By Ashley Krenelka Chase
November 26, 2013
In parts one and two of “Put Your Library on the Map,” I discussed the details of uploading our library’s floor plans into Google Maps Floor Plans and the waiting that went along with it. After nearly a year of waiting, wishing, hoping, and waiting some more, the floor plans are up and running. While the wait was frustrating and some surrender was required throughout the process, the floor plans can be considered nothing but a success.
In the weeks prior to the AALL Annual Conference in Seattle, I was a jumble of nerves; I was doing a poster session on my floor plans, but they had yet to be live on Google Maps. I was resigned to the fact that I would be attending the conference without being able to show the actual technology involved with the maps. Luckily, the week before the conference (and the day my poster arrived from the printer) I was able to pull up the Google Maps app and, lo and behold, my floor plans were live. I was ecstatic. The blue, GPS-enabled dot showed me in my office, and I knew I was in business.
There was literally nothing involved on the library’s end in putting the maps online after the Google team came and walked the library. After my poster session at AALL and a “Steal this Idea” session at Mississippi State University Libraries eResource & Emerging Technologies Summit, I set about editing points of interest in my library using a hashtag that I was given by Google. This hashtag allows me to click on my maps, “report a problem,” and inform Google of what needs to be changed; the hashtag lets Google know that it’s somebody official from the institution that created the maps who is requesting the change, and I was told that the process would be relatively quick. When I had questions, though, there was no one to help me. Unfortunately, the person with whom I was working at Google has gone off the grid—phone disconnected, email invalid, completely unreachable—and the new person to whom I was referred was no help, either, failing to return phone calls or emails. I surrendered to the fact that I would have to continue to be patient and figure it out on my own.
Luckily, the semester was about to start, and I was excited to share our floor plans with the incoming class. We made handouts for orientation, and, when the students toured the library, I mentioned the floor plans and how they worked. I was careful to emphasize that with GPS enabled the students can use their smart phones or tablets to find things in the collection 24/7, even when there are no librarians in the building. They seemed excited, but we see them at the end of a long, overwhelming day, so I knew additional marketing of our new “toy” was needed.
As soon as orientation ended, I emailed our legal research and writing faculty to let them know about the floor plans and offered to meet with them to show them how the maps worked and to come into their classes to talk to the students one more time. Five of our 10 research and writing professors took me up on my offer. I went into research labs, regular classroom sessions, and office hours and spent time showing the floor plans to the faculty, students, and their teaching assistants. They were all able to see how the little blue dot would follow them around the library and show them exactly what was in front of them, from study aids to statutes, and I felt that the usefulness of the floor plans was finally apparent.
My feelings were confirmed when I heard from our communications office; they had gathered an informal focus group of new 1Ls to ask them how their first few weeks were going and to see what they were excited about. They all mentioned the floor plans! I received calls thanking me for what we’d done and letting me know that the students were really connecting with the service.
While the process was a little frustrating from beginning to “end” and the lack of contact with Google is slightly off-putting, I consider this project to be a huge success. What Robert Brammer and I began more than a year ago has turned into a truly useful tool for our students, faculty, staff, and even the public patrons we see daily. Using technology to connect patrons with our print collection in this way has, I believe, helped to increase the use of the collection and to get people moving around the library, exploring everything we have to offer. Sharing this journey with library colleagues from all over the country has been icing on the cake, and I hope that we and others can continue to use this free technology to successfully market our libraries and connect with our patrons.
Ashley Krenelka Chase (email@example.com), Library Administrator for Reference and Emerging Technologies, Stetson University College of Law’s Dolly and Homer Hand Law Library, Gulfport, Florida