Tagging and Favoriting

Since February 2008, the University Library has offered a service called "MTagger" as a way to allow site visitors to save resources for future use. (I wrote about the service several months after launch in an article titled "MTagger Update.") MTagger was patterned after Delicious, the popular social bookmarking site. The idea was that visitors to the library web site could save individual books, web pages, images from our digital library, and so forth for future use. People would "tag," or add their own descriptive keywords, to the items they saved. These tags would then be shown on the item, allowing future visitors to explore other resources.

MTagger Tag Cloud

Sample MTagger tag cloud

In addition to public "tagging" of items, we also used MTagger as the storehouse for items "favorited" in the library catalog. A favorite is distinct from a tagged item in that favorites are personal and private, accessible only to the individual who saved them. For example, if I had "tagged" the catalog record for a particular book, my tag would have appeared for all users in the tag cloud. Anyone could have clicked it, seen what else might have been identically tagged (by me or by others), explored other items that I had tagged, or other tags that I had used. By contrast, an item that I marked as a favorite was available only to me. Using MTagger was an inherently public act; using favorites is inherently private.

Usage patterns over the four years that MTagger was part of our web site show a clear preference for "favoriting" items rather than tagging them. Of the total number of MTagger users and items, items saved through the catalog's favorites mechanism are the overwhelming majority (the "favorites" function in the catalog is new, existing for the most recent 2 1/2 years of MTagger's existence). MTagger's usage stats can be summarized as follows:

Use of MTagger & Favorites

Measure Total Number
MTagger & Favorites
Created through Favorites Percentage
From Favorites
Distinct users 8,300 > 7,000 > 75%
Items tagged 88,000 > 72,000 > 80%
Tags used 9,300 N/A N/A

Moving Toward Favorites

In fall 2011, the library launched "Search Tools Favorites", a way for authenticated library web site users to save databases and online journals (from Search Tools, our database and journal finder) and article citations (from ArticlesPlus, our SummonTM-powered article discovery tool). From its launch on November 2, 2011, through March 29, 2012, 549 library visitors have added a total of 4682 favorites (3097 article citations, 1012 databases, and 573 journals).

We are also in the process of migrating Mirlyn Favorites into the new Favorites system (they still are being saved as tags behind the scenes). Here, 305 users have favorited 3031 catalog items.

Our current Favorites tool is "siloed" -- that is, users who have marked items as a favorite can see them in separate lists in Search Tools, one each for articles, databases, and journals. Users who want to see their Mirlyn favorites must go to Mirlyn to see them. During the summer, we will be launching a new integrated favorites interface that will allow people to see all their favorites in one place and to organize them into categories -- so that books, articles, and databases for a single project can be listed together. We are still working on this interface and related programming. User studies for the interface will take place in the coming month, and we expect to launch the new integrated favorites interface in the first part of the summer.

Retiring MTagger

We are in the process of retiring MTagger. We have removed the MTagger tag cloud from the catalog and DLPS image collections. At some point in May, after Commencement, we will remove the tag cloud from the footer of pages on the library web site, as well. Where we can, we will migrate any items saved with MTagger (items from the catalog, databases, or journals) into favorites.

If you have questions, please use the Web Systems Feedback Form to reach us.


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