Last year, 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 started to explore possibilities for mapping library data and putting GIS decision-making tools into the hands of library planners. To check out the results from our library administrators’ focus group, see my previous post.

Using Esri Maps for Office

The outcomes of the focus group were used to develop a GIS pilot for staff from two Eastern Shore library systems to map their own data and explore available data pertaining to their local communities. Ultimately we decided to use the Esri Maps for Office plug-in for Excel for several key reasons. As a plug-in for Excel, Maps for Office offers a focused set of tools that are accessed from within Excel. Users can geocode address information from spreadsheets, create interactive color-coded maps and heat maps, and perform other geospatial operations using the Maps for Office toolbar. These maps can be overlaid with additional information (e.g., median household income, locations of Maryland schools) by adding hosted web map services from Esri or MD iMAP.

In addition to mapping, Esri Maps for Office also allows users the ability to generate customized reports using a specified distance or drive-time from a library branch location. There are approximately 40 different reports to choose from; themes include Census and American Community Survey housing and population, income, education, market profiles, and Esri Tapestry Segmentation. Finally, Maps for Office offers room for expansion. As users grow their skills, there is the potential to access more robust tools and share interactive web maps through ArcGIS Online browser-based GIS software.

Pilot GIS Uses

Through discussions with partners, we identified several specific applications for the pilot GIS. These include:

  • Generating statistical information for reporting
  • Mapping borrower locations to identify underserved segments of the population and usage patterns
  • Investigating and performing directed problem-solving for local library issues
  • Researching to focus branch collections, resources, and programming on the needs of the local community
  • Comparing trends or activity between library branches
  • Performing targeted marketing and strategic planning

We are excited to collaborate with the Eastern Shore Regional Library and TU’s Cook Library to empower libraries and library administrators to map the information they were already collecting and to leverage other available spatial data for the purpose of enhanced local knowledge, planning, and business efficiency. The team recently submitted a white paper and training documentation which will be made available on

IMLS_Logo_2cThis project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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