“It's not a system that would impress a librarian, but…. “
Schofield asserts that folksonomies, as used by sites such as Flickr for sharing photos or del.icio.us for web links, would not “impress a librarian”. But “they are also important because this is probably the only viable way of tagging billions of items on the net. No one is going to hire millions of trained librarians to do the job”.
It’s not that librarians haven’t tried. In 1998 OCLC launched the CORC project turning its vast cataloguing expertise to “taming the Web” with the prospect of a catalogue of Web content on the scale of OCLC’s huge bibliographic database, the WorldCat. “Both full USMARC cataloguing and an enhanced Dublin Core metadata mode will be used” it was announced. More modestly at Talis we have Talis List, a web based reading list system that allows academics and/or librarians to “harvest” (in a manner not unlike delicious) and categorise web sites very simply and add them to a course “resource list” for students.
It’s not just “tagging” technology that is challenging librarians. As regular readers of this blog will know, Talis has been engaged in a project around RSS technology that has now expanded to include Open Search. Coincidentally OpenSearch was also featured at the Emerging Technology conference by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Richard Wallis has discussed our take on RSS and OpenSearch in more detail including his Talis Prism (library catalogue) OpenSearch proof of concept.
So coming back to the first point, librarians may not be impressed with what seem to be simplistic approaches to cataloguing, classification or search. We know the problems are complex. The point though is that we can see our comfortable, complex, feature rich but domain specific technologies and standards like MARC, Z39.50 etc being challenged from outside the domain by companies with a bigger problem to solve: --Web 2.0. That’s why, at Talis, we take them seriously and get involved.