Libraries: New Opportunities in Local Information

The Web allows us to easily access information from virtually any part of the world—except our own local neighborhoods. Google and its competitors are trying to become more local because that’s where there is a large demand for information, and the world behaves differently on a local level than a global one. For example, on its Advanced Search page for News, there is a box to specify local search parameters. And if you look at Google Labs, there is an option for a geographical display of search results on maps. Even in searches for global information, one can find local results and even local maps, when appropriate. Clearly, the era of local searching has arrived, and the search engines are moving in response to that demand.
 
Charles Lyons noted that the true potential of the local web lies in its social characteristics. The most important local information players are users—us. So the local web is social—it’s user-generated, participatory, amateur, civic, at a grassroots level. It’s really citizen journalism, and it offers opportunities for libraries to tap into what people know and design services around that. Has info about neighborhoods, communities, blocks, streets, buildings. Local info can be more important to people than national or intl info.   It’s about joining the real world and virtual world—linking online data w/specific locations. It brings a sense of place to the internet.
 
Here are some things that libraries can do in this area using Web 2.0 tools (most of them free):
  • Get insight into what people are looking for by looking at popular searches listed on Google Maps.
  • Create custom local search engines
  • Identify local blogs, link to them, and add them to a local search engine
  • Do their own local blogging and help define the community.
    Aggregate local data and provide a repository for local photographs.

 

Most people live their everyday lives within a radius of 20 miles of their residence. Libraries are uniquely positioned to serve their needs.
Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2008 Blog  Coordinator

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