General Library Updates

What is a GIS Lab and Why is it in My Library?

By Guest Blogger Danielle Trierweiler

Sometime between the Spring Semester and Fall, a new space worked its way into the Hilltop’s beloved Schewe Library: enter the Geospatial Information Systems or GIS Lab.

The GIS Lab arrives at the library in pursuit of the same mission that the Digital Learning Center or DLC initiated roughly a year ago: get students and faculty access to the digital tools and software they need to explore, interrogate, and produce digital projects. As the Digital Services Librarian, I am biased, but these 4 seats to Esri ArcGIS Desktop 10.3 , an industrial-strength mapping tool, are pretty exciting. Here’s why:

Newly finished GIS Lab April 2015

Newly finished GIS Lab @ Illinois College Schewe Library April,  2015

  • Visualizing and sharing data such as population distribution or regional income
  • Mapping definitive routes (such as a river or highway) or more rapidly changing phenomena (like cloud cover or water toxicity)
  • Collaborating with other GIS data producers, analysts, and curators to reveal findings otherwise impossible to view
  • Data management is a large part of GIS, since the attractive map visualizations are comprised of an aggregation of one or more data sources.
  • Using GIS will boost your vocabulary (raster data anyone?) and technical awareness (I get .PDF, but what exactly is a .shp- shapefile?!)

Understanding what GIS is broadly and being able using it the way you want to use it does take some time. Like any skill or sport, it is what you put into it- practice (and time) makes perfect. I can verify that in only a few months of viewing online videos and using textbooks and courses that provide dummy-data to complete basic exercises, I am fascinated by GIS and enjoy looking for new open data sources to map.

About a year ago, Outreach Librarian, Luke Beatty mused on the then-prospect GIS in Schewe back when it was only a sparkle in the Library Director’s eye: “Personally, I’d like to see a GIS-lite tool with a focus on demographic, business, or social data.” he wrote. Sorry Luke! ArcGIS can handle spatial analysis for all of these, but it is strictly BYOD (Bring [downloand] Your Own Data!) Not necessarily a bad thing, but ArcGIS users, especially ArcGIS desktop users should be up for the management challenges that comes with freedom to structure and customize your data.

To help get you started understanding and using the GIS Resources available to the IC campus, check out the *NEW* GIS page on the Schewe Library website or visit the lab next time you’re in the library to see for yourself.

I’d like to close this entry with one of my personal favorite video Overviews of GIS  *not* found on the library website: a rather long but solid overview published, created, and produced by Mr. Jere Folgert, owner and trainer of an online professional GIS training firm, http://www.KnowGIS.com: here is his Introduction to Cartography and Making Maps with ArcGIS Desktop 10X

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The Future (in 1971) Is Up To You!

Chatting with our Library Director the other day, and he hands me (a portion of) an article from American Libraries, titled “The Future is Up To You”, by Keith Doms.  It was published in 1971.  Aside from bad suits, bad hair, and an ardent denial that the American Library Association was on the verge of bankruptcy — it was, though Mr. Doms optimistically cites the organization’s “creative membership” as an asset — we get this provocative nugget:

“We must be realistic.  Today’s kids, who incidentally will be tomorrow’s taxpayers, are multi-media oriented.  In ten years the majority of young people will be comfortable with and very much skilled in the use of both print and nonprint media… The librarians of this nation must prepare themselves and their institutions to be as fully responsive to the expectations of the next generation as is possible (989).”

Excepting the anachronistic use of the term “nonprint media“, this might have come from any number of currently employed library personnel.  And it’s not that the sentiment is false — it isn’t — it’s just mind-boggling to think that, even forty-years later, we as a profession are still fixated on the “book issue”.  The “book issue”, briefly, is one of essentialization: it supposes that libraries are, and can only ever be, repositories for the storage and lending of print material.  The truth of the matter, however, is that libraries have been profitably expanding their mission for quite some time.  Patrons are happy, we produce a great ROI, and the Internet hasn’t been the sniper-shot some assumed it might be.

But libraries are, for better or worse, linked with the book.  And no one is more threatened by that than the library profession itself.  We have one of the most reductively inward-looking scholarship bases in all of academia; our trade journals are preoccupied with stereotype deflation; our conferences are often little more than extended exercises in book denialism.  A healthy dose of format agnosticism probably solves all of this, but, sadly, that doesn’t seem forthcoming.  Regardless, it’s heartening to see that even in the halcyon days of the 1970s, librarians were taking a proactive stance when it came to incorporating progressive technologies in their libraries.  And so too will we at Schewe with our forthcoming Digital Learning Center — watch for it in Fall 2014!

Secretary Old