The Role of Academic Libraries in Geography and GIS Education

Authors: Emma Slayton*, , Jessica Benner*, Carnegie Mellon University
Topics: Geography Education, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: Spatial literacy, GIS education, geography education, academic libraries
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Committee Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Libraries are important spaces on campus that provide instruction and services that support education. Libraries support many different disciplines across campus, including geography and related disciplines like environmental science or urban studies. Library services have undergone significant changes during the digital era, resulting in the need to support an influx of digital tools. One of these digital tools is GIS software. Today, these tools are more than stand alone ArcGIS installations. Many of these tools are web-enabled or modular components to larger web applications. Libraries have supported stand alone GIS tools since the 1990’s by making the tool available for in-library use and in more recent years, providing training to users with personal versions of the software on their own devices. Currently, much of the focus on GIS within libraries has been oriented towards supporting tool training and the digital manipulation of spatial data sets. We believe focusing on individual tools, or how to manipulate a dataset outside of the context of a real project, is insufficient to achieve spatial literacy and effectively ask spatial questions. This paper explores the role of university libraries in supporting various facets of geography education and makes recommendations for pedagogy on broader geographic concepts to promote and enable critical engagement with spatial tools and datasets. Our research highlights libraries as uniquely situated to support and reinforce geography education received in the classroom as well as provide spaces in which students and researchers can explore spatial tools and datasets with a critical eye.

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