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GIS mapping software introduced at E.S. Bird Library; ESRI software now available across the SU and ESF campuses
GIS mapping software introduced at E.S. Bird Library; ESRI software now available across the SU and ESF campusesMay 04, 2001Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
Anne Munly, associate professor in Syracuse University’s School of Architecture, shows off a map of Rome, N.Y. The map shows the city not just at one particular time; it is done in layers that demonstrate changes in neighborhoods over time and events that may have some relationship to those changes. Maps like this are made possible through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) computer programs. Until now, these programs have been available only on isolated computers around the SU campus, such as in a laboratory run by the geography department in The College of Arts and Sciences and The Maxwell School. Now they are available to the whole campus in E.S. Bird Library’s new GIS lab. It is the only networked GIS lab in a library in New York state, according to SU maps/GIS librarian John Olson. The existence of the new lab will help facilitate such collaborative, interdisciplinary projects as the one on which Munly is working, along with architecture associate professor Mark Linder and geography associate professors Don Mitchell and Anne Mosher. Located on E.S. Bird Library’s third floor, the lab features six networked workstations, along with various other software programs, two scanners and a digitizer, which is used to translate information into the necessary digital format. The ESRI Group’s ArcView and ArcInfo, the two most common GIS programs, are available on the workstations. The lab’s location, in the library’s maps and government information department, gives users easy access to all maps and other data sets already collected by the library, including thousands of paper maps, as well as Arc-ready files (including ArcWorld, ArcUSA and ArcAtlas), desktop links to spatial and numeric data sets, CD-ROMs produced by the U.S. government and distributed through the Federal Depository Library Program, and commercial mapping programs and CD-ROM atlases. Access to the equipment and programs in the GIS lab is but one of the new benefits the library is offering to the University community. The library has also obtained a site license for ESRI software that covers the whole campus, as well as the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, so that ArcView and ArcInfo can now be loaded on any University-owned computer without an extra charge.
GIS programs can be used to present just about any kind of information, according to maps and government information librarian Lesley Pease. The University of Fine Arts in Romania is using the technique to restore a medieval wall mural by digitizing photos of the mural and mapping them onto a grid, giving each color its own layer in the GIS map. Data are entered about the conditions and restoration needs for each layer, and the whole thing is combined to create a history of the mural restoration process. GIS techniques have also been used by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to monitor discriminatory lending practices, by health researchers to map human ailments, and by campus safety departments to identify problem areas. “Some experts say 80 to 90 percent of information can be geocoded,” Pease says. “You can code very specific data rooms, places within a room, trees or shrubs in a garden.” The GIS lab will eventually have regular hours, but for now it is open by appointment only. Before using the lab, faculty, staff and students must go through a one-hour orientation, which can be set up by contacting Olson at 443-4818. Staff members are available to assist users in the lab. But Pease and Olson advise people who are interested in becoming expert in using GIS to take a course such as Geographic Information Systems (GEO 383/683). ESRI also offers online courses, and the GIS lab may start offering workshops.