I’d like to talk about a tagging project we just launched at my workplace. MTagger is a social bookmarking tool that we’ve integrated into several University of Michigan library resources. A tag cloud now appears:
- On almost all library web pages
- On item pages in Mirlyn, our library catalog
- On image display pages in our digital image collections
- On most of the electronic journals published by the library’s Scholarly Publishing Office
Like del.icio.us and many other social bookmarking tools available on the Internet, MTagger allows users to bookmark and tag web pages using language that makes sense to them. Anyone can see tag clouds on pages and search MTagger; only users with valid U-M network logins can apply tags. (Individuals can, of course, opt out of sharing their tags with others if they choose.)
Unlike these other tools, MTagger offers the concept of “Collections” — letting users restrict their searches for similarly tagged items to a specific collection (library catalog records, images, web pages, etc.). While tags themselves would allow people to serendipitously find items in other collections, the “Collections” metaphor will, we expect, help drive home that the library offers more than books, electronic journals, and databases.
More important than the tagging functionality itself is what MTagger will allow our faculty, staff, and students to do. MTagger brings a social component to research that we have not previously had. It will allow users to share knowledge about library resources with each other, to enable quick-and-dirty subject guides to be produced, and — we hope — to bring researchers together via their individual tag clouds. As research moves online, chance meetings in the stacks of researchers with overlapping interests become even more rare. Through tagging, we hope to be able to recreate some of those synergistic interactions as one researcher finds a tag of interest, and through that, the other researcher.
Oh, and just to keep this in the realm of libraries and RSS, anything that can be searched within MTagger can be accessed via an RSS feed.