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One of the most common library mashups I’ve found so far has been linking library addresses/locations to Google Maps.

Most obviously, I like this (and use maps like this all the time, on library and other websites) because it improves on just an address listing on a library’s webpage or verbal directions from somebody in the corner mart.  Coming from a middling-sized Midwestern town, I know how directions are often given: “We’re real easy to find – three blocks off Main and across the street from the elementary” – but if I’m new to your town, I may not know where Main is, much less know if the elementary is north, south, east, or west of it.  Heck, if I’m in a city the size of Vancouver, I could live here for years and still not know where Kerr Street is – good for you, Vancouver Public Library, for embedding the maps right there on your Branch Information page!  The link to Branch Information and Hours, which leads to links to each branch, is right near the top of VPL’s homepage, so I think finding it should be no problem either.

Other libraries, like the Cambridge (ON) Public Library, link to a Google map in a separate window.  (Again, this is pretty find-able too, two clicks off the main page via About the Library link — logical place to look for it.)  Their new-window map has the benefit of being bigger and perhaps easier to read, especially for low-vision patrons, on smaller laptops, or on those miniscule iPhone screens.  My hunch is that it is also easier for people (especially new Internet users) to recognize that they can manipulate the map, since it looks more like the traditional Google Map and people may not recognize that the smaller embedded map in VPL’s page is still interactive.

Eh, what’s that?  Interactive? …Why, certainly: As with using Google Maps directly, a viewer can always input a second address and get directions (walking, driving, or public transit) from point A to point B.  Even if someone had not used Google Maps specifically before, these capabilities are pretty common on other map pages like Yahoo! Maps and MapQuest; and for the complete newbie, there are pretty self-evident labels saying “Get directions: To here or From here” and “Zoom here.”

I’m no website expert, but judging by how common Google maps are on various library websites, it seems that it has to be one of the easiest external tools to add on to a library’s website.

We can’t wow ’em with our services or our stunning collection if they can’t find us, right?  Here’s to libraries making themselves findable!