Opening a GIS Hub at Crerar Library

Location is important. Tracking the movement of contagious disease helps contain its spread. Demographic geography influences access to financial and retail services. Virtualized medieval cities provide opportunities to explore the contexts of historical events. Each of these phenomena can be studied with GIS.

GIS and Maps Librarian and students with map of Chicago on monitor

GIS and Maps Librarian Cecilia Smith (center) discusses mapping tools and resources with (from left) students Paul Gilbert, II, College ’20, and Emil Sohlberg, College ’20. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

Geographic information systems, or GIS, is used to analyze locational information across disciplines such as public health, environmental science, sociology, economics, policy, history, and many more. Faculty and students are increasingly integrating GIS into their research, and opportunities to learn the technology are growing at the University of Chicago.

Thanks to a generous gift from the Kathleen and Howard Zar Science Library Fund and support from the Library Council, the University of Chicago Library is developing a GIS Hub at the John Crerar Library to enable geospatial research and learning activities on campus. The Hub will be located in Crerar’s Kathleen A. Zar Room, named in honor of the late director of the science libraries. Brenda Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian, sees the new Hub as critical to supporting research on campus. “The GIS Hub at the Library will provide faculty, students and staff from every discipline at UChicago with access to important technology and resources and, very importantly, the ability to consult with a GIS Librarian with expert knowledge,” she said.

Eight workstations in the Hub will offer GIS software, including QGIS, GeoDa, and ArcGIS. Large, high-resolution monitors will allow detailed visualization work. The GIS Hub will facilitate individual and collaborative work. Instructional technology will also provide a venue for geospatial workshops and demonstrations.

As the new GIS and Maps Librarian, I will support faculty and students through consultations on gathering and exploring geospatial data, spatial literacy, and visualizing geographic information.  I will also offer workshops on working with GIS data and getting started with the software. At Chicago, I will build on my recent experience as a Clinical Assistant Professor and the Geospatial Librarian at Texas A&M University Libraries, where I collaborated on research projects with faculty from geography, sociology, anthropology, history, urban planning, and ecosystem science. The Early Modern Shipwreck project at modernshipwrecks.com is a good example of one of my collaborations with faculty where I provided geospatial expertise.

The GIS Hub opens to the campus community in Fall 2018, located with the new Media Arts, Data, and Design Center on the first floor of the newly renovated Crerar Library. The Media Arts, Data and Design Center will open in early Winter Quarter.  This co-location is an exciting opportunity for faculty and students to access technological and maker resources for interdisciplinary research and learning.

For questions regarding GIS resources at the Library, please contact me at ceciliasmith@uchicago.edu.

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