You Can See What Toronto Library Patrons Are Searching For In Real Time
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You Can See What Toronto Library Patrons Are Searching For In Real Time

No no no, don't check that out. Read this instead.


A perennially popular news article looks at what library items patrons would like to see banned and why. It provides a moment where we can scratch our heads as to why Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s book Hop on Pop promotes violence against fathers, and sigh when works with legitimate artistic merit are brought into question.

With the Toronto Public Library’s push to provide more open data, now we have the opposite of the banned books story available at all times, as anyone can see what library patrons are searching for in real time.

Screenshot of the Library website.

Screenshot of the Library website.

Using the Google Analytics API, the Toronto Public Library has created a real-time visualization of what its many patrons are looking for. In the time that the Torontoist voyeuristically checked out the searches, there were definitely fellow Torontonians who entered searches like “how to learn,” “lifetime imprisonment,” “how men have sex,” and “Batman V. Superman DVD”. (That last person is a particularly lost soul, and we should feel sorry for him or her.)

In the short term, the searches are fun to check out, and provide a modern day version of all those weird questions that were once more of an occupational hazard of being a librarian. They also show a 100-branch library system that continues to be particularly well-used and relevant. If the open data can better highlight how and why we use the system so that it better reflects the needs of Torontonians, then that’s all the better.

In the meantime, Torontoist‘s advice is to forego the Batman V. Superman DVD. We’ve got your back on this.

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