Librarians know about a company called OCLC because most libraries of any size are members. You may not know much about OCLC, but I hope you know about its major service for the general public, WorldCat. If you don’t, you can look at my post about WorldCat from a couple of years ago.
Search engines depend on keywords. Sometimes it’s necessary to try a number of keywords before the search engines will return anything like what you’re looking for.
Library catalogs offer more sophisticated search options based on controlled vocabulary.
Geographic place names can offer special difficulties in searching. A system Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) takes Library of Congress Subject Headings and presents them in a more machine-friendly way to search for them. A mashup of FAST with Google Maps makes mapFAST
OCLC has just announced mapFAST mobile, which works on Android phones. You can get an idea of how it works here.
Back in 2011, when I first wrote about WorldCat, there were about 27,000 member libraries in 170 countries. The number of libraries has probably grown. The number of catalog records certainly has. There are now records for more than 850,000,000 bibliographic units.
Sorry about having to use jargon like “bibliographic units,” but what other term can I use to encompass books, magazines, newspapers, printed music, manuscripts, pamphlets, sound recordings, video recordings, films, software, microfilms, various electronic resources, a wide variety of three-dimensional objects, and whatever else a library might have in its collection?
Anyway, when you find a location on mapFAST mobile and click on Search WorldCat, you get a list of materials about that place. Through the Google Maps part of the mashup, WorldCat knows where you are and will show you the nearest library that holds whatever it is you want to look at.
Photo taken from the OCLC press release cited above.Google+