Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Library as Central Hub for GIS Activity

GIS4LIB is not the most active list, but the when a message is sent is is usually a good one. Here is a snippet from the latest message:
I am about to begin planning and writing a pitch for a new GIS lab (housed in a library with a mission to act as a central hub for interdisciplinary GIS activity on a large campus) and I would like to hear from any librarians who are storing and managing their GIS data in a geodatabase (dedicated to the library or not).

More specifically: is anybody using ArcSDE (if so, what DBMS sits behind it)? If not, how are you managing and storing the GIS data (purchased, produced locally, or freely available) your library collects and serves (some other GIS server; flat file storage on shared file servers, etc.)? Has anybody successfully deployed open source solutions like Mapserver to publish their data to the web (and if so how well did it integrate into your other GIS applications)? Are there any desktop/server/printer hardware configurations you would warn against? Is there anything you would have done differently in your own situation?
The author states that they will summarize for the list and I eagerly anticipate seeing how others respond. Here is a snippet from my response, that I sent directly to the author:
We serve GIS data across campus (not limited to any particular computer or lab) via four methods. We have a dedicated server for GIS and these methods are all run from this server.

First, we allow direct download (campus or vpn-only) of the public datasets that we store locally. Of course, licensing restrictions prohibit us from freely distributing all of our datasets this way.

Second, we use ArcSDE with Oracle database to serve large datasets, especially large raster datasets. We use this method primarily for individual courses that need group read and write privileges to groups of datasets. ArcSDE is particularly effective for granting writing privileges and allowing students to create different versions of their work. For campus or lab use, ArcSDE is not our method of choice as there is no way to control the number of simultaneous users. This is vital as many of the datasets that we purchase are single-use CD-ROMs and we negotiate with each vendor and almost all vendors are allowing us to serve the data as long as we can limit the number of simultaneous users to 1 (or any other agreed upon amount).

Third, our ace-in-the-hole...Citrix Access ( This is currently our primary method for serving licensed datasets. This allows us to limit the number of simultaneous users, limit to on-campus users (or vpn), and it allows us to serve applications, such as Geolytics Census products. If you have never used this technology before, think of it as a managed remote desktop connection to specific applications (or downloads). The freely available client is small (app. 3mb). The library was using Citrix before taking an interest in GIS, but since I became aware of its capabilities you can imagine we are now making extensive use. I am uncertain what we paid for the software, but I can easily find out if it will help.

Fourth, we use ArcIMS to serve vector and raster datasets, which are pulled from the ArcSDE GDB. This allows any able client on campus (ArcMap, ArcExplorer, etc..) to pull in the services. Vector data can be extracted and downloaded from ArcIMS using ArcMap, but raster datasets are view-only.
Now, how to manage the FGDC metadata for these all these dissemination methods? Well, that will be in a post coming soon...

No comments: