Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), the standard subject language used in library catalogues, are often criticized for their lack of currency, biased language, and atypical syndetic structure. Conversely, folksonomies (or tags), which rely on the natural language of their users, offer a flexibility often lacking in controlled vocabularies and may offer a means of augmenting more rigid controlled vocabularies such as LCSH. Content analysis studies have demonstrated the potential for folksonomies to be used as a means of enhancing subject access to materials, and libraries are beginning to integrate tagging systems into their catalogues. This study examines the utility of tags as a means of enhancing subject access to materials in library online public access catalogues (OPACs) through usability testing with the LibraryThing for Libraries catalogue enhancements. Findings indicate that while they cannot replace LCSH, tags do show promise for aiding information seeking in OPACs. 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 catalogue interfaces to support tag-based searches alongside standard catalogue searches.
This article copyright © The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. This article first appeared in Library Trends, Volume 61, Issue 1, pg. 234-247.
Pirmann, Carrie M.. "Tags in the Catalogue: Insights From a Usability Study of LibraryThing for Libraries." Library Trends 61, no. 1 (2012) : 234-247.