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Building off of my previous post on Google Maps used within library websites, here are a few libraries that have used Google Maps to point at more than just local branches.

The Registry of Open Access Repositories has created this worldwide map with pushpins to indicate the locations of Open Access Repositories worldwide.  Open access is the latest buzzword among many academic and research institutions, and ROAR’s homepage has listings of some 1,543 archives (as of Nov. 30, 2009) that have OA Repositories.  Their map is at heart a vast visual improvement for patrons.  ROAR’s main page simply provides listings of all 1,543 archives in alphabetical order, and while visitors can easily narrow down their search by country or search for a name, the initial listing can be overwhelming.  The map is an easy way to get a visual picture of what’s located near me, for example, or how many OA repositories are registered here from Iceland (answer: one.  Now you know!)

On the availability note, though… I find the actual map in the Google search interface is more than a bit hard (impossible?) to find.  Again from their homepage, at the top one can see links to the Google Earth Overlay, which is nice assuming one has installed that program.  (It’s free.  Go here if you want it.)  Inside the Other Formats link, you can see the link to (among other things) the Google Maps mashup format.  But if I click on that link, I’m still not taken to the actual Google Maps interface.  I get this map view instead:
It nicely color-codes the pins, and one can click on a pin for more information, as I’ve done in the screenshot above.  But one loses the interactiveness of the Google Maps interface (I still can’t find any direct link from ROAR’s page — thanks to Susie for alerting me of this link!)

Speaking of worldwide maps, here’s a map that Linfield Library (at a college of that name in Oregon) made showing all the libraries to which they InterLibrary-Loaned items in 2006-2007 – naturally concentrated in the U.S., but as far away as Australia and Hong Kong.  Interesting.  I must say, though, I’m a tad underwhelmed with this creation, both its availability and its usefulness.  First, it’s not very logical to find.  If one were looking for this ILL map from Linfield’s homepage, I would logically look under the InterLibrary Loan link which is available from their homepage – but it’s not there.  Instead, one must click three times through the About Linfield Libraries page to find it.  (I suppose About is a logical place for it too — but couldn’t they have put the map both places?)

More importantly, however, is it even very useful to visitors to Linfield’s website?  If you’re looking for the contact info for the University of Hong Kong (or perhaps directions to it? – sorry, no public transit available from Vancouver to Hong Kong), there’s got to be a better way.  I can see its function simply for fulfilling curiosity, and it is most definitely a way of raising awareness of the scope of what may be a lesser-known library service, but I can’t see myself using it for any sort of research purpose.  When considering the time and effort it took to make this one, there are uses for Google Maps that are probably more immediately visible and useful to patrons.

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!