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The benefits of the hashtag aka #

Having just completed a subject devoted to Describing and analysing information resources as part of my studies, I can now look back at my initial understanding and chuckle. It was limited to MARC and Dewey, an idea of subject headings, authority lists and a very vague idea of Z39.50. Oh dear, how little my knowledge base was….

Whilst, there is still a great deal to know in this field, concerns about what is relevant seem unchanged since Younger (1997). Younger asserts that the basis of cataloguing is still the same, in that resource creators want their resources to be found and information seekers want to be able to find resources (p.463). Furthermore, it is clear that a uniform approach is not an easy achievement, nor even a desirable one. Information agencies have different requirements in terms of resource description. Hence “One size does not fit all” and a focus on interoperability between standards becomes the imminent aim (p. 465).

This post, however, will not be focussed on the different standards. The weblinks embedded in my blog provide examples of the standards. Instead, the focus is the benefits of keywords or hashtags, as provided by ordinary people, in the facilitation of information retrieval.
Guy and Tonkin (2006) define folksonomy as “a type of distributed classification system…. usually created by a group of individuals, typically the resource users. Users add tags to online items, such as images, videos, bookmarks and text. These tags are then shared and sometimes refined.” Furthermore, hashtags are a useful addition to formal classification though not a replacement. Moulaison (2008) points out that the application of tags is defined by the purpose of the tag and ranges from personal retrieval needs with exo-tagging to promotion of user generated content with endo-tagging (p. 101).

In assessing the usefulness of tagging for web retrieval I have chosen the mobile photo sharing application Instagram (IG) that can be viewed online via web.stagram or with statigram. The experience of tagging in IG corresponds to Moulaison’s (2008) concept of endo-tagging user-generated content in the form of photographs that are uploaded and shared with the larger IG community internationally.

Moulaison (2008) suggests that user generated content that is uploaded such as videos or with photo sharing apps the tags can be “more stable and long term”. (p. 107). This is definitely the case with IG where the app has a search function embedded. You can search by users or tags to find either contributors or actual photos in defined categories. The result of the tags, and this search function in IG, is a system where the majority of contributors apply mostly accurate tags that benefit all. Beyond this, the tags applied are endo-tags by the contributor of the photo and they can be modified or added to at any point. This ability to modify at any point is great because you can correct misspellings. Other users will often pop in to comment feeds and provide suggested tags that may have been missed or the contributor may not have known, for example an artists name of the artwork photographed. This tag is often then applied enabling this photo to be located in this category or location.

Critiques of folksonomy include the perception that they are imprecise, inexact and too personal (Guy & Tonkin, 2006). Moulaison (2008) citing Tennis (2006) also mentions the idea that social tagging is for personal benefit (p. 108) as a type of filing system where one can locate resources quickly at a later time. In IG elements of personal benefit are evident with the more obscure rogue tags assigned that only one person contributes their photos to. This is evident with some travel photos shared for instance where the tags incorporate the name of the person contributing the photo and place eg #sarahinparis.

In my photo-sharing experience with IG, the tags assigned are often agreed tags by the larger community. However, as there is no limit to the amount of tags you apply, you essentially can incorporate a mixture of tags that are both for a broader benefit, where everyone can search and locate the photo with other similar resources, to more personal tags that an individual can search to locate their own personal category where the photos are only contributed by that person and pertain to something specific. An example may include a series of photos that act as a photo essay and grouping them together with a specific hashtag such as #photoessayeiffeltower2012. However, as Guy & Tonkin (2006) point out the use of single purpose tags are not the dominant. As the purpose of IG is to share to a wider audience the consensus on shared meaning becomes the norm.

Another critique of folksonomies is the argument by Shirky as cited in Guy and Tonkin (2006) of the lack of synonymous relations. In IG the manner in which some users have tagged photos suggests the idea of synonymous relationships as present. As an example, #wheatpaste, #pasteup #poster provide the relations between these three words as being synonymous with each other and act as descriptors of the same type of art within the broader category of #streetart and #graffiti, two tags that are also often applied as synonymous categories. Users often apply as many synonyms as possible thus enabling the photo to be located in each of the tagged areas in IG. This is very useful when searching as a person may only be aware of one term and yet still be able to locate this resource because the different terms have been tagged. Beyond this, as an international app, often the tags from contributors in countries where English is not the dominant language will have tags ascribed in both English and the language of the home country too. Potentially multilingual descriptors could be applied.

Tags in IG demonstrate a type of hierarchy with broader categories and narrower categories. They enable relationships to be defined between terms for example defining the photo as streetart (what it is about) tagging what type of street art such as “stencil” or “pasteup”, tagging the artist name of the streetart (creator) and tagging the location (geography) from broader to narrower #Australia #melbourne #brunswick #laneways #zombiedancelane and so on. Effectively, tags supply metadata and the more tags supplied in IG the more specific is the description.

Some tags also suggest what equipment the photo was shot with eg #iphone #iphoneography #nikon300, the shutter speed and may indicate if the photograph has been modified with filters or even with apps. The interrelations of users can be indicated via tags too. For example there are IG meetups organised, where groups do a photo walk and then post the results to the tag of the #instameetup with place. Another example is #mobilephotogroup of photographers dedicated to the use of mobile phones in photography. People share photos with each other by making them available to specific hashtags dedicated to the purpose of taking and modifying or altering the original and then reposting the result. They organise exhibitions and have dedicated hashtags that repost the happening or attendance.

In resource description the focus has been on controlled vocabularies as a process of increasing uniformity in description and disambiguating terms. Consequently, the use of natural vocabulary or folksonomies is perceived as problematic. A point worth mentioning,  is the suggested solution by Hider (2008 p. 183-184) of the imposition of a selection of controlled vocabulary terms that can be chosen by users for tags. However, having participated in a number of photography sharing apps including StreamZoo, PicYou, Tadaa, EyeEm and mobli, the apps that have provided a designated vocabulary list to choose from and, imposed limitations on how many tags to assign, produce description results that end up being too broad and less specific.

As an example, EyeEm only allows the assigning of one category for the type of photograph and the assigning of location. It does not allow further elaboration except what you may include as a title for the photo. If I took a photograph of street art that is a Paste-up of a deer by the artist Kaff-eine in a particular laneway at Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia, with EyeEm all I can assign is “Streetart” “Fitzroy”, “Melbourne”.  This is very limiting and not specific enough. Whilst the resource is placed in the broader category of Streetart and the location, these are the only two areas I can search to locate the work.

The audience base and user generated content of the other photo sharing apps appears significantly smaller than IG thereby it is still easy to locate the specific resource. However, on IG, Streetart, as a broad term, produces a result return of over 500000 photos. Consequently, the need to search more specific terms becomes paramount. In EyeEm there is no ability to search for the artist or the specific type of art either, which may produce a more accurate and specific result.

It is very useful to be able to search by artist for a streetart piece as well as by sub genre and even for far more specific locations. This is the advantage of applying more tags; as the description becomes more specific and enables the resource to exist with other resources that are also identified as having that specific category too.

This just touches on some aspects of how tags are utilised within IG and some of the purposes that tags demonstrate. The benefits of tags in web environments are certainly evident and not just related to a personal filing system. I suspect like other types of classification systems tagging or folksonomies will continue to evolve with purpose and function. Tags in IG do indicate an ability to effectively apply descriptions and can increase in specificity of description because there is no imposed limit on how many tags can be applied. The ability to title work or even contribute a mini or longer write-up about a photo further contributes to the description.

Guy, M & Tonkin, M. (2006) Folksonomies: Tidying up tags? D-Lib Magazine, 12(1)

Hider, P. (with Harvey, R.) (2008). Organising knowledge in a global society. (Rev. ed.). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Moulaison, H.L (2008) Social Tagging in the Web 2.0 Environment: Author vs. User Tagging, Journal of Library Metadata, 8:2, 101-111.

Younger, J.A. (1997). Resources description in the digital age. Library Trends , 45(3): 462-481

 

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Transforming to a Library 2.0 ~ Part 7… finale?

Work with schools, Library for the Blind : visit of blind Bo...

cc lincensed and shared by New York Public Library

It is nearly the end of the school year and I am still going in and checking the Oliver program transition. We can safely say that is is now live and Athena is no longer needed. When I went in last week I spoke with the IT technician about where the link to Oliver is on the system and how visible it is to the school community. Currently, you can access the library beyond the walls of the physical library. Great as this was one of the aims. However, the process is not too straightforward as you need to bring up ‘programs’ and find the link to the OPAC to go into the library management system. Too cumbersome for our current ‘information now’ clientele!

I suggested placing a library icon as the link on the front page of the school website. This will increase accessibility and enable students, parents and teachers to be able to logon from their homes. Being able to ‘see’ the library link on the front page is what we all want after all. This is now on the list and I was informed it is not difficult to achieve. Fantastic!

Through this journey, I have mentioned often that there is no dedicated teacher/librarian at the school and it is an area I have been advocating for incessantly during my time there. The new system has a fantastic and simple newsletter template that only needs an update monthly. It provides links to new items in the library, information about the library, links to websites and featured authors for the month. With the featured author, it provides a wonderful avenue where students can email suggestions for authors thereby increasing student participation. Hopefully this can open up more avenues for student contributions including student publications online. However, unless there is a dedicated teacher that will focus on the library much of this wonderful potential will be difficult to realise. I continued with my constant advocacy in this area and yesterday, Mary informed me that Bec may be provided some allocated time next year to focus on the library. She will be responsible for updating the newsletter and will run PD with the staff about the new system and the importance of the library. Fantastic! Bec has come on board this term and spent a great deal of time familiarising herself with the new system, looking into electronic resources and reading up on all things library. There is still a long way to travel but every step counts in cementing the importance of the library and extending this beyond the library walls and into the school community.

As for the new library management system, Oliver, the interface is fantastic and a perfect choice for a primary school, especially when you click on Olly and access the visual search. Even searching a subject, the box where you type your word is quite large making it easy for little kids to read. None of the other programs researched had such a fantastic interface with this level of accessibility for very young children.

Currently, the library is shut down for lending and only open for returns. This has been instigated to enable the smooth transition and ensure any difficulties are fixed before the next academic year. It will further enable training in the new system for staff. Only last week I was working through part of the training module with Mary and we identified that a key component linking to Word has not been downloaded and set up yet. This enables the printing of labels, letters and reports. Very vital!… This has been forwarded to the IT department and hopefully the situation has been sorted. I am going back in later this week for a final check and hopefully this is the finale in transforming to a Library 2.0.

 

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Transforming to a Library 2.0 ~ Part 6

J.J. Eller wins 120 yd. Hurdle 1911 (LOC)

J.J. Eller wins 120 yd. Hurdle 1911 (LOC)-cc licensed Library of Congress

Oliver conversion data and trial phase ~ Hurdles and What a Day!

Just over two weeks ago, Softlink informed the school that the conversion was set to begin and provided a timeline of what was involved. I went in one morning to compile a report that included screenshots of the various screens in Athena relating to records, patrons, loans and other items and emailed it to the Softlink conversion team. The data from the Athena LMS was sent via the Web to Softlink for conversion to Oliver.

In response to the report sent, the Conversion team at Softlink sent back an analysis of the data with detailed descriptions of how the data was to appear in Oliver. From this point we were provided with two weeks as a trial phase within which we were to analyse the data; both in the written conversion report and online. This was to determine if any anomalies existed and to provide an avenue for feedback to ensure the data is converted correctly during this trial stage. It was understood that anything new we added to Oliver during this stage would be lost once Oliver went live. The trial stage was purely a stage to iron out any problems, missing data and so forth before we went live. This stage is critical for if we fail to detect any anomalies and inform the conversion team, when we go live the problems will continue to exist. Furthermore, they are much harder to rectify once live.

The Information Technology coordinator has been working closely with me in the process of the upgrade to a new LMS. During this trial process we organised a day where Mary; the Library technician, Bec a teacher who is taking on library responsibilities, the Information Technology coordinator and myself could spend the day working with Oliver analysing the data.

Whilst we spent a great deal of time working through modules, speaking to technical support at Softlink and finding our way around Oliver, it became apparent that there was something missing. The actual data!

It was not until 3pm that we contacted technical support to discuss some of our concerns and it was affirmed that the data does was not there. We then contacted the Conversion team- who happened to be in a meeting… an email was sent and messages left…

Two weeks later we have received an email from Softlink stating that they have had problems with the data conversion and have now set a new date for this to occur… Ho hum.

While we learnt a great deal about the new program, enjoyed the company and learnt a great deal about navigating around Oliver, it is difficult to coordinate four different members to be able to take time away from other duties and provide focus to one task in a school setting. One extra hurdle but hopefully the next date, when coordinated, will run smoothly. Stay tuned for part 7…

 

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See Sally Research ~ Joyce Valenza

 

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Transforming to a library 2.0 ~ Part 5.

Search Help

Search Help cc licensed and shared by mister bisson

Another exciting journey is about to begin as the decision on a Library Management System has been finalised and it is Oliver Junior, (for the various reasons outlined in the earlier posts).

Next week, Oliver Junior will be installed remotely to the network. Then the process of transferring from Athena to Oliver will take approximately a term to complete this transformation.

In the meantime, we are embroiled with the other logistics. For instance do we already have z-cataloging with SCIS and do we want the Syndetics module included.

Mary was a little concerned about the jargon, however after a couple of phonecalls to SCIS and Oliver support, we discovered yes we do have the z-cataloging and now have been enabled by SCIS for integration via Oliver. I understand there are a few more configuration details and hopefully Oliver support can help with the troubleshooting when the time comes to set it all up. Here are the SCIS Standards for Cataloguing and Data Entry.

Oliver’s support end calls the integration Z-39.50. In my speak, all this means is that you can search the bibliographic details via Oliver without needing to go to SCIS and import the MARC records directly. As a result, a more streamlined and efficient approach.

As for Syndetics, confusion set in as SCIS offers a module and we are not subscribed to this. When I spoke to SCIS, I discovered that this module does not integrate with Library Management Systems and was informed that Oliver has their own Syndetic module that can be integrated. Did we need this? was the question all were asking.

After looking up the benefit of Syndetics it is clear that it would enhance the system significantly. Not only does it allow the importation of book covers, but also other relevant information such as awards and author information. Clearly, this provides a better experience for the students and teachers. As a result, we chose to add this module via Oliver.

Where to now? Installation is next week and we are keying in some training sessions. It is starting to feel exciting but the road is still a way off and not too clear just yet… Mary has some trepidations at present but the playing is about to begin!

Visions of fall

Visions of fall cc licensed and shared by Kaitlin M

 

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Transforming to a Library 2.0~Part 4

Last week, Mary called me and asked me to come in and have a look at the demonstration disc of Oliver Library Management System that Softlink forwarded to the school. The school is coming closer to making a decision and would like the final assessment of the three systems with a recommendation. They hope to make a decision by the end of term three.

On Tuesday 28th June, Mary and I sat in her office and went through the demonstration disc together. After having a good look at it and discussing the benefits, we determined that Oliver, while more expensive than Destiny and Access-it,  appeared to have the easiest interface to navigate and appeared the most user friendly.

Visually it is the least cluttered, has a very appealing visual search and seems very straightforward to follow and hence easy to utilise. The system needs to cater to Primary school based clientele; Of the three systems Oliver by far seems to be the best able to cater to a younger clientele. It is the only system of the three that has a junior interface with the development of Oliver Jnr. The other two do not have any separately developed interface therefore they are a one size fits all from K-12 and would require greater input from a school to customize.

We determined that ease of use is at the top of the criteria in making a decision. Of the three systems we have looked at Oliver appears to be the easiest to navigate and use. Destiny and Access-it are both great but require more technical know-how; similar to skills required in websites or blogs. Access-it is the least prescriptive in appearance and requires a greater amount of time to set up in appearance. Destiny has a standard appearance that may be utilised but appears quite fiddly. Access-it and Destiny are quite similar in functionality but seem to be geared towards older students. While Access-it and Destiny both have a visual search interface you can choose, it is not as easy or accessible as the visual interface of Oliver. Oliver‘s visual appeal is strongest with the least cluttered appearance and a greater ability to provide access to very young students, including Prep-2. This makes navigation very easy for children who are just learning to read.

The school does not have a teacher librarian and as a result, ease of use as a consideration is further strengthened. The system needs to be easy to use by all patrons including Casual relief teachers, parents, students and teaching staff. A system that is easy to navigate without needing too much direct instruction is necessary. Of the three Oliver fits this criteria the best. During a library session, a CRT can easily step in and provide assistance with a system like Oliver as the interface is quite self explanatory.

Cataloging~In terms of cataloging, Oliver seemed to provide the easiest process. As all programs are web based, they integrate well with SCIS and reduce steps to importing MARC records thereby reducing the overall process. However, Oliver from the demonstration CD seemed the easiest to follow. More follow up is needed with regards to spine label types and suppliers though.

With Destiny we noted that at the High School we visited they were still trying to work out functionality of the program six months after implementation. They received initial training sessions and were awaiting another training session. They have a teacher librarian who can coordinate this and drive the process. This brings us back to absence of a teacher librarian at the school. If a school does not have a teacher librarian, they need a system that will prove very easy to adapt to and Destiny and Access-it may be a bit more difficult than Oliver in this regard. Mary liked the look of Oliver and the ease of use it presented compared to the other two systems.

Of the three systems, Oliver appears to be the one that can be set up and be ready to go without needing too much customisation. The other two systems needed greater customisation and an understanding of web creation tools to enhance the system will be necessary. Unfortunately, the school is very limited in this capacity and unless there is a teacher librarian, as a dedicated person to drive this aspect, then the system will not be able to meet its full potential.

All three systems will provide the ability to be networked beyond the library walls and beyond the school walls. The library can be accessed from homes with passwords connecting with the relevant links and pathfinders, students should be able to come to websites that have been evaluated via the system. Oliver has the added benefit of a built in simple newsletter template that informs patrons of new books/websites, events such as book week or author focus and so forth ~ useful in promoting the library and learning links.

In terms of making a final assessment, we still need to visit a school that is utilising Oliver. We can then see it in action and be able to ask questions of the school about their evaluation. Mary and I plan to organise a visit early next term for this purpose. Stay tuned for Part 5 in transforming to a Library 2.0…

All in all, the absence of a teacher librarian is screaming out loud and it is clear that no matter how hard one tries, a school library cannot meet its potential without a teacher librarian. The school library will always remain under-utilised, not resourced effectively and with core learning such as information literacy missing or misunderstood. It is difficult to thrust a school library to the centre of all learning when there is an absence of a teacher librarian.

On that note a bit of advocacy for Teacher Librarians is more than warranted; especially in our current lean economic climate with regards to schooling in Victoria!

Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools~2011

http://schoollibraries2011.wikispaces.com/

Myschool Library ~ for parents

 

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UTS Library ~ Transformed but not yet visited

Last week I was in Sydney visiting the ABC studios in Ultimo. While there I had a window of opportunity and I thought I could visit the UTS library. I started my studies at UTS more than twenty years ago and I was very familiar with the old library. Hearing that this library had undergone a significant transformation made me more than curious. However, I only had 15 minutes available and I thought I could quickly swan in, have a quick browse and then be off on my way.

Alas, it was not to be as the library has a security entry; this is definitely a new development. We were informed by security that we could enter once we registered our details as we were not students and did not have id cards. Prohibitive barrier number one! If I had more time available I may have registered, walked in and had a good browse. Time being limited did not enable this so I just looked in from the foyer and yes the transformation is greater than you can imagine! Gone is the brown and dingy library enter 21st century!

I may need to make a point to myself in the future to put time aside to visit and have a good look, however, I can’t help but wonder why so much personal information needs to be gathered each time one enters a public space?

 

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