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Using Tags to Improve Findability in Library OPACs: A Usability Study of LibraryThing for Libraries

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Title: Using Tags to Improve Findability in Library OPACs: A Usability Study of LibraryThing for Libraries
Author(s): Pirmann, Carrie M.
Contributor(s): La Barre, Kathryn
Subject(s): Usability Studies Information Seeking Tagging Folksonomies
Abstract: Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), one of the standard descriptive languages used in library catalogs, are often criticized for their lack of currency, biased language, and atypical syndetic structure. Conversely, folksonomies, which rely on the natural language of their users, offer a flexibility often lacking in controlled vocabularies and as such may offer an alternative to or a means of augmenting more rigid controlled vocabularies such as LCSH. Content analysis studies have already demonstrated the potential for folksonomies to be used as a means of enhancing subject access to materials. Despite a sizable number of libraries now using the LibraryThing for Libraries catalog enhancements, and the development by some libraries of their own tagging systems (e.g., PennTags, MTagger), little research has been undertaken to determine the effectiveness of folksonomies as a means of enhancing item discovery in library catalogs. This project examines the utility of folksonomies as a means of enhancing subject access to materials in library OPACs through usability testing with the LibraryThing for Libraries catalog enhancements. Initial findings from the usability test indicate that while they cannot replace LCSH, folksonomies do show promise for aiding information seeking in OPACs. Overall, participants indicated that folksonomies could be useful for surveying broad subject areas or for exploring materials in a topic area with which the user is not familiar, while subject headings remained the preferred access mechanism for information seeking that is tied to more focused research. In the context of information systems design, the study revealed that while folksonomies have the potential to enhance subject access to materials, that potential is severely limited by the current inability of catalog interfaces to support tag-based searches alongside standard catalog searches.
Issue Date: 2011-05-04
Genre: Dissertation / Thesis
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/18918
Publication Status: unpublished
Peer Reviewed: not peer reviewed
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-05
 

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