Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Library Day In The Life: #libday6

Day two in the Big Brother house.

Not really. Just a short post as shattered...

Today's post is about a little project outside of work in learning to use open data in a Google spreadsheet to generate some information on UK public library closures.

I've been looking at using open sources of data to generate political and demographic data for libraries threatened with closure (there's a list at http://publiclibrariesnews.blogspot.com/).

The main challenge was getting postcodes for the libraries. I've spent a couple of days looking at reverse batch geocoding for this. Unfortunately none of the tools I found generated postcodes detailed enough to get data from the API's I've been looking at... so in the end it was a case of manually searching for postcodes :-(

Now that's done though these can be used to generate large amounts of data from API's. So far I've used the IMPORTXML function in Google Spreadsheets to generate this data *fairly* quickly (I found out how to do this from this blog post). It's a bit limited though in that Google Spreadsheets only allow 50 IMPORTXML functions per spreadsheet.

The data in this case came from the http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ API but there are plenty of other sources out there that might give useful information on political patterns and demographics (e.g. the Office for National Statistics API gives info on deprivation etc.).

Anyway. Time for bed...

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