Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Raster Surfaces for Hurricanes Katrina & Rita

The Center for International Earth Science Information Network's (CIESIN) Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has created downloadable raster surfaces compiled from U.S. Census 2000 SF1 and SF3 datasets. Download the data here:


This is a welcome resource as the most popular student GIS projects this semester is analyzing the affects of the hurricane season.

Position: Research Program Specialist II (GIS) (Sacramento, CA)

RESEARCH PROGRAM SPECIALIST II (GIS) at California Department of Transportation (Sacramento, CA)

This position sounds like a nice balance between the acquisition/organization of spatial data and complex analysis.

From the position description: "The incumbent will conduct independent complex research projects involving analysis and make recommendation as to how the spatial data library can best serve users of transportation data." The possible salary range extends into the $70,000 range, but this could be the cost of living in Sacramento.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Firefox Extension: Search Select

A friend of mine just wrote his first Firefox extension, Select Search 1.0. This extension will run selected text through a variety of searches.

He included in the Advanced context menu a category called Map it which currently included Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps. I am pushing him to also include some others (Virtual Earth among others) in later releases.

Check it out if you have a moment.

Coordinates (ALA MAGERT) Journal Indexed

The Directory of Open Access Journals recently began indexing Coordinates : Online Journal of the Map and Geography Round Table of the American Library Association.

This indexing is down to the article level. Link directly to the Series A and Series B records.

Via: Maps-L

Caught My Eye: Recent GIS Theses/Dissertations

There has been a load of new theses/dissertations released, and of course I am able to keep up with them using the GIS News: Publications feed aggregator.

Here are some of the published theses/dissertations that have caught my eye:

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Personal Data Privacy And Security Act of 2005

Now my emotions and my rationale are torn between having access to great marketing and real estate data on the one hand, and the fear of an invasion into my (and others) personal life on the other. If I could wave my magic wand and have instant access to household-level credit card expenditures, my initial response would be excitement and a desire to see how different expenditures were distributed. (If you follow this blog, please do not be turned off by this.) It would not be until a few heartbeats later that I would question whether I had the right to investigate this data.

The Personal Data Privacy And Security Act of 2005 (PDF full-text of S. 1789) was just approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and moves forward to Senate hearings. This brings the issue to the forefront for me.

Via: beSpacific

Of interest to me is 'Title II - Data Brokers', beginning on page 15. Here is a snippet that I found interesting.
"A data broker shall, upon request of an individual, disclose to such individual for a reasonable fee all personal electronic records pertaining to that individual..."
So, I will have to pay a reasonable (??) fee to find out what information companies have about me?

Also of interest is 'Title III - Privacy and Security of Personally Identifiable Information', beginning on page 25. This states that the individual protections provided under this Title are only enforceable if a business maintains personal information on at least 10,000 Americans. This seems to be a large loophole as smaller communities can be left unprotected.

'Title IV - Government Access to and Use of Commercial Data' (p. 54) stipulates (gosh, these words just seem to come out of nowhere when writing about legal matters) that federal agencies may acquire personal data from a data broker if the agency: (1) completes a privacy impact statement, and (2) adopt regulations that specify how the data will be handled. It will be interesting to see whether we (the public) may access these statements and regulations.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Free EBSCO Search: GIS Resources

EBSCO Publishing now provides free access to LISTA (Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts) at this URL:

Via: The Distant Librarian

This is great for the library world, and is equally as great for the GIS-focused library world as we all now have free access to all GIS-related articles published in LISTA indexed journals. Here is a static link to a search for GIS within this free EBSCO database.

I received an email last week announcing EBSCO's intention to provide RSS feeds for all of its databases, and when this happens I will add GIS-related feeds to the 'GIS News: Publications' feed aggregator.

Essential Software in a GIS Lab

Here is my list of essential software for an academic GIS Lab.

If anyone would suggest other applications/scripts or an entirely new category, please either leave a comment or email me at been AT uta DOT edu. Please note that there are only PCs available. Obviously, this very closely resembles the relevant applications on my PC.

I am preparing this list because I share our student's frustration at not having access to all of these resources in one lab. Students often have to run between different labs to access the software they need. The following list is NOT currently the configuration of any of the GIS Labs on campus.

Position: GIS Librarian (Virginia - Herndon)

GIS Librarian (Virginia - Herndon)

This position is with a private company, and is looking for an entry-level person who will be "scanning maps, georeferencing, image manipulation, metadata capture and editing in support of map library."

The only reference that I have yet found regarding this position is this link from an employment agency.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Photo: Special Operations Forces: Traverse through Military Terrain


Photo of student working through the Special Operations Forces: Traverse through Military Terrain yesterday. The workshop went off without a hitch, which is rare, but it defenitely helped that I just guided a Geosciences class through this exercise last week.

If you have ArcGIS 9.x with Spatial Analyst, you can work through the exercise as well. Just download the files, extract the files to the 'C:\' drive, and launch the MXD. There is a Word document that will provide step-by-step directions.

Very soon, I will have to post about planned workshops for next semester.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

GIS Day/Tech Fair 2005 Review

Click here for photo.

Well, the GIS Day 2005 / Techfair festivities last Wednesday worked out great.

The Friday Night Hangout has proven to be as successful as I had hoped. (Of course you can still participate to see where you should hang out this Friday night here.) The success of this project is its ability to continue to get folks excited about GIS even 1 week after the event. I am still getting emails from students and faculty telling me that they just added themselves to the map after hearing about it from a friend or colleague.

This is the first web-based geoprocessing application that I ever developed, and after this response there is no doubt that I will develop more. Especially now that I am bit further up that learning curve. The possibilities become almost limitless. I can now take many of the workshops that I have created and create web applications. The military path workshop that I am holding this afternoon? No problem. I can use a similar ASP form, and the results can be displayed in either ArcIMS or Google Maps again. I have the blueprints in my mind for a short script that can export a polyline directly from a feature class to a Google Maps polyline. I think developing at least one more web-based geoprocessing application will be my big project for Summer 2006...I can't wait for summer to get here fast enough.

In the photo (I finally signed up for a Flickr account) Heather, a student assistant who works with me, is guiding a fellow student through the Friday Night Hangout form. Heather is the best. Isn't the poster too cool? Ms. Candy has such a way with fun designs.

Reference Librarian/Environmental & Geosciences Liaison

Western Carolina University - Hunter Library: Reference Librarian/Environmental & Geosciences Liaison

This is the first exciting GIS Librarian position that I have come across in some time (as opposed the this repeater).

I like the fact that they are asking for experience with government documents and the small student body of under 9,000 will give this position (in my opinion) a great deal of influence concerning mapping & GIS in the library and the university.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Lots o' Data/GIS Library Blogs

OK, there are indeed some other GIS and Data blogs out there. Earlier today, when I posted that I only knew of three, this was true at the time. However, due to the popularity of the GIS Librarians Frappr map many new blogs have come my way and these have all been added to the 'GIS News: Library Blogs' page.

Here are all of the GIS blogs that I am currently at this moment aware of:

UB Geosciences Blog: Resources & Publications

Michele Shular, Geosciences Librarian at the University of Buffalo (my alma mater), maintains a blog entitled Compass-Point News @ UBLib. The description is:
A navigation through geographic resources at UB Libraries, pointing you in the right direction.
Michele does a good job posting about new GIS-related publications for the UB community, and I for one will also be monitoring the blog to keep myself up to date as well.

Excluding my blog, this makes the second GIS-related blog coming out of a library that I have yet found. The other is COMPASS: out of the Government Documents and Maps department of Fenwick Library. I originally posted about this blog here. Should I rethink the name of my blog to include the word 'compass' in it? Well, I reckon the purpose is quite different.

These three library-based blogs (including my own) can be found at the 'GIS News: Library Blogs' page (updated every hour).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Course: Advanced Real Estate Market Analysis

Next Spring 2006 semester, I am teaching Advanced Real Estate Market Analysis, a graduate course for the Department of Finance & Real Estate. I also taught this course last spring, but I plan to do things a bit differently this time around. So as usual, I am fleshing my thoughts out here...

Last spring, I divided the course into four quarters. During the first quarter, we focused on market analysis principles and appropriate sources of data. During the second quarter, the students built geodatabases (personal) using the data sources learned during the first quarter, and performed a suitability analysis for the retail sector in the DFW metroplex. The third quarter focused on property valuations mainly using spatial regression analysis. The fourth quarter focused on freely available web mapping options, including SVG and Flash. I taught this course at a very fast pace and the last quarter also gave the students time to reflect and digest.

The course last spring was very successful, but I would like to implement more of a case study approach. The required textbook this semester is "Real Estate Market Analysis: A Case Study Approach." Instead of clearly delineating the semester into 4 parts, I want to focus more on the textbook. There are 7 chapters in the book, 2 introducing market analysis and 5 on specific market sectors. If I spend 2 weeks on each chapter, the students can interpolate scenarios from the case studies to hypothetical scenarios here in the DFW metroplex. Weekly projects will then be turned in based on local data they collected and spatial analysis they performed. In other words (I am thinking aloud here...) the course will be structured a bit more thematically.

Good, I am pleased with this.

This makes the course a bit more of a challenge to organize as I now have to gradually build upon the basic GIS and spatial analysis techniques as the course progresses. This must happen simultaneously with the progression through the case studies in the book. So that the students can implement the spatial analysis necessary toward the middle/end of the semester, they first must learn the enough of the basics of GIS during the first parts of the course.

It should be a good semester. The Environmental and Earth Science department has recently expressed an interest in me teaching a GIS course for them this spring semester as well. It would be great if I teach that course too. If I do teach this additional course, the two possibilities would be either Geographic Data Analysis or Understanding Geographic Information Systems. Either course would be a pure GIScience course, and so I would be able to focus completely on what is truly my passion...GIS.

Here is a list of other graduate courses that I have previously taught:
  • Advanced Topics in Sociology
    • Texas A&M International University

  • Advanced Topics in Marketing Research
    • University of Texas at Arlington

  • Understanding Geographic Information Systems
    • University of Texas at Arlington

Friday, November 18, 2005

Frappr: GIS Librarians

I have just created a new Frappr map, called GIS Librarians to help to tie the two ends of my blogoshpere together.

To all of us who provide GIS/spatial services in a library setting, add youself to this Frappr map so we can see who and of course where we all are.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Polygon 2 XY Table 2 Polygon

Some folks here need to create a automated task that can easily convert polygon vertices to a table containing XY coords. They would like to be able to edit this table using their homemade algorithms and then recreate the polygon based on the moved XY coords.

I was concerned that the capabilities of the ESRI geoprocessing objects that I have been infatuated with over the past year or so might have reached their limit and that I would have to undust my crusty old ArcObject tombs. However, ESRI did not let me down. Right there on pages 66-70 of Writing Geoprocessing Scripts (PDF book bundled with the ArcGIS package) and also in the ArcGIS Desktop Help, it describes the geometry object which can be accessed with the SearchCursor, InsertCursor, and the UpdateCursor. There is even an example of reading coords from a text file and creating a polyline. Wonderful!

Well, I am using the IGPDispatch to create the COM connection using .NET, and everything is going smoothly so far given this great documentation provided in the Writing Geoprocessing Scripts e-book. I will post the file here as soon as I have finished it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hate Crime Statistics, 2004

The 2004 edition of the FBI publication, Hate Crime Statistics was recently released.

via: BeSpacific

All of the data tables are available for direct download in Excel format, and many of the variables are provided on the state and city level.

From the site:
"Hate Crime Statistics, 2004 , chronicles 7,649 criminal incidents that law enforcement agencies reported--as motivated by a bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnicity, or sexual orientation--and includes information on 9,035 offenses, 9,528 victims, and 7,145 known offenders. Eleven of the 14 tables in this publication present various information about hate crime incidents, the types of offenses committed, and some aspects of the victims and the offenders. The remaining tables contain hate crime data aggregated by state or agency type and show the parameters of participation for law enforcement agencies that contributed data to the program."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Least Cost Path Analysis Through Military Terrain

Tuesday evening (yes, the day before the Tech Fair), I am meeting with a geoscience class to guide them through a workshop that I devised 2 years ago. The workshop is entitled 'Shortest Path Analysis Through Military Terrain'. However, I believe that ESRI changed their function from shortest path to least cost path, so I might have to update the name accordingly. I have not glanced or even thought about this exercise in at least a year, and so this blog entry is my attempt to jog my memory.

So, here is the scenario envisioned during the workshop. Texas is under seige, of course from an unidentified/unmentioned enemy. It is our job to take out/destroy certain key facilities in areas currently under the control of the enemy. So, we gather base data including DEM elevation data and certain TIGER files (roads, railways, urban areas, hydrology). Then we gather current intelligence including the locations of the key enemy facility in this quad, enemy mine fields, and the locations of enemy troops.

Then, of course, we plan the optimal path from a randomly generated starting point to the enemy facility. The shortest (least cost) path function is used with various rules defining the cost of traversing through any peice of terrain.

I actually have not experimented with the differences between running this exercise on ArcGIS 8.3 and 9.0, so I forsee where my free time will be spent tomorrow... The old versions (designed for ArcGIS 8.3) of this exercise can be found here: (Workshop without data provided | Workshop with data provided).

EPA TRI Data Availability

The U.S. EPA might scale back its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program, a common data source for environmental mapping.

via: FCW.COM

Full Text of TRI forms Modification Rule: 39931 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 132, Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Here are two key snippets from the TRI Reporting Forms Modification Rule (Final) FAQ:
  • "This final rule eliminates certain information from the TRI reports, simplifies other reporting elements..."

  • "EPA will no longer require TRI facilities to report locational information (latitude and longitude data) and several facility identifiers (regulatory assigned identification codes for each facility). Instead, the data will be obtained from existing EPA databases and made available to TRI data users."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Google Maps EZ New Forums & Feed

Google Maps EZ has recently created an RSS Feed, and a new Usenet group, called Google Maps EZ has also been created.

Google Maps EZ provides public access to their javascript codes to greatly ease the use of the Google Maps API. I rely very heavily on Google Maps EZ for the Friday Night geoprocessing project.

Friday Night Hangout Follow Up

Aside from adding some images and perhaps tinkering with the colors a bit, this fully online application is complete.

Here is the URL:

Here is the description of the application (copied verbatim from the site):

This site was developed by the UTA Libraries: GIS Program to demonstrate the capabilities of geographic information systems, the Google Maps API, and the power of combining the two.

After filling out this short online form, a geoprocessor (.NET application accessing ESRI geoprocessing objects) is launched which computes a simple suitability analysis to derive the best location that is most suitable based on the user selections. All user results are stored in the database, so the number of locations and the number of people hanging out at these locations will continue to increase. Expand the All the UTA Party People menu (below) to see a list of the people who are currently hanging out.

So, just sit and think for a moment. How can a suitability analysis such as this be used in your studies? Your work? Your life? The UTA Libraries: GIS Program is available to help all UTA students, faculty, and staff to perform spatial analysis, locate spatial datasets, automate spatial tasks, and general GIS assistance. We can even assist with the creation and maintenance of online mapping services, such as the Google Maps API.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Geography-Related Dissertation Feeds Now Available

Another scholarly publication vendor now provides public RSS feeds. Proquest now provides RSS feeds for its dissertation database. The feed directory can be found here.

via: The Distant Librarian

I have added 4 dissertation topic feeds (below) to the GIS News: Publications category. This link will take you to the most current GIS-related articles aggregated from the IngentaConnect feeds and now the most current GIS-related dissertations from the Proquest feeds.

The 4 Geography-Related Dissertation Feeds:

ProQuest: Dissertations - Environment Geography
ProQuest: Dissertations - Environment Geophysics
ProQuest: Dissertations - Engineering Civil
ProQuest: Dissertations - Sociology Demographics

New USGS Blog: Topo Employees

Topo Employees
"Rumors, rants, and a little actual information about happenings in the USGS national mapping program."
Some folks at the USGS "unoficially" created this blog last month as a direct reaction to the decision to abandon and the subsequent decision not to abandon the USGS Center at Rolla.

via: The Map Room

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Caught Between 2 Blogospheres

My position as an GIS Librarian forces me to do some juggling. My colleagues in the library are all professional librarians or support staff, but I also consider many of the GIS-focused faculty as colleagues as well. So, in essence, I am being pulled by two spheres.

This is perfectly represented as I am caught between two Frappr-driven blogospheres:
At this moment, there are 14 librarian bloggers registered and 8 GIS bloggers registered. I try to keep up with most interesting blogs out there, so go ahead and register yourselves. Perhaps there might even be other cross-overs out there as well. The only other GIS/Library blog that I am aware of is out of George Mason University Libraries.

GIS Day, Tech Fair, & Hanging Out on Friday Nights

While I have not seen a lot of buzz this year surrounding 'GIS Day', next Wednesday is indeed the day. Like the previous three years, GIS Day activities on campus are overpowered by the UTA Tech Fair. This year, the Tech Fair is exactly on November 16. So, all of us departments that are demonstrating GIS technologies during the fair (library, geosciences, & urban planning) are going to have our own corner with a banner announcing GIS Day.

Well, our booth (library GIS booth) will showcase our Friday Night Hangout application. This entirely web-based application performs a basic suitability analysis (based on reclassifying layers and calculating the weighted average) that calculates the ideal location in Tarrant County, TX, where they should hang out on Friday Night. Users fill out a quick form online, the suitability analysis is performed, and their location is showed via Google Maps API. The best part is that it records everyone's results in the geodatabase, and so it shows you where everyone else is hanging out and if you anyone else will be hanging out in the same establishment as the user. I think it is pretty cool and I hope that it will serve as a good hook to pull folks into thinking about mapping in a new and fun way.

So, this project has been revamped and improved upon since I first developed it earlier in the semester for the Library Technology Round-Up. There are two big changes.
  1. The original Python geoprocessing script has been replaced with .NET. This has done wonders as I am much more comfortable programming in .NET than Python, and am much more comfortable working with geoprocessing functions than ArcObjects. Once I found the appropriate article on the ESRI Knowledge Base, HowTo: Use IGPDispatch in .NET, I was all set. The working code can be viewed here. This is the first .NET application that primarily used the IGPDispatch connection as opposed to the more traditional ArcObjects and this is opening up whole new worlds for me.

  2. The application is entirely web-based now. Originally, there was a .NET windows form that passed parameters to the Python script using the Shell() command. Now, the ASP calls the .NET geoprocessing code (discussed above) and everything is so much more robust.
I am still working out some kinks in the application, and of course who can resist fiddling around with an application 1 week before its big unveiling? If you would like, you can check out the user form here and the results here. Of course all of the current results are testers (mostly me) and all entries existing on the morning of November 16 will be wiped clean. It is probable that it will go down periodically before next Wednesday, as I am tinkering. Oh, and note that it takes about 60 seconds to process.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

'GIS News' Enhancements

We have created two features which will enhance the 'GIS News' feed aggregator site.

1. There is now a default feed that appears when the page is first loaded called 'GIS News - Librarian's Picks'. This feed will consist entirely of hand-selected entries by the GIS Librarian (me) as a way to help the GIS community here at UT Arlington sift through the ever-growing number of GIS news resources on the Net.

2. The problem with the pages taking too long to load has been resolved by replacing all pictures and multimedia linked from the individual feeds with a small png image that simply reads 'IMAGE'. Everything should be much faster now.

Let's Map Ourselves: Where Are We Again?

Mateusz Loskot recently set up a 'GIS Bloggers Map' using, a Google Maps API interface similar to CommunityWalk.

I have added myself and would love to see all the GIS and map-loving bloggers out there on this Frappr map. As of this very moment, Mateusz, James Fee, and myself are the only ones on there. Oh, wait a sec, I also see a test user...that also happens to be Mateusz.

Via: comp.infosystems.gis .

Also mentioned on and Very Spatial.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

GIS Librarian Job (yes, this one again...)

Geodata Librarian - SRA - Langley, VA

It has been quite a while since I have been able to post about a new GIS Librarian position. In fact, there are quite a number of parallels between this new job posting and the previous one.

Let's take a look:

Latest Job Post: November 5, 2005
Last Job Post: August 28, 2005

Latest Job Title: Geodata Librarian - SRA - Langley, VA
Last Job Title: Geodata Librarian: SRA International, Inc. (Mclean, VA)

Oh, and you might just want to throw this one in there for good measure: July 23, 2005

So, is SRA an employment agency, or is there just an incredible amount of turn-over? Or perhaps they employ an army of GIS Librarians in their attempt to catalog the spatial universe...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

American Housing Survey - 2004 Select Cities

The U.S. Census just released the 2004 data from the American Housing Survey.
Provides data on housing and household characteristics from the American Housing Survey. Data is presents on the total housing inventory including new construction and vacant units; on total occupied housing units; on owner-occupied housing units; on renter-occupied housing units; on occupied housing units with a Black householder, and on occupied housing units with householder of Hispanic origin.

In addition, the report covers such subjects as: data on external building conditions; number of rooms; complete bathrooms; kitchen and laundry equipment; main heating equipment; fuel used for heating, cooking, and central air-conditioning; plumbing equipment and failures; and opinions of the structure and neighborhood.

The AHS is released each year for select cities. This year the Texas city is San Antonio.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

How to Get Jim, George, and Sally Their Spatial Data

OK, so as I discussed here, we have devised three ways to access spatial data that we are collecting in the library. This has been a constant struggle as our 25,000 strong student body makes it impossible to secure site licensing.

Our ace in the hole has been Citrix (Previous Post | Website), but some vendors (this one and this one) have been giving us a bit of a hard time. One of these vendors is holding us up right now as our users cannot access the data because we are negotiating the license to allow us distribute the data via Citrix.

So, let's follow Jim, George, and Sally as they try to access data from our library's Geospatial Catalog (GeoSpat).

As you will see, Sally exhibits the response that I am struggling to minimize. If you have any ideas, please post them here or let me know (gislib AT uta DOT edu).

  • Jim searches GeoSpat looking for geologic data for Webb County, Texas.

    Comes up with a hit. Great. The data is being served by Citrix. Let me give that a shot.

    Drat. Computer telling him that the maximum numbers of users (1) are currently using the application and that he should try again in a few minutes.

    OK, waiting now...Try again. Yep, this time it works. Downloading the data. Wow, there is even a tutorial that some lovely librarian must have created. :)

  • George searches GeoSpat for FEMA flood data in Tarrant County, Texas.

    Holey-mackeral...GeoSpat leads George to the direct download site (UTA Only).

    Click it, download it, unzip it, view it. Hey, this even has good metadata. Cool.

  • Sally is looking for landuse data for Asia.

    Sally searches GeoSpat.

    Got a hit . Fantastic.

    Let's see here...where is the download button? Says here that I need to go to the Reference Desk?!?!?!? All the way at the Central Library!

    Well, shiver my timbers...That's way across campus. Forget it then. I didn't need that data anyway.

I cannot control how Sally reacts to this situation, but this reaction occurs quite a bit. I can, however, work to minimize the situations that prompt Sally to come to her terrible decision.

So, we are still looking into other ways to distribute our data, but I do not think that we will ever totally overcome that dreaded license issue. My goodness, it is hard work not to break license agreements. (But it would be my job if I ever did.)

One of the products we are looking into is the ArcIMS Data Delivery Extension. This seems really, really cool. I have not run into a single website that is actually using it, but we installed it on our server and I am looking forward to playing around with it over the winter holidays.

GIS News: Feed Aggregator

The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries is pleased to announce a new web application that the Libraries have developed, called 'GIS News'. The purpose of this application is to enable the GIS community here at UTA to easily access up-to-the-hour news and events in the GIS world at large.

'GIS News' currently aggregates over 100 XML feeds (RSS and Atom) and sorts them into 14 categories. The content is updated every 60 minutes.

Here are some quick examples of the uses of this web application:

1. Most current GIS-related job opportunities:

2. Most recently published articles in GIS-related jouornals:

3. Most recent postings on various GIS-related public user forums:

4. Most current GIS-related news and press releases:
Yes, I know this in many ways duplicates Planet Geospatial, but as I stated here, "...this [must be] a great-minds-think-alike moment."

ESRI Free Training: Explores Basics of the Geodatabase Data Model

Free, Live Training Seminar Explores Basics of the Geodatabase Data Model

I ranked an understanding of relational databases as number 5 of the Top 10 Most Common Student-Encountered GIS Problems, so students who use ArcGIS should definitely check this out.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Harry Potter GIS Workshop & Thoughts...

( - formatting fixed - )

In a couple of days, I am holding the following workshop: Magic Compass Spells: U.S. Branch of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry -- Where Should it Be? (Information | Download Materials). I first held this particular workshop over the summer when the last HP book came out, and then I repeated it when Junior High students came to visit the library. Well, third time is coming up.The workshop has been successful in attracting lots of folks to participate in this simple spatial analysis exercise who might never have been exposed to GIS beyond online mapping.It really got me thinking about why…

Our Information Services (Reference) librarians have scaled our Library’s Open Demo program down to, well pretty much down to nothing. An open demo is where we pick a particular research tool or topic and announce an open demonstration at a particular time, promote it, and hope for the best as far as a showing.Well, we have not had much of a showing at all which led to the temporary suspension of the open demo program. From what I have seen in the other two libraries that I have worked in, this situation is not unique to us.Now, on the other hand I still hold 3-4 open demos, which I style as workshops, every semester and am always pleased with the attendance and more importantly is that many of these people return during my office hours with follow-up questions.

Why? What is the difference between my workshops and the other library open demos? Is GIS just so exciting that it sells itself?

I actually touched upon this a bit during a presentation I made last summer at the Texas Library Association annual conference, entitled ‘Hands-On GIS Demos: It’s Easy to get People Excited’. But I want to use this space to elaborate in a bit more detail.The answer is in the relevancy of the demonstration. In our information saturated society, students with a computer, access to their library’s wealth of databases, and a little determination can track down most of the data/information that they need.Students need, or perhaps even crave, to know how to apply the data/information to solve practical problems. The absolute worst philosophy is that academic library resources are here to help with your classes.

Examples of Bad Demos:
If I were to hold a workshop entitled: Learn What GIS Can Do for You, or GIS and the Census 2000, or even worse GIS for Your Papers: It’s Easy!, I would anticipate very few attendees. Along these same lines, a library open demo entitled: Learn to Search the Library Catalog, or Learn to Find Book Reviews will also have a tough time exciting the students.

Examples of Good Demos:
So, let’s turn back to Harry Potter. How about an open demo entitled: Harry Potter: What the Critics are Saying to show students how traditional print and electronic indexes can complement the reviews they read on Amazon. The students can even be shown how the library catalog can be searched for monograph reviews. Or how about demos entitled: Post-911 Terrorism Bills: Find out How Your Representatives Voted, or Be Prepared for You Job Interview: Local Company Research...