Session 7 – Annotating and Organizing “My Shelves”

Now that you have items on your Shelves, let’s start organizing them. (Shelves have a tendency to get big quickly. Many users on the system now have thousands of items on their Shelves!)

BiblioCommons provides users with a variety of tools for keeping their Shelves organized. One of the most useful of these is facets, which can be used to create virtual “sub-collections” or views — on the basis of either catalogue metadata or a user’s own “tags”. (We’ll discuss this shortly.)

7.1 Viewing Sub-Collections Within My Shelves

Task: Use existing bibliographic metadata to view your sub-collections.

  • Go to My Shelves>Completed.
  • Use facets to create a view of all items on your Completed Shelf written by a particular author or on a particular topic.

7.2 Organizing My Shelves With Your Very Own Metadata!

BiblioCommons also provides users with tools to add their own (structured) metadata. The simplest example of this is the BiblioCommons star rating system.

Star ratings allow users to easily organize their Shelves on the basis of how much they enjoyed items. Since rated items are automatically added to My Shelves>Completed users can even use star ratings as a way of keeping track of items they own, or have borrowed.

Task: Rate items in My Shelves>Completed.

  • Go to My Shelves>Completed. You should have a couple of dozen titles on your shelves by now!
  • Work your way down the page, adding ratings to all the titles.
  • Just so you’re comfortable doing it – once you’ve added a rating to an item, hover over it, and remove the rating. Add it again if you’d like.

7.3 caTAGorizing Your Shelves

We’ve already hinted at this in previous sessions, but now we’re going to delve into BiblioCommons’ tagging functionality in more detail.

Tags have been in use on the Web for many years now, not only on e-commerce sites but also on social file-sharing sites, like Flickr, and social book marking sites, like Delicious. Tags are a form of free form cataloguing. They consist of short, descriptive words or phrases, added to an item record by a user. Once added, tags are associated with the item as a searchable field. If, for example, a user tags a book with the word “happy,” a tag search for “happy” would then retrieve that book. BiblioCommons allows tags to be added to every item in a library’s OPAC.

Tags are useful for personal purposes, since they allow the tagger to quickly and efficiently organize his or her Shelves. Tagged items automatically and immediately become part of the tagger’s Shelves (if they aren’t already), and the tags themselves appear as facets within the Shelves (after re-indexing has occurred overnight).

But tags provided for personal purposes are also very helpful to the broader community of users — since they allow searchers to find materials by keywords that might not be captured in an item’s formal subject classification. A librarian would never, for instance, classify a book or a movie as “happy” or “sad.”

BiblioCommons prompts users for four different categories of tags when they click the Add Tags button on an item’s bibliographic record: Genre, Tone, Theme, and Personal.

Let’s start tagging.

Task: Add a variety of tags to a favorite book or movie.

Note: Remember to separate tags with commas if you add more than one to any of the categories below. Multiple words without commas to separate them will be interpreted by BiblioCommons as a single tag word.

  • Search for a favorite book or movie. Click through to the bibliographic record page.
  • Find the Add Tags button.
  • Add tags for a couple of the four types allowed for:

Genre: Try to think up a new genre descriptor for the item that wouldn’t ordinarily be captured by subject classification. Is it a chick flick? Sci-fi? An epic? A screwball comedy?

Tone: Is it upbeat? Downbeat? Weird? Funny?

Theme: Think of this as you would a topic heading. What is the item about? Where is it situated? Who does it feature?

Personal: These are tags that only you will see.

Tips For Creating Useful Tags

Task:  Tag your Completed Shelf with an adjective.

  • Pick a favorite adjective. Examples might be Awesome; Funny; Nostalgic; Sexy; Hilarious; Sad; Happy – the choices are unending and not prescribed by the Library of Congress or Sears lists of Subject Headings. Now apply this one tag as the Tone to as many items as appropriate.


Task:  Tag your Completed Shelf by Genre and Theme.

  • Now pick a favorite idiosyncratic genre (or topic) tag for a subject you have a number of titles on your Completed Shelf, but where you feel the library’s subject headings may not be entirely user-friendly.
  • Repeat with a theme tag: all the books or movies that you’ve read or watched that take place or are situated in London, Paris, Venice, Tokyo, Japan…

7.4 Organizing your Shelves: Filtering by Facets to Create/View Sub-Collections

Now that we’ve done some tagging, let’s take a look at some ways of using tags to make searching My Shelves a little easier. We can use these tags to view our sub-collections just as we did with existing bibliographic metadata earlier.  As tags are indexed overnight, you may have to wait until tomorrow to complete the next task (unless you already tagged items).

Task:  View your adjective tag (from the last task) sub-collection.

Take a look at some of the facets associated with your Completed Shelf.  Note that the tag(s) you added are now among them (assuming you’ve waited long enough for them to be indexed—overnight).

  • Now click a Tone tag (Say, “Funny”, if you’ve used it).
  • Then select a format – say Books.
  • Now you have a view of your shelves that is limited to my funny books. You can share these sub-collections with others by emailing this URL …or sharing, as we’ll discuss in Session 11.

Go Further: Mark items you own within My Shelves

Some users like to differentiate between titles on their Shelves they’ve borrowed and titles they personally own. You can use the I own this item checkbox to create a view of your shelves that only contains titles you personally own, only IF you have added this data to titles in your shelf of course!

  • Go to My Shelves>Completed.
  • Find titles you currently own.
  • Check I own this item.

Hint: The I own this item check box can be found under Add Details.

Once you’ve marked a title with I own this title you can use the check box at the top of the left hand column in My Shelves>Completed to view only those items you own.

Note: The application takes about ten minutes to index this information, so you might want to come back and try this a little later on.

Go Further: Enriching existing subject tags.

Take a look at the subject headings below for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. What about this work isn’t captured by the subject headings? What tags could be added that would enhance searchability? For example for Genre you could add “Coming of Age” or “Blockbuster Reads” or“Good v. Evil”. For Tone you might add “Dark” or “Scary” or“Gripping”.

Subject Headings:

  • Potter, Harry (Fictitious Character) — Juvenile Fiction
  • Potter, Harry (Fictitious Character) — Fiction
  • Witches — Juvenile Fiction
  • Witches — Fiction
  • Schools — Juvenile Fiction
  • Schools — Fiction
  • Wizards — Juvenile Fiction
  • Wizards — Fiction
  • England — Juvenile Fiction

Task: Add Some Tags

  •  Choose a favorite title you’d like to add tags to.
  • Click Add Tags to the title you selected. Now try thinking of some ways you might use tags to enhance this record.

Note: BiblioCommons auto-suggests tags as you type based on tags that you have previously added to your Shelves AND tags that other users have added to that particular title.