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Applications of GIS technology in the research library David Seaman Executive Director, Digital Library Federation FUTURE FOUNDATIONS: MAPPING THE PAST.

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Presentation on theme: "Applications of GIS technology in the research library David Seaman Executive Director, Digital Library Federation FUTURE FOUNDATIONS: MAPPING THE PAST."— Presentation transcript:

1 Applications of GIS technology in the research library David Seaman Executive Director, Digital Library Federation FUTURE FOUNDATIONS: MAPPING THE PAST Building the Philadelphia GeoHistory Network Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia Sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL)

2 What is the Digital Library Federation?  34 members – major academic and national libraries, including the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the British Library; 5 allies (CNI; RLG; OCLC; LANL; JISC)  Created in 1995 by directors of US research libraries; fills a need not simply met by larger library organizations: focuses exclusively on DL needs and strategies for large libraries  Nimble, agile, collaborative; practical and strategic areas of activity

3 What are geographic information systems?  “GIS relies on one simple and classical notion: most things, phenomena, and events can be identified through coordinates, and can be located somewhere on … an electronically produced map, which can be of a real or a virtual place.”  “Once we have a ‘map’ we can superimpose other layers onto it: rivers and roads, data referring to population density and divorce rates, and images that turn a point on the map into a full-fledged reproduction of what we would see around us if we were ‘there.’” Daniela Gobetti. “Envisioning Space: Geoinformatics Information Science Sheds Light on Humanities”

4 Why is it important to us as humanists, beyond simple real-world navigation?  “GIS thus enables us to see plotted on a map (and a screen) data that are presented simultaneously (whereas they would be presented sequentially with other methods, as happens with different tables printed on different pages in a book), and that are identified spatially (which we can do crudely with other techniques).”  “We can consider several sets of data at once, and we can visualize spatial relations like proximity (or distance). “ [Gobetti]

5 GIS – the 1990s  State and federal government agencies provide digital data to depository libraries around the country.  Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system (TIGER) / Line Files and census data from the Bureau of the Census, the Digital Line Graph files from the U.S. Geological Survey, and economic and agricultural data.  Challenge for research libraries – to match ambitions to create new GIS library services to drive innovative new scholarship with the need for GIS librarianship skills, training, software and hardware costs, user support, etc. “A Critical Study of GIS Services in Research Libraries: A Case Study of SUNY Albany and New York State Libraries.” (1998) Tsering Wangyal Shawa The ARL GIS Literacy Project –

6 The landscape so far  Growth of library-based GIS/data centers  Growth of understanding of the difficulties of extending data skills and spatial literacy to non- specialist audiences and scholarly communities  Ambition to do the above, and some successes  High user support cost; high-value new services too  Earlier systems not well web-integrated; prone to insider vocabulary and need for domain knowledge  Current use on the web sometimes slow; little desktop offline use; need large datasets behind them

7 The landscape so far  Early users: geographers, urban planners, social scientists who rely on statistical data, archeologists  New users: art critics to historians and literary scholars; the general public  Steady progress; landmark new users  See “Resources for Teaching and Learning with GIS” from NITLE:  Includes excellent “Examples Across the Curriculum” and other resources  History:

8 GIS and History in the Academy (a few of many)  The Salem Witch Trials: Documentary Archive (*)  The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War:  Mapping Britain across time  Library of Congress map room  Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI)  David Rumsey Maps:

9 Observations on academic use  GIS can help you see patterns in data hard to discern otherwise (surprising geographic distance between witch and accuser in Salem)  GIS can animate over time changes that make less sense as a static textual list (civil war troop movements)  Dynamic, interactive nature critical (ECAI Silk Roads project)  Historical depth is remarkably effective (David Rumsey)  GIS can engage, charm, and excite while it educates

10 Meanwhile, outside the academy…  Rapid increase in ways that GIS touches our lives  In-car, handheld navigation devices proliferate  Rapid rise in municipal, real estate, and tourist use:  community mapping for crime stats, house ownership, and price; Lord of the Rings tour of movie locations in New Zealand with GIS  Spatial literacy and computer games: “Video Games and Education.” (De Aguilera and Méndiz) survey article.

11 Meanwhile, outside the academy…  Google Print and zip code locator for lending library [search “books and culture”] Google Print  Google Earth – remarkable tool for popularizing location knowledge in sophisticated and trivial manners Google Earth  Deep fascination with our personal geographies – where we live; where we were born – over time

12 What’s to come: place and privacy  Geography and books –coordinates added in library catalogs; attached to LC geographical subject headings; GPS to find books on shelf  Photo recognition of physical location in real time:  GIS/GPS and the cell phone: person mapping  GIS/GPS/RFID: product mapping; animal tracking (fish migration patterns; cattle tracking for “mad cow” outbreaks)

13 Closing  GIS is a rapidly rising service potential after a long gestation period as a rather specialist tool  Google Earth focuses our attention on this as a capacity of wider applicability  Need to think strategically and focus on our core mission to advance pedagogy and scholarship  Remarkable examples of use in humanities  Still weak in personalization and re-use -- innovative users need malleable content with which to innovate.  Our engagement with it parallels and benefits from much wider social and entertainment patterns of use  Privacy issues abound when our physical location is online all the time.


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