Archive for the ‘SMS’ Category


Free TextMarks service is over


Well, since my TextMarks service expired and you can’t get their free service anymore, this “Find your local library with a text message” service is no longer hooked up to SMS.

However, if you’re curious about what the service did, you can still reach to see the text message it would have sent you. Obviously, if you have a ZIP code other than 33166, you might want to alter the URL a little bit.


Find your local library with a text message!


Today I am very proud to announce that I’ve created the service I wished for ten years ago.

Text LIBRARY 12345 to 41411, assuming that your ZIP code is 12345 (and if it is, how’s the weather in Schenectady?). You will get a text message with the name, address, and phone number of the nearest library.

Here’s how it works:

  • You send the text message “LIBRARY 12345” to 41411 (TextMarks).
  • TextMarks uses the word LIBRARY to assign the rest of the message (“12345”) to my TextMarks application.
  • My TextMarks application sends the rest of the message (in this case, your ZIP code) to a server at Running PHP scripts on isn’t free, but for a one-time $36 donation, you get that privilege.
  • searches NCES IMLS for branch and central libraries, then finds the first result and identifies the name, address, and phone number in its HTML code.
  • sends back a very simple result with newlines where appropriate (view the source to see how it’s really formatted).
  • TextMarks sends you the literal answer from, plus a brief advertisement with which TextMarks pays the bills. (I don’t see a penny from this except when y’all phone up potential employers and tell them they’d do well to hire me for 2010.)

Things I’d like to add eventually:

  • Support for other location forms like SCHENECTADY[,] NY or 1060 w addison st chicago il, probably with a call to a Google Maps API
  • Support for libraries outside the US (though I caution you, if you give me a location on the south end of Grosse Ile, Michigan, my script won’t know that the Essex County Library in Amherstburg, Ontario is nearer than Bacon Memorial Library in Wyandotte, Michigan — though in that particular case you might not care unless you have a boat)
  • A minor efficiency tweak: search for libraries within 1 mile, and if none are found, try again with 5 miles, 10 miles, and 50 miles before giving up.
  • If no results are found, say so apologetically.

Please tell everyone about it, especially truckers and other business travelers, snowbirds, people who are moving to a new home, etc.

And please let me know what you think, and how to improve it! Thanks especially to Susan Hansen for suggesting IMLS as a more recent source of data.