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Opening up our data - after all, distributing information is what we do

December 3, 2008 | Dara Renton | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

Come In, We're Open Sign The Toronto Public Library is working to open up its data for people to use. After all, distributing information is what we do. By enabling Torontonians to access and use the information that the library has, including its branch location information, program and event information and the content within our library catalogue, we truly embody the mandate of a public library.

What this means is anyone with the skills and inclination could list, display or integrate linkable TPL data into their website. 

Some useful examples might be a community group who wants to show the nearest libraries or upcoming library programs in their neighbourhoods on their website, a special interest group would be able to list relevant linkable content within our collections or an individual would be able to easily blog about a TPL item, event, service or branch.

So in that light, as a first step we have made it easier for people to take branch location information and map it for their own needs.

Use our stuff on your own site

If you're building a website about your community or local business, or just hacking around and want to show nearby Toronto Public Library branch locations in Google maps, you can use this data just like we did on our hours and locations page.

You can take the geocoding the library has used for our Google maps and use it on your site.

 Link to Toronto Public Library's branch Google maps data.

There is a really good tutorial, some handy Google documentation and a developer forum if you're looking to get started with Google maps.

This is our first "API"  and there is much more to come.  In addition to this, our blogs already enable content syndication through RSS.

We are working to open up other sources like our library catalogue and our programs and events listings. As we move forward, we are looking at ways make our site more modular and easier to integrate using mashups, semantic-markup, microformats, embeddable widgets, APIs, and further content syndication.

Book Cover for RESTful Web Services

(Warning, unapologetic Library service plug follows)

If you fully understood this post and found it relevant to your interests or profession, you'll be happy to know that you can get *every* O'Reilly book online through the library with your library card. Either search the library catalogue for the title or interest of your choice, or go straight to Safari Books Online by typing torontopubliclibrary.ca/safari. It's free with your library card.

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