Classification is a major tool in the organisation of a school library. It needs to be assumed that it will be maintained and kept current and that its editors will respond to the changing needs of collections and to changes in technology (Broughton, 2004).
In saying this, I strongly agree with Shirky (2005) in that popular classification schemes, such as Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and Library of Congress Classification (LCC) have become outdated and irrelevant to the youth of today due to technological advances in the electronic world. Google, for example, has no shelf and no file system. Because of this, Shirky (2005) believes categorisation now requires ‘mind reading’ and ‘fortune telling’, in that it forces categorisers to guess what their users are thinking, and to make predictions about the future.
In an online world, the only globally unique identification (ID) for anything to point to is the uniform resource locator (URL) (Shirky, 2005). It is now becoming popular for users to tag URL’s, in ways that make them more valuable, all without requiring hierarchical organisation schemes like DDC or LCC. Tagging is the words or phrases users attach to a link that assist them in grouping related URL’s together. Unlike DDC, there are no fixed sets of categories. By forgoing formal classification schemes, tags enable a huge amount of user-produced organisational value at vanishingly small cost (Shirky, 2005). Systems employing free form tagging that are encouraging users to organise information in their own ways are supremely responsive to users needs and vocabularies, and involve users of information actively in organisational systems (Mathes, 2004).
I agree with Shirky (2005) and Mathes (2004) in that an explosion in free form labeling of links, followed by all sorts of ways of grabbing value from those labels, is what is happening now. Take Del.ici.ous or Flickr for example. You can keep track of URL’s or images for yourself, you can share globally and others can view what you’re doing, and that is only the beginning. We are moving away from binary categorisation and into this probabilistic world (Shirky, 2005). It’s all about the users, not the system.
I am hoping to employ a tagging system in my primary school library in the near future.
Broughton, Vanda, (2004). Managing Classification. In Vanda Broughton. Essential classification, (pp.284 – 293). New York: Schuman.
Mathes, A. (2004). Folksonomies – cooperative classification and communication through shared metadata. Retrieved from http://www.adammathes.com/academic/computer-mediated-communication/folksonomies.html
Shirky, C. (2005). Ontology is overrated: categories, links and tags. Retrieved from http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html