Monday, January 11, 2010

Community Tagging with Encore

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Professional catalogers are important to libraries. They’re responsible for assigning subject headings to all materials so that when you search for “resumes” on the catalog, up pops a list of resume books and media. But if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Hmmm, I would have used this word to describe that item,” well, now you can.

A new feature in Encore allows community tagging for every item in the catalog. For example, for a book as big as Stephen King’s The Stand, “biological warfare” is the sole subject heading listed. But readers of this dystopian tome know there’s more to The Stand than biological warfare. So I clicked on ‘add community tag” and added all the words I thought people might use to hunt for this book: captain trips, dystopian fiction, good vs. evil, mother abagail, randall flagg, super flu, the dark man, the walkin’ dude, the free zone.

And patrons in libraries all over America are finding unique ways to put community tagging to good use:

  • As a way to highlight the books they’ve read, an Arizona book club has tagged the books with the name of their group.

  • Staff at a university in Nebraska has tagged a group of resources to promote the Ethics Center on campus and graduate students in biology tagged materials “alien weeds” to simplify research.

  • Over 1/3 of the tags at a California library were added by teens to detail the genres and major plots of their favorite fiction.

  • An Ohio library uses community tags to identify books for certain age groups and to create a virtual display case for specific subjects.

  • Staff and patrons at an Albuquerque library have added 15,000 tags for books on such subjects as “dealing with clutter” and “area 51.” Tagging has been helpful in identifying those confusing pseudonyms writers like to use—“writes as Barbara Michaels”—and all those series readers can’t keep track of—“Earth’s Children book series.”

We hope you’ll find your own uses for community tags. And if you think that “orange cover” and “upside down dog” will help someone find Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time easier, then tag it! Don’t forget that you can still star-rate materials and write your own reviews.

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