University of Pennsylvania: Tagging

In the July 2009 issue of The Journal Of Academic Librarianship, Xu, Chu and Ouyang note that tagging is among the least used web 2.0 application in academic libraries, despite the fact that it is one of the most popular web 2.0 application among library users.   While I looked through various academic library websites, I certainly found this to be the case.  All of the university library websites I have visited while conducting my (admittedly somewhat limited) research contain an instant messaging application. Most sites also have Facebook and Twitter, but I was only able to locate a few university libraries that had some kind of tagging application. In this entry, I will be discussing the University of Pennsylvania’s social bookmarking application.

The University of Pennsylvania’s own social bookmarking system uses the Penntags bookmarklet.  I was unable to use this feature because I am not a student at the university, but the Penntags instructions page provides information on how the bookmarklet works.  With the bookmarklet, a user can tag a website or online library resources and that tag is then shared with the Penntags site.  On the Penntags site itself, a user can search through resources tagged by other users.

I found the Penntags page very difficult to find.  I initially discovered that the University of Pennsylvania’s library had a tagging feature by reading Nichole Ackerman’s course webpage on social bookmarking in academic libraries.  If I had not already known about the tagging feature before entering the University of Pennsylvania library’s website, I likely would never have found it on the homepage.  Initially, I used the library website’s search bar to locate the Penntags site.  I then found that the site could also be accessed through the “Browser Tools Support” link on the bottom right of the page.  I believe that Penntags would certainly be improved if it was easier to find, but it may be that University of Pennsylvania students are made aware of this application through other means.

I was unable to use the Penntags bookmarklet because I am not a student of the university, but the instructions page makes it seem that the bookmarklet is a pretty easy tool to use.  The Penntags site itself  is quite intuitive and easy to use.  Items can be searched by tags in the search bar.  Collections of materials can also be viewed by project, which is a collection of bookmarks for a user’s specific project, or by user.

Librarians at the University of Pennsylvania have effectively integrated the Penntags tool with other services they offer.  As Nicole Engard notes in her blog post on Penntags, reference librarians at the University of Pennsylvania use Penntags to create on-demand resource guides by creating a project, adding links to it, and sending the url to the user.  Penntags also grants users the ability to add tags and annotations to the library catalogue as can be seen in this record.

I think that Penntags is an enormously useful tool for students conducting research.  Viewing resources by project enables users to see a list of resources all related to a similar topic in one place.  I think it would be a great starting place for research and one that I would use often if I were a patron of the University of Pennsylvania’s library.  Another useful feature of Penntags are the annotations that can be added to each resource.  These annotations would be very useful when selecting resources.

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