Library Tagging

WorldCat Local is a discovery overlay system that basically allows a library to integrate WorldCat functionality into their OPAC. It incorporates Web 2.0 features like reviews, tags, user lists, and recommendations (e.g. books “also in this series” or “by the same author.” The reviews include editorial reviews (drawn from Library Journal, Publisher Weekly, etc.) and user-contributed reviews (drawn from reading-related social-networking sites like Goodreads, weRead, and of course,

Case #1: WorldCat Local at University of Washington Libraries

University of Washington Libraries‘ homepage has one main search box mediated by WorldCat Local. I conducted a search for “in defense of food” (to find Michael Pollan’s book of that title). WorldCat Local shows book covers, which helps the user more easily identify a book they’re looking for if they know what it looks like. Clicking on the record for Pollan’s In Defense of Food, I saw listed a summary record; holdings information for UW, Summit Libraries (local consortium), and WorldCat (globally); a book review section, and a section for users to contribute tags (see screenshots below).

Reviews on WorldCat Local

Tags in WorldCat Local

The tags contributed for this book are:

  • agriculture
  • food
  • food politics
  • health
  • nutrition
  • whole food

As a user, I find the WorldCat page for each book to be quite long (it was eight page-lengths on my 14″ screen), but it’s nice having all the information in one place. The reviews would inform my decision to check the book out, and the tags give me a way to explore other books that other users thought were on similar topics.

Case #2: WorldCat Local at University of Delaware Library

University of Delaware Library homepage

The University of Delaware Library‘s homepage has two separate catalog search boxes: one labeled “WorldCat Local: Search the University of Delaware Library and beyond…” and the other labeled “Search DELCAT only.” It looks like they’re not quite ready to get rid of their old OPAC interface. I wonder if some users would be confused by having to choose between the search boxes without knowing what the differences between the two are… there doesn’t seem to be anything on the homepage that explains the differences and why a user would choose one over the other.

I conducted the same search as above, for “in defense of food.” The resulting record for Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food looked strikingly similar to the record retrieved through UW Libraries’ implementation. The main difference was branding and color scheme; otherwise, the Web 2.0 features were all the same: the same 393 editor reviews and user-contributed reviews, and the same tags. Like the record for UW, there are few contributors to the tags; the most frequent tag, “nutrition,” was chosen by 3 people. If WorldCat Local becomes as popular as LibraryThing, there will probably be more tag contributors; but for now, I would argue that the LibraryThing tags are more useful for resource discovery.


Flickr is a web-based photo management and sharing application; it allows people to upload their photos; name, caption, and tag them; organize them into sets; and share them with others. It is a tool that encourages people to interact with other people’s photos: you can leave comments, add a photo as a favorite, and if the creator has enabled their photos to be used by others, even download and incorporate them into new works.

Case #1: Flickr at Cornell University Library

image from Cornell University Library's Flickr

That Cornell University Library is involved with Flickr is not immediately apparent on their website. To find the page that announces their Flickr account, one has to click on “Library Services,” then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Cool Tools.” The Cool Tools link has this description: “Find newly developed technology tools that make it easier to research and share information.” This link takes the visitor to a page branded as “CUL Labs: Become part of the experiment!” and lists online tools/services like Flickr, Thesis Tool, JABBR, Text a Librarian, and LibX.

According to their Flickr profile, Cornell University Library joined Flickr in September 2008 and is exploring this tool as a way to share their digital image collections online with the rest of the world. The Library started their collection by offering a small sample of one of their unique (print) photo collections, the Andrew Dickson White Architectural Photographs Collection. The photos have been geocoded, and the Library invites users to help improve the photo collection by commenting, tagging, and adding notes to the architectural images.

I think this is a great way to invite people from the worldwide community to contribute their knowledge and add more detail in describing the digital photos. The collective knowledge of the library staff who catalog these photos is probably limited, and there may be a wealth of experience and knowledge to be tapped into from the worldwide community. For example, maybe someone from Portugal can identify this building or someone from Egypt can identify the locations these photos represent.

Cornell Library’s Flickr has three other sets of photos, titled Diver Railroad, Human Ecology, and Willard Dickerman Straight. Browsing through their unique photo collections made me think of Flickr as a photo-based institutional repository (like UBC’s cIRcle on DSpace)– an online digital library of sorts used to showcase an institution’s unique content.

Tagging invites users to contribute to this digital photo collection’s metadata in a way not possible (or effective) with a print photo collection; and Cornell’s outreach efforts to recruit the community’s knowledge in order to enhance the value of their photo collection is commendable.

Case #2: Flickr at Hatcher Graduate Library – University of Michigan

Hatcher Graduate Library - Banned Books Week

From Hatcher Graduate Library’s webpage, it is easy to find their Flickr page: along the left navigation bar, there is a link labeled “Graduate Library on Flickr.”

The Library’s first use of Flickr was to celebrate Banned Books Week. Their unique Flickr page features great photos of library staff posing with books that have been banned, and links to websites with more information about intellectual freedom and censorship. This creative use of Flickr is a great way to promote awareness of these issues and to give Hatcher Graduate Library a personalized face. Most of the photos are tagged with “banned_books” and the title of the banned book shown in the photo. This would be a wonderful way to graphically browse controversial books.

The second (and latest) photo set on Hatcher Graduate Library’s Flickr is “Featured Microform Collections.” This set of 11 photos appears to be scans of colorful flyers created by the Library’s Serials and Microforms Services to promote their unique microform resources. It’s a fun way to market the Library’s materials, but I wonder how many people this method would attract, and how likely people would search the tags attached to the photos, like “microform,” “british_manuscript_project,” “umich,” “hatcher,” and “library.” Do most people looking for images related to University of Michigan or Hatcher Graduate Library know to use the nicknames “umich” or “hatcher”? I wouldn’t.


Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows users to post their status, share links, etc. using 140 characters or less and keep up-to-date with other users’ statuses. Tagging was not a feature when it was first released, but it is now popular to add hashtags (click here to read more information on hashtags). For example, during the Computers in Libraries conference in March 2009, many conference attendees ended their CIL-related Twitter posts with #CIL2009.

It was actually very difficult to find libraries that use this hashtag; this form of tagging doesn’t seem to have caught on in the library world on Twitter.

Case #1: Twitter at Turner Memorial Library (Presque Isle County, Maine)

Turner Memorial Library's Twitter Page

Turner Memorial Library uses their Twitter to share about library events and communicate library-related news, such as a SecondLife event, an announcement about a new DVD being added to the collection soon (“Library will purchase this DVD as soon as it comes available“), and an announcement about a new library website and ILS (“New website and new library automation system for Presque Isle Library coming soon!”) Part of the power of Twitter is that it is a quick way to share links with others. If I were a user of the library, my main motivation to subscribe to their Twitter feed is to keep up with upcoming library events.

On December 1, the Library hashtagged all their Twitter posts on that day with #red. This seemed to be in observance of World AIDS Day. Aside from this tag, I didn’t notice any others that were used recently. I wonder why libraries haven’t considered using hashtags for LC call numbers or tags like “newDVDs” or “comingsoon.”

Case #2: Twitter at The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (Ohio)

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's Twitter Page

The Cincinnati Library has an attractive webpage that seems easy to navigate; on the left sidebar are links to their Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and RSS feeds. The library uses their Twitter to publicize events, but also to make book recommendations. I love the way they phrase their recommendations, like “Morning! Did you know Cormac McCarthy’s typewriter sold for $254,500 at auction yesterday? He’d bought it in ’63 for $50.” (with a link to the book’s catalog record) and “This book just won the Buckeye Children’s Book Award: For more info & other winners, check out“–they do a good job of trying to engage their readers/followers to check out the links.

As for hashtags, the one use I was able to find on their Twitter was also a reference to World AIDS Day. It said: “December 1 is World Aids Day. Learn more about how you can help (courtesy of Google) –> #WorldAIDSday.”

Last thoughts

Other than these two examples, it was difficult to find many libraries that use hashtags. The most prominent use were those by library associations in reference to conferences (for example, the New York Library Association used the hashtag #NYLA09 to mark all posts related to the 2009 NYLA conference). I personally find the conference-related hashtags very useful, especially if I am unable to attend one but still want to keep up with what happened there.

YouTube is a video sharing service where registered users can upload an unlimited number of videos, add descriptions and tags, and share a permanent link to their video with others. Users can also make comments and forward videos to other people.

Case #1: YouTube at Harper College Library

Harper College Library in Palatine, IL has a humorous YouTube video linked from their blog. A video “host” and a Harper College student roll around on a book cart from one library service desk to another, essentially giving the viewer a tour of the library. It’s a creative way of communicating to users what the library has to offer; the use of music and humor make it an enjoyable video to watch, and the acting is done pretty well! I’m curious if the video would have more hits if it were displayed on the library’s homepage instead of on their blog.

As for tagging, this video is tagged with these words:

  • Library
  • Tour
  • Welcome
  • William
  • Rainey
  • Harper
  • College
  • Reference
  • Librarian
  • Circulation
  • Cart
  • Books
  • Palatine

At first glance, I’m not too sure where some of the tags come from (like William and Rainey) and my first reaction was, why don’t they make “Harper” and “College” one tag, so that it is “Harper_College”? But I wonder if that would necessitate that people search using the underscore in their queries.

Case #2: YouTube at Birmingham Public Library

Birmingham Public Library in Birmingham, Alabama is clearly keeping up with Web 2.0 tools. The bottom of the the library’s homepage has attractive links to all sorts of 2.0 tools, such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Birmingham Public Library's homepage with links to Web 2.0 tools

BPL even has their own YouTube page because they have produced a number of YouTube videos–139, in fact! A sample of video titles: “Libraries Have Much to Offer,” “Oxford Art Online” (a database tutorial), “Birmingham Public Library Super Teen Movie,” and “Melissa Delbridge at Alabama Bound 2009.” The videos seem to serve a variety of functions, from promoting programming (like a teen word contest) to documenting staff activities, from database tutorials to author lectures at the library.

I’m impressed by the great range of videos, and as someone who previously worked in technical/user support for library databases, I was especially impressed by BPL’s idea to post their database tutorials as YouTube videos! Included in the “Virtual Library” section of BPL’s website is an A-Z and subject-based list of databases BPL subscribes to. Take the art database Oxford Art Online, for example:

BPL's page for Oxford Art Online

Under Tutorials, you’ll notice a link to a YouTube video that guides users on how to navigate Oxford Art Online. The description attached to the video is detailed and informative, but the tags are not as useful: “Jeimin,” “Final,” and “Cut.” I’m curious why the tagger chose these particular words; they seem to be intended more for the creator’s search needs than user search needs.


Facebook Homepage

Facebook is a popular social-networking site that started off with university/college-based membership, but later on opened up to the public at large. The most common features on a member’s Facebook page are the Wall, which tracks the FB member’s activities (leaving comments on other people’s walls or photos, posted links, likes, new friend connections, etc.), messages from others, and any notes or photos tagged with that FB member.

I particularly wanted to look at how libraries used the tagging features in Facebook, but also considered how Facebook as a whole contributed to the library’s services.

Case #1: Facebook at Alverno College Library

Alverno College Library‘s mission is “to support and enhance instruction, the curriculum and learning within the Alverno College community and to create a user-friendly environment.” (emphasis mine)

The Library’s emphasis on creating a user-friendly environment is evident by the layout of their website. The design is clean, and seamlessly incorporates its services into the site. The bottom of the page features Library News, which links to their blog at Blogger; an Assignment Calculator, which looks like a fun tool for time-management purposes; the Alverno Library’s Facebook page, with a “Become a Fan” link leading to a page with a short explanation of how to “fan” their Facebook page and its contents; and an “Email an Alverno Librarian” service.

The following explanation was offered about Alverno’s Facebook page:

Visit our Facebook page to:

  • Check out helpful library links including Course & Subject Guides
  • Receive updates on library events & instruction sessions
  • Contact our friendly librarians who can help you find quality online and print information for your research needs

Alverno’s Facebook page includes the library’s address, phone number, and hours; information about events like an APA citation workshop and book discussion group; and photos of library student workers and librarians (the two most recent photo albums are titled “The Best Student Workers Ever” and “Alverno Librarians – We’re Here to Help!” Some of the photos are tagged with names of library staff with links to their Facebook profile pages. I visited several library Facebook pages, and the majority of them did not tag people in their photos or even include people in the photos. I wonder if this has to do with protecting people’s privacy. Alverno didn’t tag all the staff in their photos, so maybe they obtained permission from people first before tagging them.

Clicking on the “Boxes” tab takes you to a page that connects you with library resources. There is a search box for TOPCAT, their OPAC; for PubMed; and for WorldCat. There are also links to the library’s website: subject guides, research guides, and databases. Clearly Alverno is using Facebook as an outreach tool; if only some of these search boxes could appear on the Wall so that users would immediately see them instead of having to click through the tabs to find them! But that seems to be a Facebook design limitation.

I like how Alverno’s Facebook page gives them a “we’re with the times” edge; they’re in touch with how a lot of today’s college students communicate. They currently have 197 fans.

Case #2:  Facebook at Charleston County Public Library

Charleston County Public Library‘s Facebook page is not quite as easy to find. There’s no link for it on the main homepage, and I clicked through a few pages before I found it under “Resources.”

Their Facebook page, like Alverno’s, has the library’s contact information and hours on it. The Wall is primarily used to publicize events at the library, like a holiday book sale, opera performance, and art exhibit. It is also used to promote services like their SMS reference service. The Photos tab includes an album described “Various events and CCPL.” This album has tagged librarians who work at Charleston County Public Library. I’m not sure how useful it is for users to see who is tagged in the photos; maybe it helps to personalize the library staff?

On the whole, tagging in Facebook seems more relevant for personal use (e.g. to see what your friends have been up to recently) than professional use.

LibraryThing is an online cataloging system that incorporates web2.0 features like shared reviews, ratings, recommendations, and tags. Libraries can integrate LibraryThing with their OPACs and provide these Amazon-like features to their users.

Case #1: LibraryThing at University of Texas – Austin Library

LibraryThing record for UT-Austin Library

The University of Texas – Austin’s library catalog is easily accessible from the library’s homepage. UT-Austin uses WebPac Pro and pulls in data from Google Books and LibraryThing. I conducted a search for “mansfield park” and examined this resulting record, the 2005 Cambridge edition of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Below the “traditional” catalog record information, a box with data imported from LibraryThing shows “Other Editions and Translations,” “Recommended Books,” and LT user tags including “19th century,” “Austen,” “British,” and “romance,” which are all hyperlinked. Clicking on the tag “romance” results in a “Tag Browser” pop-up box that displays the item’s tags, other user tags related to the “romance” tag (such as “Shakespeare” and “Japan” in this case), and a list of other items available through the library that are tagged with “romance” (such as novels by Diana Gabaldon, Jennifer Crusie, Nicholas Sparks, and even Twilight by Stephenie Meyer). The LT tags add great value to browsing activities and perform a sort of readers’ advisory service based on items that share the same tags.

Case #2: LibraryThing at Randolph County Public Library

LibraryThing in RCPL's OPAC

Randolph County Public Library in North Carolina also has a LibraryThing implementation in their OPAC, which uses the Horizon ILS. I conducted the same search in their catalog, “mansfield park,” and retrieved the above record for a 2004 Barnes and Noble edition of Austen’s work. The information imported from LibraryThing is very similar to UT-Austin’s, but the layout is slightly different; there is a link to LibraryThing reviews (51 reviews with an average of 4/4 stars), then tags are sandwiched between “Similar Books” and “Other Editions.” I clicked on the “romance” tag and a similar pop-up box appeared, displaying the current item’s tags, other tags related to the “romance” tag, and again, other items available at the library tagged with “romance.” These related tags and items differed from the tags that appeared for UT-Austin (many more Twilight-related books), so I assume that LibraryThing is somehow restricting the pool of “related items” it searches, presumably to books within the library’s own collection.


Both of these tools are implemented similarly; the main variance was layout and that may have to do with the difference in OPACs being used and the way LT data is translated into each. Also, UT-Austin’s catalog displays Library of Congress subject headings first, then the LT tags towards the bottom of the page. The LT tags employ more natural language and basic vocabulary than the LC subject headings, and may provide a preferred alternate way for users to browse and discover materials. Randolph Public Library’s display omits subject headings and only uses the LibraryThing tags. I like having easy access to reviews by other readers, but I feel a bit uncomfortable with completely replacing the subject headings with tags!

VuFind is a library resource portal developed by Villanova University; its tagline is “The library OPAC meets Web 2.0!” VuFind is “designed to make the OPAC a friendly place for patrons who are familiar with Google or Amazon” (see introductory video here). It runs on an open source search engine called Solr Energy and is free through an open source license.

Some of VuFind’s features include thumbnails of book covers; the ability to attach ratings, comments, and tags to resources; an SMS service that allows you to text call numbers to your mobile; incorporation of reviews from so that users don’t have to leave the page to view this content; links to Wikipedia articles about authors; links to Delicious to share records with others; and tools to make citation-tracking easy to do.

VuFind’s creators made the software open source to encourage others to create new modules, add widgets, and other customizations to make the software better.

Besides Villanova University, who developed the software, VuFind has also been implemented at Wake Forest University, University of Michigan, National Library of Ireland, London School of Economics, and York University. I will compare the records for David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous in the Villanova and Wake Forest implementations.

Case #1: VuFind at Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library

As mentioned earlier, VuFind was developed at Villanova University. VuFind is accessed through the search box on the library’s homepage, under the drop-down, “Catalog.” Searching for “everything is miscellaneous” brings up 3446 results, ranked by relevancy.

Results Page in VuFind at Villanova University's Falvey Memorial Library

David Weinberger’s book shows up as the first result, with a thumbnail of its signature blue cover (hardback version), the title, author, call number, location, and availability. It also displays the format of the item (e.g. book, online, microform, journal, etc.) To the right of this information, there is a small heart icon labeled “Add to favorites.” This already gives a glimpse into the Web 2.0 features of VuFind, allowing the user to tag metadata related to how he/she likes the book. There’s also a small widget at the bottom of the screen that appears occasionally for an “Ask a Librarian” chat service. (I haven’t figured out exactly when this widget appears or what makes it appear.)

Clicking into the record reveals the other Web 2.0 features. Across the top of the record are links to “Cite this,” “Text this,” “E-mail this,” “Export Record,” and “Add to favorites.” Towards the bottom there is a place to add tags (no tags have yet been contributed) and add comments; there are also reviews imported from Choice Review and Publisher’s Weekly. Overall, it looks very user-friendly and I think people familiar with Amazon would find VuFind easy to interact with. However, it looks like many records are untouched by user contributions; many don’t have any tags or comments (you can do a search by tags; I searched for the tag “history” and only 36 results came up). I wonder how the library could go about encouraging or increasing this activity. Maybe most users just don’t know about the features of this new, improved catalog? (And I wonder at what point we’ll stop calling this a “catalog” search and just call it a restricted search engine, or a database… or some other term that has fewer outdated connotations. I recall one of my previous workplaces used the word “portal.”)

Record page in VuFind at Villanova University's Falvey Memorial Library

Case #2: VuFind at Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library

On the homepage of Reynolds Library’s website, there is a very tiny search box in the upper right-hand corner, with a drop-down menu to select from; you can choose to search “this site,” “the catalog,” “databases,” “journals,” or “videos.” To get to VuFind, I conducted the same search as above in “the catalog.”

Pulling up the record for Weinberger’s book, the layout is slightly different but the content is mostly identical.

Record Page in VuFind at Wake Forest University's Reynolds Library

A right-hand sidebar contains the “Cite this,” “Text this,” etc. features with some different icons. The reviews are slightly different; one from Library Journal is included here. The situation with tags and comments is the same; no one has yet contributed either. I’d be interested to know who is tagging and commenting and what motivates them to do so. I’d especially be interested in users who are already active on, and whether they are more likely to participate in these Web 2.0 features.