I used some of my break time to further delve into what’s happening with social bookmarking and tagging activity. These are interesting technologies, and I’m wondering if much exploration is taking place at academic libraries. There are a few academic librarians out there who have caught on to the use of social bookmarking software and tagging – and a few are actively promoting it on their blogs. For example, Ellyssa Kroski, a reference librarian at Columbia University, discusses tagging and folksonomies at her blog Infotangle. But at the library, not individual, level we are only beginning to explore how to exploit this technology to promote user access to resources and services.
If you are new to the concepts of social bookmarking and tagging a bit of background reading may first be in order. Social bookmarking is the sharing of websites within an online community. Here’s how I like to think of it. Long before the advent of the Internet researchers created their own communities to share and exchange information they found useful. That network was likely used to circumvent the library’s own search systems. After all, why search an index when I can walk down the hall to see if my colleagues have any good articles on a particular topic or know who I should consult. Social bookmarking communities like del.icio.us or CiteULike bring that informal research network approach into the 21st century, albeit the communities are far more loosely structured and the members are anonymous.
The librarians at the University of Pennsylvania are experimenting with something they call PennTags. They’ve created a social bookmarking site for members of their institution so that sites of interest, bibliographies or links to other user-created content can be collected and shared by the user community. Users can download a specialized toolbar or use a bookmarklet created to facilitate adding content to PennTags. Beyond having users tag their entries, a next step could allow them to tag other library content found in the OPAC or institutional repository. It will be interesting to see how this and other institutional-based social bookmarking sites develop. Take a look at some of these resources and sites, and consider signing up for one or two of them to get a feel for how they work. If one of your resolutions is to learn some of the new information technologies, social bookmarking is a good place to begin.