Tagging

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Tags are keywords chosen by users of a system to describe an item (e.g., a website or book).  Tags gained popularity at Web 2.0 sites like Delicious, Flickr, and LibraryThing, and have now begun to appear in a few library catalogs.  Tags, which usually consist of single words but can extend to short phrases in some systems, offer an alternative to the assignment of subject headings in traditional cataloging.  There are four strategies libraries can pursue with respect to the relationship of tags to subject headings, in order of most conservative to most radical: Ignore tagging and continue to exclusively use subject headings; allow tags to Coexist with subject headings, but maintain a clear boundary between the two; utilize tags and subject headings side-by-side, permitting each to inform the other (Cooperate); or deprecate subject headings and Replace their function with tags.

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The Changing Nature of the Catalog – A Response to Calhoun, Mann, and Yee

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The central premise of Calhoun’s report is that technology has “created an era of discontinuous change in research libraries—a time when the cumulated assets of the past do not guarantee future success” (2006, p. 5).  Calhoun’s perspective is that this notion applies directly to traditional library cataloging.  Yee argues that traditional cataloging is fundamental to the value of libraries (2007).  Mann makes the case that research libraries’ primary mission is to serve the specific needs of serious scholarship (2006).  Each is right in their own way.  Mann and Yee, though, fail to recognize the changes that the coming of the Information Age has wrought on the world outside libraries.  Far too much valuable information is outside the reach of traditional catalogs.  Libraries must embrace technology to extend the grasp of catalogs beyond local holdings.

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