London Libraries Lookup

I’ve been working on a small project to make public library lookups a little bit easier. I still have lots to do, but I’m slowly putting the various parts together.

The idea is to make it easy to:

  • find libraries in London (for now) and the rest of the UK (later)
  • find books in these libraries without dealing with difficult interfaces

Finding Libraries

I’ve started putting together a database of London libraries and their coordinates. You can see locations of almost 400 London libraries on

You can also find libraries nearest to you by entering your postcode at the end of the URL — it can be the first part (outward code), but using a full postcode will give you more accurate results. E.g. 0QL will show you the libraries closest to the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith.

I still need to work on the interface. It’s using Google Maps at the moment, but I might consider alternatives. You won’t see much information about the libraries at the moment, but I’m going to include the full address and website address of each library.

Finding Books

The plan is to use existing book sites as the Web interface for book searches. I’m working on a Greasemonkey script that will, when complete, run on a number of book sites and the librarylookup website mentioned above. On the librarylookup website, the user selects his/her favourite/nearest libraries and the Greasemonkey script records it. Those preferences will then be used when browsing Amazon to query the library’s (or libraries) online catalog for the book being viewed. You will then be notified if the book is available/unavailable.

Library Lookup Web Service

So far I’ve written code that can check Hammersmith and Fulham, Bromley and Norfolk libraries. I plan on implementing the lookup process in Javascript (to lessen the load on the server) when the project is ready, but for the time being the Greasemonkey script sends its request to a PHP script that returns JSON formatted results:

Supported libraries:
ISBN lookup:
ISBN lookup:

The code also uses the xISBN Web service when a library has no record of the requested ISBN. The xISBN service returns ISBNs associated with different editions of the same book, so if a library doesn’t have the exact one we’re looking at on Amazon, we’ll still be told if there are other editions that it does have.

Screencast: The Script in Action

[SWF]/wp-content/images/2007-lib-demo.swf, 543, 443[/SWF]


These sites/articles helped a lot:

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One Comment

  1. Wow, excellent video demonstrating the script.
    This is a really cool app, have you put it on digg ?
    Overall. . very impressed !