CIL2008: Going Local in the Library

CIL2008: Going Local in the Library, Charles Lyon (SUNY Buffalo)

What is local web

The web viewed through a lens of where you are. Not just spatial, but lots of other information you need. Which stores are open now? Which are in good neighborhoods? Which can handle my particular needs? Doing local information is hard; it’s very individualized.
Google does this better than anyone. Search results are customized to where you are. But don’t include the really useful information a true local could give you.
Google spends a lot of effort on this — so libraries should do, too. Google is the bellwether.
So what is the local web? Some pieces:

  1. local search engine
  2. maps
  3. local media
  4. local photos/data/video/blogs
  5. local social networks
  6. local people –this is the most important part.

The local web is social. It’s user-generated, participatory, amateur, civic, grassroots, citizen’s journalism. It’s by and from the community it serves.
It’s localized — about neighborhoods, communities, blocks, streets, buildings. Not just geographical areas, but about “imagined communities” — people who seem themselves as part of a small unit.
Local web is joining the real world and the virtual world. Interconnection between the two. It brings the placeless infosphere — the cloud — down to wherever you are. It reverses the “antisocialization” that was feared in the early days of the Internet.
Local web brings a sense of place to the Internet. It’s becoming big business — lots of companies competing in this space.

What do libraries bring to local web

Information, local information (events, community directories, guides to local events and communities.
What can libraries do that extends this?
Everyday life is still local. The internet is getting more local. Web 2.0 has many local applications. Libraries are community-focuses institutions. Libraries have experience with local information… There is an opportunity for libraries to become even more local-focused in the web environment.
Strategies: become expert users of local resources. Raise awareness and assist the community in using online local resources. Broaden the scope of local data collection. Become active participants in community-focused resources. And create locally-focused content.

Examples of local 2.0

Local search: Enhance their own listings in local search engines; advertise (no cost!) in the local search engine. Create your own search engine — that only searches the sites you specify. Libraries can build a search tool that only includes the stuff that you feel is relevant to your clientele.
Local blogs: placeblogs, metroblogs, neighblogs. Create a local blog directory. And once you’ve found them, add them to your local search engine. And libraries can blog themselves — not about the library, per se, but about the community it serves. Whether broadly or narrowly focused, you can take advantage of library’s knowledge (or librarian’s knowledge).
Local News: News refocused on local geography — the news that happens close to you. They’re blog-like: people can comment on news articles, set up profiles, learn about neighbors.
Locally-focused online communities (Skokie Talk, Wikis focused on local area, open to contribution by community.
Local data: and (San Francisco, Chicago, NYC only). News for your neighborhood at block level. Building permits, restaurant inspections, graffiti, all sorts of things that are important to the neighborhood. Much of this is already available — but not aggregated by address. Everyblock is grant-funded and will open-source their code at the conclusion of the project.
Local Photos: Geotagging is geographic metadata to online information. As simple as a zip code, as complex as latitude-longitude. Geotagging makes it easy to find things. Flickr is leading drive for this in photos. Libraries can aggregate local photos.
Maps: It’s easy to create a custom map.

Why libraries are primed for local?

Local is cheap. Using free services. Guidespot, ineighbors. Local sites generally don’t generate revenue — they’re labors of love. Perfect for libraries. Also, it’s not too late — there’s no winner in the local web. There are lots of kinds of local data that aren’t web accessible yet. Much of local data is not easily automated; still requires people to determine relevance to the locale. Helps build good will.
This can be applicable to academic libraries, too — local as the campus, not just the community.