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Use Case Nearest physical collection

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Nearest Physical Collection


Gordon, Jodi

Background and Current Practice

A search for bibliographic resources in a union (aggregated) catalogue may identify a specific physical manifestation that is exemplified by multiple items held in more than one collection. It is useful to determine which of these collections is the nearest to a specified location, for convenience and to shorten the time taken to obtain access to one of the items. This is also the case for special collections (such as official publications) which the end-user may wish to browse, and for services (such as Internet access or wi-fi) which the end-user may wish to use.

Current practice in recording the locations of libraries and other information service organizations varies widely. Coverage may range from a full address and postcode (and other access information such as opening hours, membership arrangements, etc.) to just the city, town, or village. The information may be aggregated by a union catalogue service, or (more typically) be only available from the website of the library or its parent organization. There is no agreed navigation or webpage structure for such local information within any library sector in the United Kingdom, so it can be extremely difficult to find it. For example, public library webpages may be found under the broad navigation headings of Leisure, Education, Lifestyle, Community, etc., and under narrow headings such as Opening hours, Access, Branches, etc.


1. Alice has to spend a significant amount of time identifying the addresses of the libraries holding copies of the resource that she requires, locating them on a map along with her home or place of work, and working out which is the nearest.

2. The locations of libraries holding copies of the required resource are displayed on a map along with Alice's location. The map also displays shortest routes to each library, categorised by mode of transport, along with relevant transport data (such as location of bus stops). Alice can click on each location to find out opening hours, availability of services such as wi-fi, coffee shop, etc., and access to online services such as item reservation,using linked data gathered from union catalogues, local library services, transportation services, mapping services, etc.

Target Audience

The main audience includes scholars, the general public, and service providers including local councils and central government.

Use Case Scenario

Alice needs to consult a specific printed book in order to complete an assignment for her evening class, which is due in the next couple of days. Alice carries out a search for the book in an online catalogue which aggregates bibliographic metadata from several libraries. Alice finds and identifies the book in the catalogue, which indicates that copies of the book are held in more than one of the libraries' collections. The catalogue also indicates which of the copies are immediately available for consultation; that is, not on loan and in a library for which she has access or circulation privileges. Alice needs to identify which of these libraries is closest to her home or place of work, and has a copy available, so that she can visit it and consult its copy of the required book in time to complete her assignment.

Application of linked data for the given use case

The use case requires data from multiple, heterogeneous sources which can be manipulated to provide a rich but diverse set of services that can be customised by service providers and end-users.

Existing Work

The Scotland's Information service mashes collection-level description metadata held by the Scottish Collections Network (SCONE) service with the Google Maps service using the Google Maps API. Scotland's Information has recently added a Nearest library service which displays the locations of all of the public libraries in Scotland. An end-user can pan and zoom the map to any location and visually identify which public libraries are in the vicinity. The end-user can also enter a postcode, which pans the map to centre on the corresponding coordinates and zooms out to display the location of the nearest public library in the same viewport. The distance is computed as-the-crow-flies (straight line). This was developed following a request from the BBC, which is running a campaign to encourage older people to use the Internet and World-Wide Web. Most public library branches in Scotland provide access to at least one computer with an Internet connection, and support in the form of volunteer buddies, trained library personnel, and/or documentation and guidance. BBC operatives use the service to advise respondents where their nearest public library is located.

OCLC's WorldCat displays a list of libraries holding a specific manifestation in increasing order of distance from a postcode entered by an end-user. Each library can be separately located on Google Maps.

France's SuDoc+ adds geolocation to catalog search; the user can install it for Firefox and Chrome.

Related Vocabularies

Problems and Limitations

  • There is a lack of an agreed format, scope, or coverage for metadata for the locations (and other aspects) of library collections.
  • The scenario requires a supra-institutional framework for gathering, maintaining, storing, and supplying such metadata.
  • Maintaining currency of the metadata may be difficult, even though locations tend to remain the same. Associated metadata such as opening hours can very volatile.
  • There are multiple but distinct sources of map data and associated data such as transportation networks, road conditions, transit schedules, etc.

Related Use Cases and Unanticipated Uses

Related to:

Library Linked Data Dimensions / Topics




  • Users needs > Access / obtain
  • Context > Devices (all)
    • Context > Devices > Mobile phones
    • Context > Devices > Local desktops
    • Context > Devices > Remote desktops
    • Context > Devices > Netbooks
  • Communication (all)
    • Communication > Online access
    • Communication > Mobile - wireless
    • Communication > Mobile - cellular
    • Communication > F2F consultation
  • Systems > Library systems > MARC Catalogs
  • Systems > Library systems > ILL systems
  • Systems > Library systems > Management and administrative systems (e.g. hours, rights)
  • Systems > Non library information systems > Citation tools (to move materials from citations to accessible copies)
  • Systems > library and non-library system connections (for materials that are not available)
  • Information assets > Books
  • Information assets > Journal articles (print materials and online materials restricted to onsite use by this patron)
  • Information assets > Databases (e.g. for online access to specialized materials only available for onsite use by this patron)
  • Information assets > Multimedia materials
  • Information assets > Archival materials
  • Information lifecycle > to acquire or obtain access to the entity
  • Information lifecycle > interpret / analyze / synthesize > to reason about selected entities (needed)
  • Information lifecycle > interpret / analyze / synthesize > to contextualise the entities by connecting them with other entities (e.g. transportation networks, consortial agreements, etc.)
  • Information lifecycle > present / publish > to visualize entities and their relations
  • Information lifecycle > present / publish > to provide new data as LOD (e.g. hours and locations)