InfoWorld has an article looking at if tagging entitled ‘Corporate librarian replaced by Web app’ and announces the death of the top-down taxonomy. Obviously the title is misleading and ignores the fact that generally speaking Librarians love tagging and see it as a good thing. What I want in my job is for my user base to be able to find information as quickly and as accurately as possible – if self tagging accomplishes that – why would that bother me?
Speaking to fellow Corporate Librarians the problem is actually not with the Librarians and convincing them of the benefits of bottom up, wisdom of crowds tagging, it is – more often that not – with the users/customers. Speaking from the law firm setting, most lawyers trust their librarian/information officer/psl to correctly assign/categorise something into a nice rigid legal topic taxonomy more than they would their fellow lawyers (especially junior ones) being allowed to free-for-all on all their knowledge. I think they’re wrong but persuading them of this is a slow process.
The fear in corporate environments would probably also be that there would be a handful of power taggers whose views would the be creating and shaping the taxonomy.
The way I look at things is that a taxonomy should be a live, growing thing anyway – using things such as tagging help to identify what the most used terms and synonyms are for things and can help guarantee that your ‘official taxonomy’ is always up-to-date and reflects actual use and understanding.