Google Maps & Map It In Law Libraries

For large, expansive law libraries with hundreds of thousands of print volumes, it is easy for any library goer to get lost looking for a book.

As the Georgetown blog noted, "[t]his is an all-too familiar scenario for Georgetown Law students who have gone hunting for books in remote corners of [the] two library locations. The library has over half a million print volumes spread out over 100,000 feet of shelves across seven floors and two buildings. Locating a book by its call number can be a challenge for even the most dedicated library dweller."

Georgetown is utilizing a new service called Map It that links the catalog to a map of the law library. The map will pinpoint the exact location of a book.

Google is also starting an indoor mapping project. "In November 2011, Google Maps released an indoor navigation tool as part of its Google Maps for Android smartphone and tablet applications. Google has partnered with many airports, casinos, convention centers, hotels, hospitals, landmarks, libraries, religious centers, restaurants, large retailers, museums, sports venues, transit stations, and universities throughout the world."

It's a great service for libraries as "Google Maps can guide a library visitor with point-by-point navigation on his smartphone or tablet who wants, for example, to get from the library’s main entrance to a certain reference desk, computer lab, reading or study area, restroom, or even a labeled bookshelf."

Computers in Libraries has an article outlining St. Petersburg College's implementation of Google Maps in its buildings.

In a nutshell:
  • Get the proper approval
  • Use the PDF, JPG, PNG, BMP, and GIF file of a building’s floor plan can and align over existing Google Map satellite imagery
  • "Submit for Processing" and wait for confirmation
  • Google visits and collects "walks"
  • Customize level of map detail
  • Work out kinks
  • Promote new service
This is a wonderful service for large libraries with minimal staff. 


  1. I'm the Electronic Resources Librarian at Georgetown Law. Thanks for noticing our work on the Map It service! It was inspired by a similar project at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab.

    Here are a few details about how it works, for anyone who's interested.

    First we consolidated the various spreadsheets that were used to keep track of which call numbers were on which shelves throughout our library. We used this info to build a SQL database. Next, we drew and labeled all the shelves on our existing floor maps. The label assigned to each shelf corresponded to an ID for the shelf in the database. Then we developed code to parse call numbers, look up the matching shelf in the database, and plot it on a map.

    The online maps are in SVG format, which is pretty well supported in current browsers. This means they scale nicely, and we can also write client-side code to allow users to interact directly with objects on the maps.

    I'm guessing you could use something like our call number database and parser to plot specific book locations on indoor Google Maps. Coordinates could be stored in the DB and used to plant a flag on the map.

    1. Thanks for the additional information, Matt. It's helpful to understand the process. You're doing great things at Georgetown!

    2. Thank you very much for sharing the information Matt.
      I just want to know that the map which is shown when clicking on "Map it", is a Google indoor map or a manually created map? Because I am thinking of submitting my floor plan for a project to Google but couldn't decide whether to go for it or not.
      Thanks in advance.


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