Promoting Geographic Information System
Usage Across Campus
by Shaun Spiegel & JaNae Kinikin
This article focuses on our efforts to implement and promote
Geographic Information System (GIS) applications at Weber
State University. WSU is a 4-year public institution with
two campuses. The main campus is located in the foothills
of Ogden, Utah (about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City),
and the secondary campus, which opened in fall 2003, is
located in neighboring Davis County. The total student
enrollment that semester was approximately 18,000. WSU
is primarily an undergraduate institution and offers certificate
and degree programs in many fields, as well as master's
degrees in accounting, business administration, criminal
justice, and education. WSU's Stewart Library serves the
population at both campuses.
Exactly What Is GIS?
GIS is a type of computer system made of hardware,
software, and data that allows the mapping of spatially
related layers that have a common geographic component
(Badurak, 110). This layering capability allows data
to be displayed and analyzed in a graphical form, typically
on a map. Data in graphical form often reveals information
that is difficult to perceive in a more traditional
computer output format, such as charts, tables, or lists.
For example, layering demographic data, such as age
and income distribution, with the locations of store
competitors on a base map, can be used to determine
potential sites for new stores.
GIS is an interdisciplinary tool that can be used
in all university departments (Johnson and Phoenix,
160). Libraries at smaller colleges and universities
tend to be a focal point for students, faculty, and
the community, making them appropriate places to conduct
GIS research. A small academic library with a simple
GIS setup can serve a variety of departments. Some of
its applications include criminal justice (crime analysis),
marketing (new business site analysis), biology (wildlife
population projections), and transportation planning
(efficient bus routing). GIS is ideal for managing the
large quantities of data available in these and other
Exposing WSU to GIS
I, Shaun Spiegel, am the business and economics librarian
at WSU, and was introduced to GIS by my colleague, JaNae
Kinikin. Since 2001, JaNae has been actively pursuing
a certificate in Geomatics, which is offered through
the Department of Geosciences at WSU. Her interest in
the topic led me to consider how GIS might be applied
in the business disciplines, and how we, as librarians,
might promote GIS to the campus community. At present,
GIS access is only available to the WSU students who
are taking specified geography and geosciences courses.
Since the applications of GIS extend far beyond these
two disciplines, we felt the library would be an appropriate
place to house a GIS lab. Establishing GIS in the library
would provide access for everyone, and libraries, particularly
those that are government repositories, house a variety
of data that can be used in a GIS. An added benefit
would be its potential to increase library usage and
to raise the library's importance on campus.
To promote the usage of GIS at WSU, the two of us
began working with individual departments and faculty
members to incorporate GIS into their curricula. We
accomplished this using a variety of methods, including
workshops, e-mail, newsletters, individual and departmental
meetings, and tours of the geosciences department's
GIS lab. This process is ongoing, but we have made progress
in the nursing, business, criminal justice, and geosciences
In the fall of 2003, the reference department purchased
and loaded GIS software on a computer located in the
reference area of the Stewart Library. Unfortunately,
little effort to promote its usage was undertaken and
very few individuals knew about or took advantage of
the GIS station's availability. We believed that a dedicated
GIS lab, as opposed to a single station loaded with
GIS software and other applications, would result in
greater exposure and utilization of GIS by the faculty,
staff, students, and community. Because many potential
users are deterred by the complexity and steep learning
curve of GIS software, we also wanted to offer a service
to train and assist users with GIS. Ultimately, we hoped
to augment awareness of this powerful tool, increase
the use of underutilized library resources (e.g., government
information), and provide a unique service to our users.
We began by surveying libraries that offer a wide
range of baccalaureate programs and some master's degrees
(Carnegie Classification, Master's Colleges and Universities
I & II) across the U.S. as to their interest, implementation,
and utilization of GIS. The results showed that very
few (only 22 out of 168) smaller institutions provided
GIS services. Even fewer provided instruction on the
software. Undaunted by this low number, we pursued additional
funding to make utilization of GIS in our library a
We started the funding process by applying for and
receiving a Higher Educational Technology Initiative
(HETI) grant sponsored by WSU. This grant allowed us
to purchase a powerful computer with a lot of memory
(necessary for GIS projects), a large-screen monitor
(to more easily see detailed maps), and a large-format
printer to output the maps. We also purchased census
data on CD-ROM that was designed to be used with a GIS
system. In addition, the grant money enabled us to enroll
in a spring 2002 online course that was offered through
the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI)
titled "Introduction to Successful Marketing Using ArcView
3.x." This course allowed us to improve our skills in
using GIS and to gain familiarity with marketing applications.
The primary outcome of the HETI grant was our developing
and presenting a workshop designed to introduce business
faculty to GIS. Ultimately, we hoped that this knowledge
would motivate them to introduce their students to the
practical applications of GIS in marketing research.
Market Share, Business, and GIS
GIS applications in the business disciplines are well-known,
and we felt that integrating GIS into business coursework
would be a logical starting place; therefore, our initial
focus was on the business faculty and students. We sent
newsletters and e-mails announcing the GIS "lunch and
workshop" that JaNae and I offered in October 2003.
In this hands-on workshop, we began by providing an
introduction to GIS and outlining its characteristics.
We then presented examples of how GIS is used in business,
with an emphasis on marketing. After lunch, faculty
were taken on a tour of the new GIS lab in the library.
We spent the second half of the day working with ArcView
software, giving attendees a hands-on project to complete
during class (Figure 1). We provided handouts that described
our service, and allowed time for questions at the end.
The five faculty members who attended were positive
in their evaluations of the workshop, and surprised
by the detail involved in a GIS project. However, they
were somewhat reluctant to include it in their class
assignments right away because of the complexity of
the software. As a result of this feedback, we decided
to introduce the software to students on an individual
basis. The first group of students we worked with were
those taking an international marketing course. In that
class, students are required to complete a marketing
plan to promote a product in another country, which
requires extensive demographic research. I already meet
with many students from this course on an individual
basis every semester to help them find this information.
Students who made appointments with me during the spring
2004 semester were introduced to GIS and shown how it
could enhance their marketing plan presentations. Many
of these students were interested in using these maps
in their plans, and we are currently working on these
Even though business faculty were, at first, reluctant
to formally incorporate GIS into their curriculum, they
had no objections to their students using it to enhance
their assignments, and were quite impressed with its
capabilities. To assess the success of our efforts this
semester, I will contact the professor of the international
marketing class to get feedback on his students' presentations
at the end of this semester.
So far, we have also contacted and met with faculty
in nursing, geosciences, and criminal justice, and plan
to present similar GIS workshops that would be pertinent
to their specific disciplines.
Needles, Nursing, and GIS
Outside the library field, health professionals have
been using GIS increasingly to track the status and
distribution of health indicators, such as mortality
and pregnancy rates. A working knowledge and understanding
of GIS is extremely valuable for students in this field.
JaNae contacted faculty in the nursing department at
WSU to ascertain their interest in GIS and found that
the department chair was willing to write a letter of
support for a Library Services & Technology Act
(LSTA) grant to purchase 2 additional computers and
software for the library's GIS lab.
After being notified that the grant was funded, JaNae
contacted the nursing department again to find out which
faculty members might be interested in using GIS. She
was directed to one particular person who was interested
in investigating the need for new health clinics in
the Ogden area. They talked via phone and met in the
library's GIS lab several times to discuss what the
faculty member wanted to have mapped. Ogden has higher
poverty levels in its city region, and this person was
particularly interested in utilizing GIS to map health
clinics in the Ogden area. This map would provide her
with the necessary information to demonstrate the need
for new health clinics in specific locations in Ogden
that are presently being underserved. She is also interested
in mapping crime, income, single mothers, and their
locations to demonstrate where additional nurses will
be required in the K-12 educational system.
Catch That Criminal with GIS!
The use of GIS in the criminal justice field is vast.
GIS allows the criminal justice and law enforcement
workforce to plan for emergency response and to map
crime patterns. It helps correctional facilities personnel
to determine potential sites, and map inmate populations
and equipment to provide safer facilities. It is a critical
tool in providing information to emergency response
teams while en route to incidents. We have just begun
to contact criminal justice faculty members, and this
department will be one that we focus heavily on in the
Networking with Geosciences Faculty
Being a student in the geosciences has helped JaNae
get to know all of the faculty members in that department.
These courses have provided her the additional opportunity
of becoming more familiar with GIS and remote sensing
applications. She has spoken with a faculty member in
that department about creating a GIS teaching laboratory
in the library. This laboratory would have several more
computers than the library's current lab and would be
used to teach GIS to all interested campus departments.
The lab that's currently located in the geosciences
department would remain, although it would be updated
with newer computers.
As stated previously, locating the teaching lab in
the library will increase usage and provide more convenient
hours of access than would be available in the geosciences
department. The current geosciences lab is restricted
to those students enrolled in GIS and remote sensing
courses, and has very limited hours of operation.
Additional GIS Benefits
In our efforts to promote GIS to various departments
on campus, we found that we could also use the software
to benefit the library. We are currently working on
a "Friends of the Library" project using GIS to create
a marketing plan to recruit new members. This project
involves mapping where current Friends live and adding
census data to determine their general demographic makeup.
With this information we can then target potential Friends
Challenges and Plans
We have received support from the library administration
in our efforts to introduce GIS to the various departments
on campus. However, due to a limited budget, we must
continue to obtain outside funding to keep implementing
and marketing GIS services.
A major potential shortfall of our plan is the lack
of library staff who are familiar with GIS. At present,
only JaNae has the full range of skills needed to design
and complete a project from start to finish, and one
librarian cannot handle all of the students working
on GIS projects. GIS software is extremely difficult
to learn without training. Each project involves a great
amount of work that is very complex, time-consuming,
and tedious. One example is the geocoding process that
assigns a latitude-longitude coordinate to an address,
so it can be plotted on a map. In a typical GIS project,
you spend a majority of the time gathering and compiling
the information for the various layers, and less time
analyzing the data and producing the map.
Now that we have contacted these departments, we are
currently in the beginning stages of our promotional
efforts. To this point, we have focused most of our
efforts on contacting individuals from various departments
to introduce them to the Geographic Information System
and to ascertain their interest. At present, we are
seeking additional funding to expand the GIS laboratory
located in the library and to improve library staff's
skills through additional courses. We have submitted
a grant to purchase two additional GIS-dedicated machines
and software with the ability to perform more complex
analyses. We have also requested a laptop to be used
as a teaching tool to enable us to more actively market
GIS to individuals outside the library.
Our immediate goal is to continue marketing GIS to
the business, health sciences, and criminal justice
departments. One of the first steps we'll take to promote
the introduction of GIS into their courses will be presenting
discipline-specific workshops (similar to the one we
designed for the business faculty). These hands-on workshops
will introduce faculty to the relevance and importance
of GIS in their fields, and will illustrate practical
uses in their disciplines. We'll show student projects
We hope that our professors will begin to more actively
incorporate GIS into their curricula, and will begin
to request course-integrated instruction sessions that
focus on GIS. These sessions will concentrate on how
students can work with us to use GIS to enhance their
existing projects. Interested students can then set
appointments with us to talk about their plans. In these
meetings, we will show them what we can do with the
software, discuss the image they would like to create,
and determine what information they will need to prepare
ahead of time.
Our immediate goal is to market GIS to
the business, health sciences, and
criminal justice departments.
In the future, we hope that students will learn to
work with GIS on their own through face-to-face classes
and online tutorials. Students would then be able to
apply their knowledge of subject theory (e.g., marketing
theory) and principles, and use GIS software to construct
a graphical layout as a part of their currently assigned
projects (e.g., marketing plans).
We are very optimistic about the future of GIS at
the Stewart Library. Having GIS in our building opens
an information gateway to data that was previously underutilized
including census data, satellite imagery, and local
and state data. As our GIS skills improve and as time
allows, we will offer additional workshops targeting
specific audiences to demonstrate the usefulness of
this tool. By the spring of 2005, we hope to reach these
new audiences and to increase the use of GIS in our
library and beyond.
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Shaun Spiegel is the business and economics librarian
at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. She holds
an M.L.S. from the University of South Florida in Tampa,
Fla. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.JaNae
Kinikin is the science librarian at Weber State University
in Ogden, Utah. She holds an M.A. in library and information
science from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.
She has a B.A. in geography and an interest in promoting
the utilization of GIS in libraries. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.