Christine points me to a post a by Eli Jacobowitz on The Virtues and Limits of Cataloging. From the post:
First of all, current implementations of tagging are "flat" – there is no meta-meta-data about what type of label a tag represents. Is "Mona Lisa" the title, author, location, genre, art movement?
Second, and fairly obviously, tags are susceptible to spelling errors and multiple listings for the same category ("Italian", "italian", "italy", "Italians""¦ what do I search for?).
Third, even if you know what attribute you're supposed to label, and have a controlled list of values to pick from, ambiguity may persist in how to summarize multiple or conflicting facts about the object.
The bottom line is, you need a degree in Library Science to do this right.
What you need is training by an experienced cataloging librarian! I’m in a cataloging class right now and I’m enjoying it – but in the end I’ll never remember everything I’ve learned or learn everything I need to learn – only a veteran cataloger can teach me how to do it right and how to do it efficiently. It all comes back to what I’ve always said – you need hands on work experience to learn how to do a lot of the things librarians do – and most librarians I’ve spoken with agree.
That said (sorry for the rant). It’s a great article and I think an alternative that Eli overlooked is to have librarians work in conjunction with average internet users. This can be done many different ways.
One option is to have librarians create the controlled vocabulary that is used on a particular site.
Another option is to have librarian editors go through and clean up tags (yikes!).
Lastly, you could just have librarians and users cataloging and tagging items in tandem. Then you have the authority control and you have all those other words that non-librarians think of. This comes back to a bit of what Tim Spalding showed us in one of his presentations at CIL. The LCSH does not have a heading for CyberPunk – so how do you find a book like Neuromancer by William Gibson if you’re searching by subject? You look for:
Nervous system–Wounds and injuries–Fiction.
Need I say anymore??
Technorati Tags: cataloging