Welcome to iHCPL: The Next Generation. This site was created as the next step in Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies. The original iHCPL program was adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Maps #34: Geocoding and Geocaching

Part 1 What is Geocoding?

Geocoding is the process that assigns a latitude-longitude coordinate to an address. Mapquest has a good page explaining how they geocode addresses at:


(You will use geocoding when we move to Part 2, Geocaching)

Step 1:
Go to http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/geocode and type in an address to any public location.

Choose Google as the primary source instead of Yahoo, and then click Geocode it. We want to use public locations and not personal locations such as homes for this assignment since we will be posting the coordinates to your blog.

Here is the output we got when we entered the Barbara Bush Library's address into the geocoder.

At the bottom of the results, look at the coordinates listed. This is the GPS Coordinates to this address. The top number is in Decimal Degrees (DegDec) and the bottom number is in Degrees and Minutes (MinDec).

Step 2:
Copy either the top or the bottom coordinates. You can do this by highlighting the entire row including the commas, right clicking on the highlighted row and choosing Copy.

Go to http://maps.google.com/ in your browser window. Right Click in the search field and choose Paste.

Click the Search Maps button. Switch to Satellite View using the button at the top right corner of the map and then use the zoom tool on the left hand side of the map to view your location.

Part 2 What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world.

View the video below to get a glimpse of what geocaching is all about.

Read about the history of geocaching on http://www.geocaching.com/about/history.aspx

Step 1. Find a Geocache

Log into Geocaching.com by going to http://www.geocaching.com/login/

You can create your own account to log in or use hcpl for the username and password.

After logged in, click on the Hide and Seek Cache button on the left side menu. Once on the Seek Cache page, put your zip code into the Search By Zip Code field.

You will go to a page that lists all the geocaches in your area. Click on the description link of one of these items.

Step 2. Learn about the Geocache

This page will list more details about the particular geocache you clicked on. Notice that the geocode coordinates are listed in Degrees and Minutes (MinDec).

Scroll down to see what the person who hid the geocache wrote about the location and the geocache itself. Scroll even further down to see the cache logs from people who have found this geocache.

Step 3. Find the Cache

To see where this geocache is located, go back up to the top of the page and click on the View Map link below the Send to Phone Button.

Click on the Satellite button on the top right corner of the map and then use the zoom tool on the left side of the map to view your location closer.

This will get you close to where the geocache is. It could be hundreds of feet away, and that's where your GPS receiver will come in handy if you actually want to go searching for this geocache.

Discovery Exercise:

1. On your blog, tell us the name of the location you chose to find and list the GPS coordinates for that location.

2. Find a geocache that you would be interested in finding. Copy and paste the url of the geocache into your blog like this:

Copy the GPS Coordinates onto your blog.

3. Write about your thoughts on geocaching. You can write about anything. Some suggestions are whether this is something you would like to do for fun, or what potential dangers you might want to be aware of.

HCPL Staff:
Have you completed all four posts in this module? Then Submit your Registration of Completion

This post was brought to you by a member of the Barbara Bush Branch iHCPL Team: Jennifer Jones.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Maps #33: Relocating with Online Maps

People move everyday. Sometimes the lease runs out and the rent is raised significantly. Sometimes a young person is just going to college or is just finishing college and is ready for his (or her) first apartment. Sometimes there is a divorce and one spouse gets the house while the other starts apartment-hunting. Sometimes a family outgrows their present dwelling and needs a house with more bedrooms. Sometimes it is just time for a new place.

Searching by zip code and/or by distance (within X miles) helps narrow down the possibilities quickly and efficiently. Sometimes you can see the various floor plans or virtual tours online before getting in the car and going to see apartment complexes or houses in person!

Apartments.com : Search by map, zip code, city/state, plus X miles radius. Amenities search include pets allowed and wheelchair access. Includes street map, satellite, & hybrid maps.

Apartment Finder: Search by address or by zip code. Amenities search includes pets allowed and garage/covered parking. Includes virtual tours & floor plans.

Apartment Guide : Search by city/state or by zip code. Advanced search allows you to choose amenities like pets, accessibility, public transportation, etc. See virtual tours, emercials, etc.

Har [Click Find a Home. Click Map Search.] Search for listings by zip code or within a proximity of an address. Search by School District, by stories, by garage(s), by highrise condos, by whether it is in a cul-de-sac or on a corner, etc. Includes Neighborhood Information Finder, Senior Living Finder, Foreclosures, etc. Both houses for sale and for lease.

Urban Living [Click Home Finder. Click Map Search] Search by zip code. Look for houses for rent or for sale. Look for houses in subdivisions or condos in highrises. Search by stories or whether it has a garage, etc.

Google Maps [Directly under Google logo, click My Maps. Then click Google Real Estate Search.] Find rentals, sales, & foreclosures. Follow the realtor's links and watch a virtual tour.

Discover our Town: Comprehensive city guides that include travel information, area attractions and restaurant listings for towns across the United States. Search by clicking on map for state and then city. Click Relocation tab.

Walk Score: Shows you a map of what's nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property. Find out what amenities are in walking distance for any address!


  1. Look for an apartment which allows pets or is accessible for the disabled (such as wheelchair bound) by zip code and then by radius from a given address.
  2. Discuss your search and whatever suitable apartment listings you found in your blog. Include a comparison of the different map views available: street, aerial/satellite, bird’s eye, hybrid (combination satellite & street). Which view did you find the most helpful?



  1. Look for foreclosures or a highrise condo or senior living or for houses in the subdivision you prefer (good schools, low crime, etc.).
  2. Take virtual tours and see how much information is available on the various properties.
  3. Discuss your search and whatever suitable listings you found in your blog.


  1. Select a potential new home or apartment. Check out what is nearby (or within walking distance) for any given house or apartment complex.
  2. Discuss what schools, restaurants, stores, etc. would be in your new neighborhood in your blog. Discuss which site you found easiest to use to look for a new place to live and which you would recommend to others and why.

This post was brought to you by a member of the Barbara Bush Branch iHCPL Team: Margaret Davis.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Maps #32: Current Events

The internet has redefined current events. Clipping articles out of an area newspaper is not as immediate as finding out where an airplane went off the radar ten minutes ago. Explore a brief sample of current event sites and look at the world in a new and exciting medium. From earth to space, internet mapping is interactive and fairly up to date.

100 Google Maps Mashups
Marylaine Block, the "Librarian Without Walls" (http://marylaine.com/neatnew.html) listed this "neat, new" site for Google Map mashups. According to her, "I believe that the future of reference service lies not in finding information, but in helping people understand it through visualization. These Google Maps mashups demonstrate things like finding wi-fi hotspots, a public toilet, world hostels, webcams, etc., and tracking packages or US or Canadian flights in real time."

Global Incident Map
Are you a news junky who likes to track the latest airline crash, chemical attack, or sniper incident? On this site, you can check the map for the 30 most recent events, or scroll down and search by type or place of incident. You can find a map of locations, plus details of what happened.

National Atlas
Or are you the scientific type? These dynamic maps are innovative illustrations of geographic phenomena, combining the science of mapping with today's multimedia to offer maps that are useful, understandable, and that stimulate interactivity. Look for American volcanoes, growth of vegetation over the course of the year, or maps illustrating geologic timetables.

Terra Server
Maybe you are a curiosity seeker. Then you will like this site that has stored aerial photos and satellite images of celebrity homes, historic sites, the Seven Wonders of the World, and more.


  1. Look through the list of "100 Things To Do With Google Maps".
  2. In your blog, note a hypothetical question that you could best answer through visualization, and list the site you would use to answer it. (Example: Question -- "I need a career change! Got any ideas?" Answer -- Go to http://jobmaps.us and type in "Bartender" and "Las Vegas.")


  1. Explore Global Incident Map, Terra Server, or National Atlas.
  2. Find a map or image that interests you.
  3. Post it or a link to it in your blog and write about something you learned.


EarthNow Landsat Image Viewer
"Slip the surly bonds of earth" using the EarthNow Landsat Image Viewer. Ride aboard a satellite traveling over portions of the U.S. to experience a birdseye view of our country.

This post was brought to you by members of the Barbara Bush Branch iHCPL Team: Shawn Howes, Brenda Williams, and Nancy Agafitei.