Collab are social bookmarking sites that have some, reference management capacity but they don’t stand up in the competition to EndNote en Refworks in this respect.

LibraryThing is perhaps an odd case in this workshop, but has some very intriguing features. Some libraries are already using the tags and recommendations from LibraryThing in their catalog. Interesting, I am not aware of an example where items tagged in a library catalog and those tags being used to enrich LibraryThing. Perhaps it exists already. I don’t know yet. LT is to some extend a special case of a reference management software. It is only used for books. An awfull lot of books. It is therefore quite easy to add your own books to LibraryThing. At our university we are all the time confronted with organically grown collections of books that are not part of the library collection. Consider the idea that those collections of books were entered in LibraryThing, that we could use the collected LibraryThings from our constituency to see if a book we don’t have in our collection is somewhere on campus, rather than rushing to the order book button. LibrarThing from our trusted users as a natural extension of our catalog and library collection?

Those are the five lines along which I hope to ponder the theme of this workshop with a group of smart library people over the next three days. Lorcan Dempsey wrote recently on this subject as a new bibliographic tissue.

This new bibliographic tissue is really hot ladies and gentleman, please come and exchange your ideas with me in this workshop.