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Tulsa Then and Now: Mapping the BFC

Tulsa City-County Library
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Innovation Summary

Tulsa City-County Library/TCCL staff worked with Tulsa Web Devs as part of Tulsa’s first Hackathon to create “Tulsa Then & Now: Mapping the BFC,” a mobile app that promotes the library’s digital collections & connects with the ever-growing numbers of mobile users.

Problem Statement

Tulsa City-County Library strives to serve the community by providing access to materials and services using current technologies. As more users move to a mobile-based environment, library staff hoped to reach these users in a novel and interactive way. Because our digital collections are both popular and unique, the idea for a digital collection application surfaced. Like many libraries facing budget and staff constraints, in-house development of a digital collection app for mobile devices was not practical. In addition to budget and time limitations, we faced the challenge of overcoming past conventions of ownership of technology and volunteer roles. Through the efforts of our civic-minded developer volunteers and our dedicated library staff, we overcame these challenges. We focused on creating an app that could be done reasonably within our constraints while remaining enticing and useful to customers. With a few brief meetings, a crammed weekend of hackers and librarians working together on a nebulous idea, and the lead developer, Matt Galloway, volunteering his time and talent in the months to follow, we were able to accomplish an amazing project.


Tulsa City-County Library staff worked with Tulsa Web Devs, a local professional group of developers and designers, to create a mobile app that would promote the library’s digital collections & connect with the ever-growing numbers of mobile users. Tulsa Web Devs were organizing the inaugural Tulsa Hackathon to help local civic and non-profit organizations with technology projects. Through “Random Hacks of Kindness,” they sought to make important contributions to worthwhile organizations in our community. These developers asked TCCL to be a pilot project. They had ideas already formed about what app the library might need but, interestingly, what these tech developers suggested was already a capability with TCCL’s app. Meanwhile, library staff had been dreaming of a way to geo-locate some of our amazing digital collections and engage mobile users. Anna Turner, our IT manager, Jennifer Greb, career services librarian, and Sheri Perkins, digital collections and local history librarian envisioned such a project, and they were searching for an opportunity to make such an app a reality. Soon, the innovative minds of Tulsa Web Devs and TCCL collaborated to create a GPS-based app that could bring our digital collection of historical photos into the hands of mobile users. We engaged the local community of talented, civic-minded developers. The result is the app, Tulsa Then & Now: Mapping the BFC. Now, one can use an iPhone (or other iOS device) to explore Tulsa like never before. The app provides access to approximately 300 photographs selected from the Beryl Ford Collection. It engages the larger Tulsa community through geo-locating historic photos, leading to meaningful comparisons of how our city is today compared to 30, 60, or even 100 years ago. It brings a viral element to promoting the collection via social networks in a fun, interactive way.


• Cemented innovative partnership with community group of highly-skilled volunteers. The creation of this app led to a strong connection with Tulsa Hackers (the good kind!). The library needs these relationships with such intelligent, talented members of the community who are involved in many endeavors, such as entrepreneurship, community building, and civic engagement. Hackathon 2012, Government 2.0, focuses on using collaborative technologies to solve problems in our city and our state. Inspired by our 2011 Hackathon project, Hackathon organizers immediately reached out to the TCCL Research Center for assistance in finding reliable resources for the 2012 event. • Tulsa Then and Now, only first available in the App Store on March 30, 2012, had 219 app downloads in just the first 12 days! • The Tulsa community is engaging with library digital collections via social media such as Facebook and Twitter as a result of this app. • Local media, bloggers, and others have shared with their readers, promoting discourse about our collective Tulsa history and the importance of the library. • The app is just plain fun: users can access hundreds of historic images, see a map with drop pins that represent the photos, search for a photo or location, browse photos taken nearby the current location, and share images through email, Twitter, or Facebook. Users who might not otherwise think about the library will have a new reason to interact with our collections.