Comparison of LCSH, Instagram usertags, and GoodReads usertags

For this present learning journal, I would like to explore the differences and similarities in the LCSH, Instagram user-driven tags, and GoodReads user-driven tags. Similar comparative research has been done previously using other social media platforms. Rafferty (2018) has written a thorough and informative survey of the literature. The texts that I will select will be the shortlisted National Book Prize nominees. I initially want to do this for the fiction, nonfiction, translated literature, poetry, and young adult shortlists, but the timing of such a project does not work with my current schedule. Instead, I will be looking at the young adult shortlist as there is a strong presence of young adult readers on social media. Admittedly, these texts may not have as many tags as titles released before 2019, but I am hoping that the prize attention had more folks adding them to their shelves/to-be-read pile. Through this exploration, I hope to have a better grasp of LCSH, how professional indexers choose LCSH, and how that differs from users. I will be pulling the LCSH from my local libraries catalog, and then I will be comparing it to the top 30 non-personal (Hedden, 2016) tags on GoodReads. I selected the number 30 because this is what DeZelar-Tiedman (2011) used when comparing LCSH and LibraryThing. For Instagram, it will be somewhat more complicated as Instagram does not allow users to see the entirety of tags associated with a given hashtag. I think that for Instagram, due to time constraints, I will compare the tags related to the top ten posts.

The shortlist for the National Book Prize, Young Adult Fiction Portion

Immediately, I am aware that, even with just five texts, this may be more time consuming than I had anticipated. The number of redundancies in the GoodReads tags are far higher than I had expected, even after reading Gross’s (2015) paper. The distinction between a YA text and a middle-grade text seems lost on a lot of readers; some also include ya-mg as a tag. How does one know which tags to consider, and which to exclude?

I disregarded tags that had to do with format (audiobook, kindle, ebook, hardback, etc.). I also excluded multiple date-related tags, tags related to the appearance of the book, marketing-related tags, and tags that relate to the reader’s love of books. Oddly, for Look Both Ways, the tag middle-grade was tagged 50 times, whereas young adult was tagged 20 times.

Photos of top ten post tagged Awaeke Emezi that include photos of Pet

When I began looking at Instagram, the trends that I saw in the top 10 tags used on posts with Akwaeke Emezi’s Pet were not related to the book. Rather, they were related to the book community on Instagram, to book aesthetics, and to marketing pushes from the publisher. While it is arguable that the marketing post applicable, I chose not to look at them as they are less user-driven than publisher driven. There was also quite a bit of misinformation in regards to Emezi’s gender identity. Emezi is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. In certain tags, Emezi’s labeled as a black woman writer, and that is not their identity. Part of the trouble with Instagram is that it is part of a vast ecosystem, and there is no way to distinguish between posts related to a given book and posts that are related to other subjects that might use the #Pet subheading. If you search #AkwaekeEmezi, you are notified that there are 1,294 posts with this tag, but there is no way to differentiate being her different books and other posts featuring Emezi.

The GoodReads tags are more accurate. This accuracy may be the result of a higher number of users utilizing those tags, and in a way, verifying them.

When looking at the GoodReads and Instagram tags and comparing them to the LCSH, you can tell that the information conveyed by the LCSH has minimal overlap with the GoodReads/Instagram terms. The only overlap is young adult fiction and transgender people. The GoodReads/Instagram terms aren’t as specific as the LCSHs.

Look Both Ways top ten Instagram posts

I then took a look at the top ten #JasonReynolds Instagram posts that featured Look Both Ways. For one reason or another, the tags on these posted had more usable and consistent tags. There was less publishing marketing taglines on these posts as well.

The LCSHs in my library catalog for Look Both Ways isn’t as thorough as some of the other entries. It should be considered that the book isn’t available in any of the neighboring library systems, and has just been put on order in the capital’s library. Even considering this, the LCSHs are more detailed than the usertags. The most utilized tags were the ones who were put in the forfront, which is just replicating what is already happening in society.

The readings paired with this “experiment” has made me lean more towards an intermediary option. I don’t think that user tags should be discounted because I’m still hopeful that there is a way that tags could be used to broaden the existing discourses, but there needs to be some type of guidelines to make the information usable and findable.


DeZelar-Tiedman, C. (2011). Exploring user-contributed metadata’s potential to enhance access to literary works. Library Resources and Technical Services, 55 (4), 221-233. Retrieved from

Emezi, A. (2019). Pet (First ed.). New York: Make Me a World.

Hedden, H. (2016). Chapter 1. What are taxonomies? The Accidental Taxonomist. 2nd ed. Medford, NJ: Information Today, 16-32. Retrieved from

Juliano, L., & Srinivasan, R. (2012). Tagging it: Considering how ontologies limit the reading of identity. International Journal of Cultural Studies15(6), 615–627. Retrieved from

Nesset, V. (2018). Indexing databases for our users, not ourselves. The Indexer 36(3): 105-109. Retrieved from

Rafferty, P. (2018). Tagging. Knowledge Organization 45(6): 500-516. 

Reynolds, J., Nabaum, A., & Reynolds, J. (2019). Look both ways : A tale told in ten blocks (First ed.). New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.