Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto - OCS, 15th INTERNATIONAL ISKO CONFERENCE

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Louise F. Spiteri

Last modified: 2018-02-20


Social tags can add value to library discovery systems by (a) enhancing controlled vocabularies; (b) providing de facto subject access to items in the catalogue to which few, or no, subject headings have been assigned; (c) adding user expertise to the description of content; and (d) enhancing readers' advisory services (McFadden & Venker Weidenbenner, 2010; Mendes, Quinonez-Skinner & Skaggs, 2009; Spiteri & Pecoskie, 2016; Spiteri & Tarulli, 2012; Tarulli & Spiteri, 2012. Through an examination of relevant literature and three case studies, this paper explores the potential contributions of another form of user content, hashtags, to library discovery systems.

Chang and Iyer (2012) suggested that linking library resources to popular or topical hashtags can add value to information discovery. Users interested in learning more about a topic via a hashtag could find library materials of which they were previously unaware, rather than be directed to only Internet-based resources. In this way, hashtags serve to not only expand the scope and depth of information available to searchers, but also to promote library resources and services. Sharma (2013), and Romero, Meeder, and Kleinberg (2011) discussed the concepts of the stickiness and persistence of hashtags. Stickiness refers to the level of diffusion of a hashtag, that is, how many people will use the hashtag; the higher the stickiness, the greater the diffusion of information. Persistence refers to for how long and widely a hashtag will continue to be used. Hashtags that are sticky and persistent could result in greater long-term exposure to library resources. A number of studies have examined the use of Twitter in scholarly communication, and how tweets can extend this communication well beyond the scholarly community (Ferguson et al., 2014; Parsons et al., 2014; Shiffman, 2012; Winkless, 2013; You, 2014). Providing official conference hashtags in library discovery systems can serve as an important way to link various-conference related activities in one place. Bruns and Moe (2014) discussed the concept of hashtagged exchanges in Twitter as a macro level of communication: Hashtags serve to connect different users to the same topic. Sharma (2013) posited that hashtags operate as inline metadata, and enable users to intensify their engagement by organizing content and facilitating participation in conversations. Hashtags could create macro levels of communication via the library discovery system, connecting users both within and outside a particular library community to a shared topic of interest.


Three case studies were conducted to examine the possible contributions of hashtags to library discovery systems. Three hashtags were chosen that met the criteria of popularity, stickiness, and persistence:

  • #canpoli, refers to discussions about the Canadian federal government

  • #asist2016, refers to the 2016 conference of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST)

  • #solareclipse2017, refers to a very specific event that garnered a great deal of coverage around the world.

For each hashtag, an initial search was conducted in Google to examine the scope of coverage in various social media services that use hashtags, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. For each concept represented by the hashtags, a search was conducted in two public, and one academic, library discovery systems: Edmonton Public Library (#canpoli); WorldCat (#asist2016); and Ottawa Public Library (#solareclipse2017). The concepts expressed by the hashtags were searched via the most-closely corresponding Library of Congress Subject Heading:

  • #canpoli: Canada-politics and government

  • #asist2016: Association for Information Science and Technology

  • #solareclipse2017: Solar eclipses



The search results for #canpoli include the opinions of members of the public about certain Members of Parliament (MPs), the Prime Minister, or specific federal government actions. A very interesting result was the site Politwitter (http://politwitter.ca), which provides a site page for #canpoli that links you to sources about Canadian politics in different sites: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, News, Blogs, and Hansard. The Library of Congress (LC) heading search retrieved 350 items in the Edmonton Public Library, most which pertained to works about Canadian politics, satire, memoirs, and biographies. The addition of the #canpoli hashtag, and particularly linked that to the Politwitter site, would be a valuable addition to any library discovery system, as it provides a portal for all Twitter-related discussions related to federal and provincial governments.


The search results for #asist2016 provided a historical archive of the conference and to many of the discussions and themes that occurred. Further, the @ feature in Twitter provided direct links to the researchers associated with the conference presentations. The LC heading search retrieved 56 items in WorldCat that pertain to various ASIST publications. The conference hashtag would be a very useful addition to WorldCat, as it would provide a snapshot of the various conference activities, links to scholars who presented, and reactions to the presentations.


The search results for #solareclipes2017 provided links to many photographs of the eclipse taken around the world, as well as links to livestreams of the eclipse from organizations such as NASA. The LC heading search retrieved 11 results in the Ottawa Public Library; even of the items pertain to non-fiction works about social eclipses, while three items pertain to works of fiction that involve solar eclipses. The #socialeclipse2017 hashtag provides a snapshot of a very specific event and could make a valuable addition to library discovery systems as an important archival tool to document the 2017 solar eclipse.


Hashtags can link library discovery systems to information resources in a variety of social media services, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. Through the hashtags in the library metadata record, users can expand the scope of their searches to include items that are related to library resources, such as videos, images, streamed events, and so forth. More rigourous and detailed studies need to be conducted to explore more clearly how hashtags would function in a library discovery system, and whether the benefits do, in fact, outweigh the detractions. Many library discovery systems have incorporated a number of user-driven social features, such as ratings, reviews, and tags. In an expanding linked data environment, and considering their growing popularity and scope, hashtags in library discovery systems are a new frontier worthy of exploring.


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Chang, H., & Iyer, H. (2012). Trends in Twitter hashtag applications: Design features for value-added dimensions to future library catalogues. Library Trends, 1, 248-258.

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