Revisited: Introduction to GIS for Librarians workshop

Filed under: GIS in Libraries, Open Source GIS — geoLibro @ 4:07 am

Roughly two weeks ago, I mentioned a workshop on GIS for librarians. Well, I went after all, with the slightly hidden agenda of seeing who in the state was interested in GIS for a library, why they were interested, and possibly hearing about ongoing or planned projects. First of all, it wasn’t taught by an architect after all. The instructor had almost 30 years of GIS under his belt and who happened to work for a firm whose several services include architecture.

Anyway, what was most useful was hearing the questions existing librarians had about why GIS should even be in a library, what would it cost, etc. Also interesting was witnessing confusion about that murky place between these datasets everybody talks about and the map products themselves. In other words, for most attendees it was easy to see conceptually how geographic information can be useful and how it might even belong in a library, but very difficult for them to imagine how that information gets put onto a computer screen in any useful, intuitive format.

Our instructor didn’t help out much in that respect, as his was pretty clearly a general “What-is-GIS?” presentation he just happened to be showing to a roomful of librarians. In other words, very little was said about how librarians might play a part in metadata creation, storage, or development and very little was said about how a library might go about employing and applying GIS for themselves or for patrons. And almost nothing was done to illustrate the real, physical connection between something called “data” and that rich, graphical, colorful visualized version thereof.

And one more thing. If you were talking up GIS to a bunch of nonprofit types and they almost literally gasped at the price of the ESRI products, wouldn’t you also mention that there are several easy to use, free (open source, most likely) software titles that might do what they  need? Not everybody would.



  1. If I were a ESRI reseller I wouldn’t mention open source. I’d sell them ESRI.

    I think every library should have ArcGIS Explorer, and the map Librarian should populate it with data.

    Comment by Ken — 2006.August.21 @ 2:20 pm

  2. Ken, you’re right. I would, too, and it begs a question about how much we want salesmen to be our educators. I think some of the libraries had ArcExplorer (not ArcGIS Explorer yet), but based on some of the questions I heard that may even have been more GIS than they were prepared for. It sounded like the data location/acquisition/management was just as confusing as what one does with it once found and loaded. I suspect this speaks at least in part to that arguable gap between what we want GIS to do for nonprofits and educators and how practical that really is for most of us.

    Comment by geoLibro — 2006.August.21 @ 3:19 pm

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