My (Library) Maps

April 21, 2007

Google Maps has an interesting new feature called “My Maps,” which lets anyone create a map with annotated placemarks, routes, and shapes. It’s not “new” in the sense that no one has done it before: sites like Community Walk and Quikmaps have been doing this for a while using Google’s API. But it’s new for Google to feature it within Google Maps itself.

There are lots of potential applications for libraries, both for librarian-created maps and for highlighting user-created maps. In fact, Google’s Librarian Central blog almost makes it sound as if this feature was created just for librarians. I’ve seen some buzz about My Maps in on library blogs, usually included in the ubiquitous lists of “Cool Web 2.0 features we just have to use in our library!!!!” I’d like to see more examples, though, of what libraries are actually doing with this and how useful it really is. Of course, that’s my big question about the Library 2.0 hype in general: is this stuff cool because it’s useful, or just cool because it’s cool? E.g., Twitter.

But I do like to play with cool stuff, and that’s probably the best way to figure out if it’s useful, so I made a map of the Seattle Public Library system. (I’m not sure why my link opens in Coffeyville, Kansas, and then switches to Seattle.) I like how dynamic the map is, and how easy it was to create. I also like how I can now get directions to any branch in the system from any address, and I can easily see which branch is the closest to any address in the city.

Adri did something similar for the Pioneer County Library System. I like how this map includes a direct link to search the catalog. Librarian Central points to an interesting map created with Google’s API by the Berkeley Anthropology Library, showing the location of dissertaion foci. I wonder if other libraries will use My Maps to create more maps like this? It would be great to see maps of information about local history, landmarks, restaurants, points of interest, etc., collected on a library’s web site, either created by librarians or users.

At this point, it doesn’t look like user-created maps are very easy to search, and there doesn’t appear to be a directory of them. But it will be interesting to see what happens with this.

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