or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 4/1

   April 8th, 2007 Brian Herzog

A patron walks up to the desk...

patron: can you give me a list of all the radio stations in the area, what their numbers are, and what kind of music they play?

At first this sounded like a tall order, but then I realized that it really shouldn't be. My first thought was that, if anyone, the FCC should keep track of some kind of list like that. So I tried their website, and their search feature, but saw nothing obvious. The search returns were so bogged down with regulations, filings and rulings that I couldn't find anything useful.

While searching here, as a stall tactic, I asked the patron if he has seen a list like this. He said he had one, that was published in the newspaper a few years ago, but it was all out of date.

So, I switched to the general internet. I thought that if I didn't find something quickly, then I could try out newspaper databases.

I searched for "radio station listing" on Google, and the first result was Radio-locator.

I'd never heard of it before, and can't speak to its authority, but it seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. It lists itself as "formerly the MIT List of Radio Stations on the Internet," with over 10,000 radio station websites. So apparently this only includes radio stations with websites, but it was a good start.

It allows a zip code search (as well as other search options), and provides a nice listing of the station, the call letters, the frequency, signal strength, city, and even format. The patron was very happy with this, so I printed it for him and he went away.

A couple other notes about this website:

  • Another element of each record is a link to the station's online feed, if it exists
  • Oddly, the page would not let me (in Firefox) highlight and copy just the radio station listings. When I went to print, it took up two pages because of all the ads and formatting. I wanted to copy out just the station information and paste it into Word so I could print just one page, but it didn't see to want to allow this.
  • The search included functioning AM and FM stations. There was also a link to find unused frequencies - that isn't particularly useful to me, but I find it interesting.

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