Looking for a Library on Google Local

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Back in July, I wrote about a patent application from Google that may have described how Google attempts to find the web pages that should be shown with local search results, Authority Documents for Google’s Local Search.

One of the places that a local search service might look for business information about an enterprise online is through business directories. A number of white papers on local search and geographic location information note that some organizations and places might not list themselves in those types of directories, because there is often a fee associated with many of the better ones.

I would guess that Libraries would be amongst that group with little incentive to hunt down directories, and pay to be included within them, yet also believe that there are many web sites that might list and link to libraries for free.

One of the great things about a local search is that you can not only find a location and other information about an organization through them, but also that they will provide a web address, so that you can visit their web site and learn even more. How well does that work? I decided to look up a number of libraries to see if the web site listed in the information about those libraries was the web site for the actual library.

To find library information, I did a search on organic Google results, to find a link to the local results for libraries in different locations. I then checked the top five from that location to see if the web site associated with the location was for that library.

Search: New York Library

Top five results and the web site that appears associated with them:

1. Pierpont Morgan Librarybl.uk (The British Library)

2. New York Public Library for the Performing Art – nypl.org (New York Public Library)

3. New York Public Library: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture – nypl.org (New York Public Library)

4. Ottendorfer Library – nypl.org (New York Public Library)

5. New York University: Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences – nyu.edu (New York University)

Not bad results. The top result is really bad with its link to the British Library, but the rest are close to right. The middle three libraries are branches of the New York Public Library, and while they have individual pages on the New York Library web site, at least Local brought us to where we could find them. I’d like to think that local could do better and bring us to the specific pages for each of those libraries, but that might be difficult sometimes. For example, the NYU page for the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences (http://nyu.edu/pages/cimslibrary/) is presently giving me a 404 error message.

Search San Francisco Library

1. San Francisco Public Library – lib.ca.us (San Francisco Public Library)

2. University of California San Francisco UCSF-A Health Sciences CA: Collection Development – universityofcalifornia.edu

3. Public Library of Science – plos.org (Public Library of Science)

4. University of California San Francisco UCSF-A Health Sciences CA: Business Office – universityofcalifornia.edu

5. University of California San FRCSF-A Hlth SCNCS CA: General Information – universityofcalifornia.edu

No big surprises here, and they are mostly right, though Local displays “lib.ca.us” for the top result, which if you cut and past into a browser window returns a dead page. Clicking on the link does bring you to “sfpl.lib.ca.us” though. And the University Library links bring you to the homepage of the University rather than specific pages for each of the places specified in the links.

Search Cincinnati Library

1. Public Library of Cincinnati loc.gov (The Library of Congress)

2. Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County: History & Genealogy – loc.gov (The Library of Congress)

3. Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County: Science & Technology – No web address

4. Ivorydale Technical Center Lib – no web address

5. Kapp Memorial Library (no longer available) – no web address

Cincinnati Libraries didn’t fare as well as those in New York and San Francisco. The first three listed probably should have linked to the web site for the Cincinnati Public Library. I’m not sure why the first two show a link to the US Library of Congress. A search in Google’s organic results only show the Ivorydale library in listings from sites like CitySearch. The Kapp Library became part of the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute in 1981, so I don’t question the lack of a web address as much as I do its inclusion in the list of libraries.

Search Newark Delaware

1. University of Delaware – virginia.edu (University of Virginia)

2. Newark Free Library – publiclibraries.com (Publiclibraries.com)

3. International Reading Association – reading.org

4. Stanton Campus Library – no web site

5. New Castle County Government Center: Answer Line Reference Service – new-castle.de.us (New Castle County Government)

This is where things started to get really ugly.

I would have been fine with a link to the University of Delaware homepage for the top result in lieu of a link to the University of Delaware Library homepage. But a link to the University of Virgnia?

The second result, listing the local community library, and pointing to publiclibraries.com makes me wonder if most small local libraries without web sites of their own end up with a link to a page like that. Is it considered an authority site for many small libraries?

The International Reading Association has plenty to do with books, but it isn’t a library. The link is right, but why is it included here?

For the Stanton Campus Library, if I click on the link for “more information,” they correctly show Delaware Technical & Community College at the top of a list of links. Why not show it in the result that appears when I click on the map pointer? Why show no web address at all there?

The fifth result doesn’t sound like a library, by any means. But it does contain some information about county libraries.


I’ll probably look at some more libraries to get a better sense of what is going on with Google Local Search and libraries, but it appears that the smaller the city, the less relevant the results may become. Many libraries don’t have a web site associated with them, and if they have a web page on a site, the link displayed may go to the front page of that site. But some or the results are mystifying, like the link to the University of Virginia for the University of Delaware result.

If you run a Library, I believe that you can submit information about your library to the Google Local Business Center even though it isn’t a “business.” That may help information about your library show up correctly in Google Local listings.

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11 thoughts on “Looking for a Library on Google Local”

  1. Pingback: ebyblog » Blog Archive » Libraries in Google Local and Novelty Addresses
  2. Hi Stephen,

    I don’t think that the results were adjusted based upon my location.

    I do think that they are using, or trying to use a number of the recent patent applications published on Google Local, including this one on trying to identify an “authority” web site to go with the location of a business.

    Google does use a mix of information from telecoms, business directories, and information extracted from web sites to learn about locations and addresses. They do seem to do a good job of getting a lot of that information correct. The ebyblog link above makes an excellent point about libraries associated with Universities, and how their mail is often routed internally through a University mailing system, so that they don’t often list their actual street addresses.

    Mike also makes some excellent points in his post linked to above from “Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local.” Sometimes it helps to find local libraries by including a state identifier. And the better the web site that has been developed for a library, the more likely Google Local gets the right URL to go with a location.

    That’s probably true for a lot of sites, but I still see exceptions, like the University of Delaware one above, which points to the University of Virginia site.

    I’m rooting for Google to make this type of information accessible. While it can get locations correct for a lot of organizations, it’s often is really helpful to visit the organization’s site, so that you can get information like “hours open,” whether or not there’s parking available, and whether or not there are any special programs or activities happening at the library.

    The University of Delaware has some great special exhibitions from time to time – right now, they have a tremendous one called From Verne to Vonnegut – A Century of Science Fiction, which includes authors’ draft copies of a number of works, with the authors’ notes in margins.

    I chose to look at libraries for this post because they don’t often market their web sites aggressively like many businesses do, but there are tools like verification of address information in the Google Local Business Center. One thing that might put them off from using that is the inclusion of the word “Business” in its title.

    Thanks, EliteGamer. Hopefully they will get better. Most of the librarians I know are pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the web. I think it would be great, if their libraries have web sites, that Google Local would make it easier to find those sites. Even if they don’t have sites for their libraries, using the Google Local Business Center could enable them to provide more information to searchers than just the information taken from the phone company.

  3. I agree to the above poster the listings for local libraries dissapointed me with googles ability of it.

  4. Bill,

    Do you think any of these results were adjusted because of your location (based upon your IP)?

    If not, do you think that Google Local could be planning to use this (based upon their previous patent applications)?


  5. It helps if you manually put yourself in other local directories that Google is in favor of e.g. yelp or insiderpages.com. You’ll notice that people who give you feedback also helps now e.g. enrique did a great job repairing my pc. That would give you a great rank for “pc repair” in the houston area. I hope this helps you 🙂

  6. Hi Enrique,

    I wasn’t really asking for help, but rather pointing out some of the limitations of Google’s local directory.

    In this particular instance, looking for information about libraries, there are a few things that potentially keep them from ranking well. One is that people rarely review things like libraries, even though it would be great if they did. Another is that organizations like libraries rarely have people working for them who think to do things like make sure that their organization is listed in things like Google Maps, or Yelp, or many other local directories. A third is that libraries associated with schools often don’t make their street address public, and most of the mail to them goes through interdepartment mail.

  7. Bill you are right, but googles mission is to aggregate information from all over the world and dump it into its search engine so there has to be some public information database that houses all public library addresses. Thats where google will probably have to redefine there system of collecting data for organizations such as librarys. There has to be a database out there somewhere for it, the key here is finding it…

  8. Hi Enrique,

    I think it would be a good idea if Google went out and actively collected information such as the locations of government offices, libraries, post offices, fire stations, etc., but they don’t seem to do that.

    I really haven’t seen some kind of public information database that houses all public library addresses. Maybe in a few years, people will get smarter about collecting and publishing that kind of information, but I don’t think that we are there yet.

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