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GPS to find a book: why not?

January 9, 2009
Image by dave77459

Image by dave77459

Someone needs to do this:

Create a GPS system that will help you find a book on the shelves in the library.  My Twitter friend @timnovinger, a web developer in Fort Wayne, asked me via Twitter if we could provide directions to the book on the shelf in addition to the shelf status.  Why not?  I found an interesting article in The Consumerist yesterday about finding your way through the mall via GPS.  I have to say that I sure as heck could have used this while Christmas shopping for my stepdaughter (though no piece of technology can erase the horrific memory of the smell of Abercrombie).

Other ideas suggested in the article were using GPS to find your car in a parking garage.  Brilliant!

There are a couple of considerations here: librarians like to walk people to the shelves, because a) we’re generally social and like doing that if we have the time and b) we have a secret agenda to squeeze another reference question or two out of patrons while looking for books on the shelf.  We go to graduate school to learn this technique; it’s called a reference interview, and this is where the magic happens.  When librarians are walking someone back to the shelf where their book is located, we generally chit-chat about what the person is looking for, and often we find out that what a patron asked for in the first five seconds of the encounter is not exactly what they want.  As a patron becomes more comfortable in the conversation with the librarian, they begin to explain why they want it, what exactly they want, and how they are going to use it.  The librarian, in turn, asks questions to figure out what kind of information the patron needs so she can find exactly the right book for the patron.  Sometimes, when we reach the shelf, we’ll see books on related topics and the patron will want to check them out, too.  And then they find more, and more, and then they think of something else they want to look for.  These moments of discovery and wonder, experienced in front of a shelf full of books, are truly magical and enormously fun. Imagine the satisfaction of being able to walk away with as many books as you want, free of charge.  This is why people love libraries and books and always will!  (We also understand, though, the desire of many people to work independently.  See yesterday’s post.)

The other consideration for using GPS in libraries is that if it requires RFID, there is a hefty price tag.  RFID is an awesome tool for checking out items and, as Tim suggests, helping patrons to locate them, but it’s very expensive.  ACPL has suffered a 1.5 million-dollar budget cut due to property tax reform, so it doesn’t look like we will be able to use an expensive, albeit useful technology like RFID anytime soon.

So we couldn’t RFID and pin down the location of every book, but there still might be a way to provide some kind of GPS in libraries.  In the meantime, please, ask one of our library staff to help you.  We like it. 🙂

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Becca (beccalovesbooks) permalink
    January 10, 2009 12:19 am

    I would think that you would have to create points for each book…or each genre. If you go by genre, it wouldn’t take too long to add these points of interest on the gps…then just save them to the device under the genre name.

    Maybe that’s a “too time consuming” way of doing it…and a program would be awesome! I’m no programmer, but where there’s a will there’s a way!

  2. Melissa permalink*
    January 12, 2009 8:11 am

    I would think you could just tag certain areas of the library–like you said, genres, or Dewey areas….

  3. April 1, 2009 12:38 pm

    I think this is an excellent idea – GPS should be used for more than just driving!

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