Through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries program, and a partnership with the Eastern Shore Regional Library and the TU Library, TU’s Center for GIS has begun to explore possibilities for mapping library data and putting GIS decision-making tools into the hands of library planners. If you’re new to GIS, here’s a brief explanation.

In October, staff from TU’s Center for GIS (CGIS), along with Deborah Nolan, TU’s Dean of University Libraries, met with representatives from nearly every Eastern Shore county library system to discuss challenges, data, and ideas for using spatial data to assist in library planning, development and outreach. One of the most compelling outcomes from this focus group session was the commitment of these library professionals to providing educational opportunities and outreach to underserved communities in their areas. Access to spatial data was of particular interest here, not only for the potential to discover populations not currently using library services, but also to learn more about local segments of the community and the types of resources and classes that would be relevant.

The group felt that potential exists to employ GIS data and tools to:

  • Get a more comprehensive picture of the needs and wants of the community
  • See where customers are coming from and see where to target outreach
  • Plan for future research database investments, collections, and branch locations
  • Better serve to changing customer base
  • Discover and connect with underserved communities
  • Perform targeted marketing

Unsurprisingly, all agreed that resources have been stretched even tighter in recent years, and any potential GIS tools need to be easily accessible and maintainable. To that end, in the next phase of the pilot project the team will be exploring web-based mapping tools and GIS data resources to determine the potential for libraries to map their own data, and overlay it with demographic and other available data about the areas they serve. We are excited for the opportunity to collaborate with library professionals and help facilitate innovative solutions to the challenges faced by libraries every day.
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries.

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The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.