Tagging is a lot more difficult than it looks. Prior to starting this blog I hadn’t spent much (if any!) time tagging anything – not virtually anyway. While adding tags to my blog postings I keep questioning myself: Did I use “library” or “libraries” previously? Does it matter if I capitalize – will my tag cloud know that it’s the same tag? How many tags is too many tags ? How many is too few? What distinguishes tags from categories? Ughhh!!!!
I’m starting to think that maybe I’m a controlled vocabulary kind of person…. The kind of person comfortable with lots of structure – and drop down lists! Multi-pick please!
I just listened to a one-hour presentation Jason Griffey put together for a “Five weeks to a social library” workshop called “Make your library del.icio.us: social bookmarking in the stacks.” In the presentation, he talks about how tags are essentially uncontrolled vocabularies from which folksonomies accidentally arise. I’m sure this is the case in almost all instances with the possible exception of how the San Mateo Public Library is using del.icio.us. As you can see from the image at the right, they are using the Dewey Decimal Classification system to organize their tags! Is this crazy? To try to force a classification system onto what is supposed to be a free for all? Ok. Maybe I’m getting hysterical here, but it does seem a little odd and ingenious at the same time.
The library has managed to slot almost all their bookmarks into a Dewey classification and for those which aren’t a good fit, del.icio.us gives them the flexibility to add whatever makes sense. For example, the library has quite a few classifications in the 600s for business-related websites but they have also added a “buslib” entry to capture all the sites they think should be included in a business library.
So how do patrons of the San Mateo Public Library use these social bookmarks? They don’t! Try as I might, I could not find a link on their website to del.icio.us or to bookmarks or tags. They have a Website Resources page but it does not refer to the bookmarks on Delicious. So I google “how san mateo uses delicious” and learn from a blog that only staff use the San Mateo del.icio.us page – that ‘s the reason for the Dewey. This blog posting was back in 2006 and while the bookmarks have been maintained and are added to, I can’t tell if the library has taken steps to make this tool part of how they interface with their patrons as yet.
Boy, this isn’t easy! I’ve been going through library websites and library delicious sites trying to figure out how library patrons are benefiting from the use of social bookmarking services by their public libraries. Either the libraries haven’t actually integrated the two tools (the website and the booking services), or the integration is so seamless I can’t tell (which is entirely plausible). I’ve been using a very helpful blog post to help me find libraries using del.icio.us, and came across Chelmsford Public Library that uses del.icio.us for its bookmarks and its subject guide, but try as I might I see from the CPL’s web interface how the two are integrated. Although I do know it was actually done thanks to the Swiss Army Librarian who did work. The library’s website has multiple pages that reference web resources, from the community pages to the reference department pages. It is possible, and likely, that all of these are drawing their links from del.icio.us but I can’t confirm it.
What I can confirm is how Alameda County Public Library is using their del.icio.us bookmarks on their website. The library is providing to their patrons web resources which have been previously scrutinized by librarians and grouped by topic. They are using sites they’ve tagged using del.icio.us to provide library patrons with reputable web resources. Certainly one of the most common complaints about the internet is that there is so much information that it is impossible to wade through and to extremely difficult to decide what is an authoritative resource and what isn’t. Here the Alameda County librarians are taking a lot of the guesswork out of the internet for its library patrons, and they are doing it easily and effectively with the help of a service like del.icio.us.