Social bookmarking is beneficial to the LIS field in that it provides a new paradigm for the organization of information and that it provides valuable insight into how people who are not LIS professionals categorize information and resources.
While the joy and strength of the web is that it is a dense thicket of information, growing and changing rapidly, the sheer volume of dynamic resources creates a problem for human professional catalogers. While it may be possible in the future for this process to be automated (if the Semantic web project bears fruit), current attempts at cataloging the web are be limited both by the size of the task and the expense of paying those professional catalogers. Social bookmarking provides a way to harness the web’s strength by using the users/creators to create a map.
LIS professionals design organizational tools for users. In order to create more usable tools, looking at how those users (who are not LIS professionals) organize information on their own is a valuable model. It is good for LIS professionals to see a new organizational method- one that is informal, easy to use, and addresses the nature of digital information. For my 202 class we read Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger, which discusses some of the implications of a new order of order. Whereas books can only exist in one particular space on the shelf, electronic resources may be classified into multiple places. Social bookmarking and its associated tool tagging, are methods of organization born of this premise. Although catalogers use things like “see also” references and faceted classification to help accommodate the fact that sometimes resources belong in more than one place simultaneously, social bookmarking by design identifies and harnesses the multiplicity of the digital order. Digital information requires a new way of looking at things, and social bookmarking challenges LIS professionals to use our expertise to come up with systems that work for the user. It also provides insight into how non-professionals categorize things, which gives us a great deal of informal data to use in shaping our methods.
For librarians in particular, it also opens up communication with patrons. Viewing the bookmarks of a community provides a look at what a community is interested in. If patrons in your community are bookmarking hotels and tagging sites “vacation,” perhaps it is a good time to pull out a display of travel books. Or to create and tag the library’s own list of vacation resources, which users can access from the web at their convenience. Social bookmarking is another way of discovering and addressing the needs of patrons.