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Check Out The Chelmsford Library on Google Maps

   July 31st, 2013

Update 8/8/13: I got a message from someone at Google who reminded me of an important competent of Indoor Map - it's really designed to work on phones. I've only been checking it online, where it hasn't changed since it went live. But he assured me that using Google Maps on a phone will use your location to place you on the correct floor. Nice. Not having a cell phone, I forget the fancy things they can do.

Update 7/31/13: I just learned something annoying about embeddeding Street View - Internet Explorer automatically jumps to wherever it is on the page. I found a hacky workaround for this, which I've implemented on our About Us page, and it seems to work okay. But hopefully, Google will fix this (it only happens with embedded Street Views in IE, not with regular Google Maps or with any other browser). I did not fix it on this page though, so IE users could see what I'm talking about.

Original Post:

This year, the Chelmsford Library has been involved with two Google mapping projects: Indoor Maps and Indoor Street View.

Indoor Maps
We did Indoor Maps first, which displays a floorplan of your building on Google Maps (instead of just the outline, like the buildings around us). It looks like this:

Google indoor map

This is neat because it lets people online see where things are in your building, at a glance. One catch, however, is that they're still trying to figure out how to handle more than one floor (like our building) - so in the meantime, they only show the ground floor.

The process was interesting: we contacted Google Maps and supplied them with labeled floor plans of each of our buildings (the whole thing was free, so we were able to do our branch too), and they sent a crew1 to take multiple GPS readings around the building to make sure the floor plan images matched up accurately with the map itself.

Pretty neat. But of course, when you say "indoor map" what people really think of is Indoor Street View, so we got approval from our Trustees to do that, too.

Indoor Street View
Since there was a cost associated, and a third-party photographer involved, this process was a little different. The first step was to contact "Google Trusted Photographers" in our area to see if anyone was interested, and what they would charge us. I sent requests to everyone within a reasonable distance, and mostly the quotes were in the $1000-$2000 range, with various discounts because we were a non-profit. We ended up going with CJL Photography of Manchester, NH, because his quote2 was one of the lowest, and he had worked with libraries before we liked his portfolio samples (the struckout link was a mistake on my part).

Now this is where the delays set in. I initially contacted the photographer in January, and had scheduled the photo shoot for February. Then we were hit with a series of snowstorms, which pushed things back. Then, we decided to wait until March because that month we had a really visual art display up in our meeting room. And of course, a few days before he came we got more snow, so he shot the entire inside of the building in March, and then came back in early July3 to do the outdoor shots.

The wait was worth it, I think, and the tour looks phenomenal:

View Larger Map

Photographing the inside took maybe two hours, and we chose to do it early on a Sunday morning when we were closed to the public, so as not to interfere with patrons. The photographer used a camera on a tripod to take a series shots from each "point" on the tour to create the 360 degree view, and then handled all the processing on the backend to color-correct, stitch everything together, and upload it to Google. All library staff had to do was make sure the building looked as nice as possible.

In addition to the tour itself, the photographer also created a Chelmsford Library Google+ page, which also features a series of still shots. The still shots are included in the package, and we're free to use them however we want - on our website, in printed materials, etc. I know this is an obvious statement, but holy smokes there is a world of difference between the library pictures I take with a point-and-shoot camera and what a professional photographer can do.

We're not sure what we'll do with the stills yet, but we've already started using the tour. Besides mentioning it on our Facebook page, we've put it on our About Us page, using it to highlight the mural in our Children's Room, and embedded views of our meeting rooms on our reservation page so people can see what the rooms look like before they book a room.

We're certainly not the first library to appear on Indoor Street View - ebookfriendly did a post in March listing others.

They all look great, and we expect this to be a useful tool for us. Not only as an online tour and historical record of the building, but we're hoping that by showcasing how nice our space is, some of our online-only patrons will be motivated to visit in person. But honestly, I've been pretty content just to click around and play, even when I'm sitting in the library. Being online almost makes it like a video game - now I just need a laser gun. Pew pew.


1. I'm sure they had a very precise method, but to us it looked like eight guys randomly wandering around the building for an hour, eyes glued to their smartphones.

2. After the photo shoot, the photographer told me that a business of our size would normally cost about $3000, but libraries would be discounted to around $1000. Our actual cost was a bit lower than that, because I think he underestimated the size of our building with his initial quote, but was good enough to honor it. Incidentally, he was great to work with overall, and I personally would recommend him to other libraries considering this.

3. Which is why you see snow if you look out a window, but see flowers if you walk out of any of the doors.

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7 Responses to “Check Out The Chelmsford Library on Google Maps”

  1. Beverley Says:

    Our library is on Google’s indoor street view, too. Given the size of our building an indoor map would be redundant. It was arranged through the local Chamber of Commerce and a lot of businesses were involved. The guys were great and clearly enjoyed their work. http://bit.ly/13vfhId

  2. Newman Library Idea Lab » Using Google for Floor Maps and Interior Street Views Says:

    […] using their Street View function to offer a virtual interior to your building. Brian Herzog has a great post today on his blog, Swiss Army Librarian, writing up what the process was like for his public library in working with […]

  3. Andrew Says:

    I’m so jealous of your indoor street view!
    We’ve also done the indoor map at my library. My understanding was that the guys were pretty much using the Roomba method (walk until you hit a wall, turn randomly, repeat) to cover all of our floor space while their phones pinged a GPS satellite over and over. They were all pretty happy to be doing a smaller building as their previous assignment had been Navy Pier in Chicago, which meant several days of wandering aimlessly.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Beverley: that’s great – especially since it was a community effort. You have a nice library (and an awesome main street), and it’s great you even captured a story time! But I’m curious: I just learned about this I bug (see update above) – have you encountered that too?

    @Andrew: thank you for answering that question. “Roomba method” is exactly what we witnessed, and it’s nice to hear that’s what was happening, too, rather than just some complex pattern we couldn’t figure out. Don’t give up on Street View though – contact some photographers in your area and see what kind of deal you can get

  5. Michael Says:

    Wow, that’s an amazing project. And not terribly expensive either. If only more libraries would be so proactive. Mine doesn’t even have a static floor plan available to the public or, for that matter, to the staff.

  6. Putting your library on the map | Maine Techsplorers Says:

    […] people know that there is an Indoor version of both Google Maps and Google Street View, however. In this article, the Chelmsford Public Library is one such place that has taken advantage of this service (the […]

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Michael: ironically, those paper floor plans are the thing we struggle to keep available too. We tend to move things around a lot, so we keep pushing back updating them “until after we move the [insert any collection here].” The online stuff will have the same problem, but we deliberately made them less detailed than our paper maps.