In my role of ‘Keeper of the Keys to the Catalogue (once removed)’ for a public library service and ‘Man with Access to Official Twitter Account’, I thought it would be a good idea to promote some of our books around the Winter Olympics. This included trying to get a few more loans out of the curling books we bought after Team GB did so well some time ago.
I wanted to point our Twitter followers to a few handpicked books on our library catalogue, rather than a huge wodge of titles and I wanted to do it as simply and quickly as possible. However, as I tried to pull out a few relevant skiing books I knew it wasn’t going to work using any of the search methods available, despite working out different combinations of words.
In the end I realised I was trying to make the search methods work for me, when the catalogue records should be doing the work instead. As a cataloguer/classifier I’d always been taught that cataloguing/classification should be consistent. The sacred laws of UKMARC should be obeyed. I can’t complain with this as a general principle, but in some cases if you want to achieve something different, you need to do something different to make it work. As long as it doesn’t affect the end user, as far as I’m concerned it’s fine to do it. In fact, in this case, it was for the benefit of the end user that I decided to take a different angle with this.
I decided to hashtag the catalogue entries I thought would be of interest. I know cataloguers and classifiers commonly tag records anyway, but the difference in this case was that I only tagged a handful of records, rather than tagging the entire stock with these new hashtags. Using the hashtag format would indicate that these tags had a unique purpose. It’s the same idea as giving a Twitter message a hashtag only if it’s related to a particular event ( eg ‘#van2010‘ for the Winter Olympics). You don’t need to tag all of your Twitter messages and, in the same way, you don’t always need to tag all of the records on your catalogue.
I suppose it’s like partial/filtered indexing, where you limit the results to a subset of items, based on rules you define, rather than retrieving the full set of records. If I’d just searched for ‘skiing’ for example it would have given me 208 records. I didn’t want our users to have to trawl through all of these records. Using my method I limited the results to a single page of 7 items. Anyone searching the catalogue could still retrieve the 208 skiing records if they wanted to, but my tags pointed our Twitter followers to this limited set, as a sort of mini promotion. In fact, as I only tagged about 35 titles out of the thousands of titles on our catalogue you could say it was almost micro-indexing.
I basically pre-weighted the catalogue records so that they give me exactly what I wanted. If it was an Olympic event it might call for a stewards enquiry for knobbling the competitors!
The tags didn’t need to make any sense to anyone, as they’d just be used to query the online catalogue. They just needed to be unique, so the more obscure the tag the better – I didn’t want any unrelated items in the search results. In the end I created tags such as ‘#woski10‘ (skiing), ‘#woiho10‘ (ice-hockey), ‘#wotd10‘ (Torvill and Dean). There were about seven hashtags in the end.
After running each hashtag search, they were saved as bit.ly links (bit.ly shortens long url’s). The links were added to appropriate Twitter messages, which were scheduled to run at various times over the Winter Olympic period.
I’ll be checking the items a few weeks after the Olympics are over to see if this has increased their use.
I’m also wondering if I could have made extra use of these hashtags via a Yahoo pipe mashup, but I’ve no firm ideas at the moment about what would be useful. Maybe a link between books and related Team GB/ Winter Olympic web pages, Flickr photos, Youtube videos would have been a good idea.