Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday Thingers (a day late): Tags

Today's question is about tags- do you tag? How do you tag? How do you feel about tagging- do you think it would be better to have standardized tags, like libraries have standardized subject headings, or do you like the individualized nature of tagging? What are your top 5 tags and what do they say about your collection or your reading habits?

I do use tags quite a lot, but I keep changing how I look at them. Initially I used them very strictly, minimizing the number of tags used. It was more an exercise in my defining the book's role in our lives. Then I caught on to the fact that tags are used by the LT system for recommendations and for others' understanding of the books, and began to expand my tag use. I have standardised my own tags, and it makes me pretty nuts when I realize I've accidentally used an alternate version incorrectly; for me it would be lovely if LT would recommend tags based on the user's previously chosen or designated ones.

I don't at all like the idea of system-wide tagging standardization. The individual nature of people's LT use and of their thought processes is a big part of what makes LT so fascinating. With so many users, there is no way to include everyone's individual systems of book use; or to define what each user's library means to him or how he chooses to use it and think about it. To systematically define tag usage and curtail it would be a great loss to LT both as a system and as a social experiment.

Remember, I'm a librarian in training. I am not a cataloger, but I do have some experience in indexing. This definitely influences my tagging, but I have made an effort not to make my tagging not too much of a formal indexing tree. While I try to be sure to have some mandatory supercatagories (for example, anything tagged "knitting" I also automatically tag "fiber arts"), I am trying more and more to be free and open-mindedly creative with my tags. I have seen how reading others' tags on certain books has helped me make determinations about those books' value as potential additions to my own library, and I'd like to be able to provide that same service to any who look at my books.

Within my library, my current top 5 tags are: Jewish, series, little kids, mysteries, and needlework. This is somewhat artificial as standing results, though, as it depends on the books I have cataloged, which represent only about 20% (if that much) of what is in the house. Since I have cataloged these geographically, going through the house shelf by shelf; and our shelves are arranged somewhat categorically; eventually the numbers will be quite different. I expect sci-fi and mysteries to be far higher in the numbers, as are kids' books overall. I have entered almost all the Jewish books into our library listing already, so that number will not grow much. As time goes on, I would expect fiber arts to surplant needlework since I do far more knitting, spinning and weaving now than I do quilting, embroidery, or smocking, and I buy more reading and reference material based on my current obsessions (though I still do pick up the odd lovely embroidery book now and then). The little kids/kids tag is somewhat ambiguous I know and actually reflects an arbitrary in-house difference of shelving: anything tagged "little kids" is something Gilad has discovered, which now lives on his Winnie-the-Pooh bookcase; anything tagged "kids" is simply something provided primarily for the children and housed on a bookcase accessible to all of them or else in one of the various children's rooms. The "kids" books range from classics like The Velveteen Rabbit to modern beauties of picture books such as The Quiltmaker's Journey to The Secret Garden to Pokemon adventures and just about anything in-between. Much of the sci-fi is or will also be tagged "kids" so long as it is something I would allow the older girls to read, which is almost everything I would have anyway. Already pretty much all the Norton, LeGuin, McCaffrey and so on is or should be tagged in that way. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I rarely use my YA tag, reserving it for material that was definitely written to appeal directly to that age group as opposed to adult material which is appropriate for teens to read.

I'm sure I have a lot more to say about tags, but actually I can't wait to read what everyone else has said. I see the use of tags/keywords in LT's system as a wonderful social cataloging experiment, expanding the future of library systems and retrieval capabilities, as well as a small window into what each user thinks about his own library and collection.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you, I have tons of tags! I agree, it would be great to have recommended tags (that I've used before) :)

Leesy said...

Yes, exactly. So I don't have to remember that I've designated "Fiber Arts" as two words but "Needlework" as one; or used "classics" as a plural and "comic" as a singular word and then wind up with multiple tags I have to go back and clean up!