Monday, April 23, 2007

Position: Map and Data Services Librarian (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Map and Data Services Librarian and Assistant Professor (University of Illinois at Chicago)
"The University of Illinois at Chicago Library seeks a dynamic and energetic librarian to provide reference, research consultation/user education services for cartographic material and social science data sets, as well as implementation of GIS applications within the library and the university community."
There sure seems to be a need for good GIS folks in Illinois, eh? Last week, I posted the newly available position at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign, and now there is a similar opening in Chicago.

As this position's title suggests, the posting describes this position as a mixture between GIS, traditional cartographic materials, and data/numeric services. However, there does seem to be a strong focus on the social sciences.

Here are some snippets:
  • Works closely with primary users in a wide variety of academic areas including urban planning, history, earth sciences, public administration, sociology, political science, architecture, social work, education, public health.
  • Participates in collection development decisions for cartographic materials and social science data (maps, atlases, remote sensing images, geospatial data).
  • Participates in planning, design, and maintenance of web pages that include specific information about cartographic resources and GIS and social science data.
  • Creates local indexes (property listings, remote sensing products, aerial photography, etc.).
  • Works with other library units to assure consistent policies for the cataloging of maps, remote sensing imagery, aerial photographs, and data sets. Creates and reviews metadata for digital geospatial data and data sets, as needed.
Salary begins at $40,000, with faculty status.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Firefox Mapping Extensions in a Single .XPI Package

Lots and lots of fantastic mapping extensions for the Firefox browser. Which ones, you ask? Well, the 16 extensions listed below.

There are also a couple of extensions that allow users to back up all the extensions installed in their browser and package them into one .xpi extension file. The extensions are Firefox Extension Backup Extension and its partner Compact Library Extension Organizer.

So, I used FEBE and CLEO to backup and package all of the extensions in the following list into one convenient .xpi extension file: FFmapping.xpi. Install this file and you will have just about every Firefox mapping extension that I am aware of...Well, those that are compatible with Firefox 2.0 anyways. Now, the server might not be configured properly for direct extension installations, so you might need to download the extension first (right-click/save as), and then File/Open and browse to the file. This will get it installed.

Why use Firefox over IE? Well, here is one reason.

Google/Yahoo!/Live Local et al Map Extensions

  • Full Map
    • See more of the actual map on Google Maps. Rotate through 3 modes.
  • Map+
    • View a Yahoo! map of a selected address without having to open a new window or tab.
  • Map This
    • This extension will let you get a Google map for any address on a web page.
  • All Your Maps Are Belong To Us
    • Translates URLs for other mapping sites to Google Maps.
  • Firefox Toolbar for LookLOCAL Maps
    • The LookLOCAL Firefox Toolbar is a convenient extension to the Firefox browser that enables you to map a location, get directions, or search for products and services from any web page you are on without first navigating to an online mapping site...
  • MapIt!
    • Highlight an address and get a map and/or driving directions using your favorite online mapping site.
  • GDirections
    • Finds directions on Google and Yahoo Maps based on your selected text and one of various home addresses.
  • Freeway Driving Directions
    • Uses your favorite driving directions web site -- Expedia, MapQuest, or Yahoo! Maps -- to display the driving directions in a new tab when you highlight an address on any web page.
Region Specific
  • Streetmap
    • Simple UK streetmap search from context menu.
  • BuscaDirs
    • Gets a map for a selected address in Argentina, as well as for some cities in other Spanish-speaking countries that use the same address format.
  • Locate Address in Israel
    • Enables you to locate Address written in hebrew using map database.
Geotags (Websites & Images)
  • Shazou
    • The product called Shazou (pronounced Shazoo it is Japanese for mapping) enables the user with one-click to map and geo-locate any website they are currently viewing.
  • Nearby
    • Shows you Flickr photos, provides GeoURL links and Degree Confluences nearby the website your viewing.
  • GeoURL
    • Opens useful sites for pages geographically marked with ICBM or geo.position META tags.
  • Photo Map
    • Display user contributed photos on a map...
Track Packages

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

American Hospital Directory: Summary Hospital Data Maps

The American Hospital Directory (AHD) now supplements their public hospital data with Google-powered maps. I (and many of our health care researchers) have used AHD for hospital data, but the ability to access and view the hospital data through maps is fantastic and so very useful.

Check out their map of the 596 Texas hospitals in their database.

Hospitals are broken up into 8 categories:
  1. Short term acute care
  2. Critical access
  3. Psychiatric
  4. Long term
  5. Rehabilitation
  6. Children's
  7. Other
  8. Unknown
Great data is provided for each hospital, including revenue, number of beds, discharges, type of service, inpatient origin, financial statistics, and more. There are a number of subscription services available on their site, but this free data is great.

Here is the press release announcing their new mapping service.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Position: GIS Librarian (University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign)

Position: GIS Librarian (University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign)

"The University of Illinois Library is seeking an energetic and creative person to serve as the lead in the Library's collection and delivery of digital geospatial data and associated geographic information systems (GIS) services. The GIS Librarian will coordinate all aspects of the Library's digital geospatial information program at the intersection of user needs, technology, and data content. Creating a portal to geospatial data, the GIS Librarian will move the profession and services offered from traditional map librarianship towards geoinformatics with an increased interest in modeling geospatial data and in techniques applied to geospatial information systems for data management, retrieval, and analysis."

What a position! I have not posted a position here in a while as my regular blogging habits gave way to the business of this semester, but this position seems so exciting that I can not help myself... The folks over at Urbana-Champaign sure know what it takes to define the role of a GIS Librarian. If anyone out there is unsure about such a role, this job announcement is a fantastic concise summary.

Here are some snippets from the job announcement:
  • "This is a full-time faculty position in the Map and Geography Library of the University Library."
  • "Provides reference service, research assistance, and instruction in the selection and possible uses of digital geospatial data through in-person and remote one-on-one interactions, workshops/seminars, websites, blogs, and other avenues of widely distributed communication..."
  • "Works with teaching faculty to implement GIS modules in courses. Prepares datasets to support course assignments."
  • "GIS Librarian will craft a digital geospatial data collection development plan and will develop a campus clearinghouse and archive for digital geospatial data."
  • "GIS Librarian will describe acquired data using appropriate metadata schema and mount and maintain data on Library or University servers, providing access to the campus community at large."
  • "Serves as Library's contact person for campus site-license software such as ESRI and ERDAS
  • "Develops and maintains close liaison relationships with local and state geospatial data producers."
There is no specific mention of a salary here, but considering the requirements and the high research level of the university, the salary should be nice.

Monday, April 16, 2007

GIS-Related Dissertations: Latest Batch

Here's the latest installment of GIS-related dissertations that have caught my eye. Previous lists include 11/05, 01/06, 01/06, 04/06, 07/06, 10/06. (Of course, this is not a comprehensive list...only those I find interesting.)

Now, I will continue to link to the ProQuest Digital Dissertations public database, which provides free abstracts and 24 page previews for many dissertations and theses. However, due to Proquest's migration to the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT) database, the public database will provide only brief citations beginning on July 21, 2007. I will link to full-text versions if Google can point them out to me.
  • Airfare, competition, and spatial structure: New evidence in the United States airline deregulation, by Gong, Gang, Ph.D., Boston University, 2006, 170 pages.
    • "The dynamics of airline deregulation has caused dramatic changes in airfare and competition structure... The spatial distribution of airfare has not been even. Pricing dynamics have resulted in geographic patterns of lower airfare for cities in the west and southwestern United States while higher airfare was found in the South, New England, and Midwest."
    • I find this research extremely interesting and I bet a lot of folks would find this intriguing as well. Perhaps if I can pull the data together, this would make an excellent workshop next Fall 2007 semester. See here for Spring 2007 workshops.
  • Communal ontology for navigation support in urban region: Getting directions from familiar landmarks, by Hong, Ilyoung, PhD, State University of New York at Buffalo, 2007.
    • "This dissertation proposes a communal ontology as a type of regional knowledge with a formal structure that can be incorporated with geographical information systems. As part of an effort toward the realization of community wayfinding, this research explores several methodologies. To figure out what the shared geographical places are, the preference and degree of familiarity of different places are measured using the behavioral geographer's methodology. For investigating similar geographical interests within a community, social network analysis is conducted with the help of a person-place matrix and centrality measures are calculated."
  • A co-evolutionary cellular automata for the integration of spatial and temporal scales in forest management planning, by Mathey, Anne-Helene, PhD, The University of British Columbia, 2006.
    • "This thesis presents a case for more holistic numerical planning tools which can handle spatial objectives and inter-temporal trade-offs. A novel algorithm based on cellular automata (CA) is designed to address forest planning objectives that are both spatial and temporal and subject to global constraints."
  • A geographic information system prototype for archived data from intelligent transportation systems: A multidimensional analysis, by Cusack, Maggie, PhD, State University of New York at Albany, 2006.
    • "This work suggests a GIS prototype that will exploit existing industry data collection technologies, and apply sound Information Science (IS) principles to a growing transportation industry database problem. The prototype demonstrates a rational approach to applying those principals to the ITS data archiving and retrieval problem, with emphasis on the possibilities for data analysis."
  • Archaeological predictive model of southwestern Kansas, by Campbell, Joshua Stewart, M.A., The University of Kansas, 2006, 131 pages.
    • "Knowledge on the archaeological condition of southwestern Kansas is anomalously low, therefore a high-resolution archaeological predictive model has been constructed for the High Plains region of southwestern Kansas. Using quantitative data about the environment as independent variables, the model was constructed using a combination of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and statistical software."
  • Association between ozone and emergency department visits: Application of geostatistics and geographic information systems (GIS), by Choi, Mona, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore, 2006, 123 pages.
    • "Using traditional statistics and geostatistics in combination with GIS, the association between ozone concentration and emergency department (ED) admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory conditions were examined at the ZIP code level... Findings suggest that respiratory and cardiovascular ED visits increased even at lower ozone concentration than the EPA's air quality standards."
  • A Web-based spatial decision support system for utilizing organic wastes as renewable energy resources in New York State, by Ma, Jianguo, Ph.D., Cornell University, 2006, 129 pages.
    • "As the 3rd largest dairy state in the nation and the host for many food waste generators, New York State produces a large amount of organic waste. Recently there has been a renewed interest in farm-based co-digestion, which has created strong needs for research in this field... [A] Web-based spatial decision support system (SDSS) is developed by integrating geographic information systems (GIS), the Internet, and modeling. ArcGIS, Manifold, VB.Net, JavaScript and HTML are used during the design process. This system consists of three modules: (1) Dynamic Mapping and Querying; (2) Food Waste Estimator; and (3) Co-digestion Economic Analysis."
  • Bahamian cave and karst geodatabase, and GIS analysis of San Salvador Island, Bahamas, by Walker, Adam Dennis, M.S., Mississippi State University, 2006, 94 pages.
    • Full-Text
    • "A geodatabase and a data management program have been created to store and manipulate cave and karst feature data from the Bahamas. A geographic information system was used to recognize any spatial patterns in the cave and karst data from San Salvador Island."
  • Comprehensive conservation modeling: A spatially explicit individual-based approach using grizzly bears as a case study, by Backus, Vickie Marie, Ph.D., The University of Utah, 2006, 239 pages.
    • "This dissertation illustrates how a mechanistic bottom-up approach to constructing a spatially explicit individual-based model (IBM) provides the proper theoretical and operational frameworks for constructing population viability analysis (PVA) models that avoid many of the substantive and theoretical criticism of the conventional demographic models used in PVA. Using Java™, such a model is developed for the grizzly bear population of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem."
  • Creation of a system for assessing and communicating the risks associated with terrestrial chemical spills, by Bryant, Derek L., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 2006, 85 pages.
    • Full-Text
    • "Adequately preparing for and responding to potential terrestrial (land-based) chemical spills are critical to the protection of human health and ecology. In this research, an environmental risk management system is developed to support analysis and facilitate decision-making for terrestrial chemical spill planning and response... The system leverages geographic information systems (GIS) technology to assess and delineate the immediate threat to human and environmental receptors from terrestrial chemical spills. It characterizes a spilled chemical's ability to immediately impact human health, groundwater, surface water, and soil resources, and incorporates these four receptors into an overall measure of terrestrial chemical risk."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mapping & Datasets @ ACRL

Attended the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Annual Conference a couple of weeks ago. There were a few mention-worthy poster sessions and vendors related to mapping and datasets and I will outline these here.

Poster Sessions
  • Historic Images, Google Maps, and Your Digital Collections
    • Presenters:
    • Download handout
    • These guys showcased the Google Map interface they "used to increase the visibility, browsability and usability of [their] Historic Des Moines digital collection." Their project is entitled: Map of Historic Des Moines. They assigned a Google marker for a digital collection of app. 115 photographs. The marker info windows contain the photograph title, a thumbnail image, and a link to a details page. The details page contains a zoomable image and metadata.
    • Scott told me that they programmed the API themselves, and their poster/handout showed how YourGMap can also be used without any need to bother with javascript at all. Of course, this was before Google created My Maps.
  • Who's Counting? Using the US Census to Introduce Information Literacy into a Beginning Statistics Course
    • Presenter:
    • This was a nifty idea where the library teamed up with the statistics instructor to show the students how to access census data from the American Factfinder website. The students, then, performed statistical analysis on actual data they gathered as opposed to sample datasets provided by book vendors.
    • I like this idea very much as it is an outreach approach I have not yet tried. I do not believe I have yet had any interactions with undergraduate math students.
  • Documents Directly to the People: Using Podcasts to Promote Government Documents Collections
    • Presenter:
      • Newkirk Barnes, Assistant Professor/Government Documents Librarian, Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University
      • Download handout
      • "This poster session describes the Mississippi State University (MSU) Libraries’ podcasting activities, and the Government Documents and Microforms Department’s contribution to these efforts."
      • I was intrigued by this as I have often toyed around with the idea of creating a geospatial podcast geared toward our researchers here at UT Arlington. I have always been skeptical whether anyone would even listen to us. I am also a bit daunted by the workload. So many of the datasets we use are government-produced, and so it is encouraging to see a successful government documents podcast.
      • Newkirk stated that the project is relatively new, but that it shows promise. I plan on following up with her to see how well it goes.
      • Here is a link to Mississippi State University Libraries Podcasts.
Vendor Booths
  • Geographic Research
    • They have a product entitled SimplyMap which allows online and interactive access to Census data, as well as EASI and AGS data. The interface is an interactive map environment, where users can easily view demographic distributions down to the block group level for anywhere in the US, and then export reports and maps.
    • The demonstration of this product was very impressive. The potential of this product is quite high and I am looking forward to playing around with it.
    • We are in the process of setting up a trial. I will post more about SimplyMap after the trial starts up.
  • LexisNexis
    • Was told by the rep that there is a new product planned to be released this summer called the U.S. Serial Set Map Module. This module will be a separate product from their Serial Set collection, containing high resolution images of maps from the Serial Set in full color.
    • Currently, Lexis-Nexis' digital Serial Set product allows users to search the map collection and retrieve low-resolution black/white images. Now, my library has not purchased this product, and I only know this because the reps were kind enough to let me play.
    • It would be incredible if there can even be an Export to GIS function...
    • The rep told me there would be more information and perhaps even a working demo at ALA this June. I will not be there, however, and so will beg one of my colleagues to ask them about the product for me.
  • Proquest-CSA
    • There is a new intriguing product called Illustrata.
    • "Researchers can now specifically search information presented in tables, figures, charts, and other illustrations within scholarly articles"
    • Independent of any other CSA product a library subscribes to, Illustrata individually indexes and provides access to tables, figures, charts, and even maps. The demo shows that each item returned also contains a brief abstract of the source article and a blurb about the image or table returned.
  • ESRI
    • Spent a few minutes chatting with the ESRI rep about GIS in libraries/education, and about new software applications. Most notably their new (relatively) Image Server. I do not foresee a need for the library as ArcIMS is meeting our image serving needs, but I passed along the materials to various faculty who might be interested.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Census 2010 - Less Local US Data & ACS Insufficient

Census 2010 is right around the corner, folks.

Have been hearing numerous faculty and students anxiously awaiting for fresh new Census data, as the 2000 data has gotten quite stale and the taste of marketing estimates is never as satisfying. However, the joyous party times we experienced during the early 2000's as summary files 3 and 4 were being released are not to be repeated this time around. As I will discuss below, this has huge implications for all users of demographic data and this in turn will have a huge affect on my role as GIS Librarian.

Census 2010: No Long Form

So, the US Census has gone and submitted the subjects for the 2010 Census to Congress. There will be only 6 subjects. The data for these subjects is planned to be released on the Census block level on April 1, 2011. Here are the 6 subjects:
  1. gender
  2. age
  3. race
  4. ethnicity
  5. relationship (to the head of household)
  6. whether you own or rent your home (tenure)

How about the long form questions? How about income, education, citizenship, all those housing characteristics? Since 1960, sample data has been collected on the Census long form sent out to 1/6 households containing oodles of data. Data that I and many others have come to rely upon.

There will be no long form questionnaire in 2010. To cut costs, the US Census Bureau is now relying on the American Community Survey (ACS) instead of the decennial census to provide all questions previously on the long form.

This is not good news, especially in the short term. I have a big problem with the ACS replacing the long form data previously released each decennial census since 1960. The implications scare me.

Let's Take a Closer Look at the ACS

The American Community Survey last year began providing access to annual estimates of various demographics for all cities (places), counties, congressional districts, school districts, and states in the US.

Now, the upside to the ACS as compared to long form decennial census data is the timeliness. No longer will we need to wait until next decade to find the median household income for our fair city of Arlington. The ACS will release this data annually.

The downsides, however, are quite steep. First, the ACS is currently releasing data down to the county and city level. It is extremely rare that our students here use census data on any level other than block, block group, tract, or zip code tabulation areas. However, according to Chris Williamson, Ph.D., Senior Planner for the City of Oxnard, California, on the latest Planetizen Podcast (which is efficiently informative), as soon as the ACS has accumulated enough data they will begin releasing data on the tract level. In am uncertain when. Regardless of when, we have all been enjoying long form data down to the block group level.

Second, the margin of error for ACS data can be quite high. When using ACS data, it is imperative to consider the margin for error that is provided for each attribute for each geography. Now, Dr. Williamson (
Planetizen Podcast) stated that the accuracy of ACS data will improve over time, but for the short-term this is what we have.

ACS Data can be accessed via Factfinder, FTP download, and as data briefs (URL fixed)

Two Ways This Will Impact GIS At My Campus

  1. Possibly stifle the use of GIS
    1. Over the last two years, GIS activity on campus has blossomed as more and more faculty and students are embracing geospatial technologies to supplement their research. For many new social science, social work, health care, urban planning, and business users, the ease of accessing census data and joining it to TIGER shapefiles is a huge draw. The ease substantially decreases if the new users must consider the margin of error before using ACS data.
    2. Losing the ability to allow users to analyze official census data on the block group level (beyond the basic six subjects). As I discussed above, ACS is currently available to the city (place) level, and there are plans to release data on the tract level.
  2. Increased reliance on unofficial and less accurate estimates
    1. Faculty and students will not be willing to give up their block group level data. We (the library) will have to provide it to them. I assume (hope) companies such as Applied Geographic Solutions will continue to create current and 5 year estimates, and of course we will continue to collect this unofficial data. However, if the census is publishing data only down to the city or tract level, and if the margin for error is higher than ever before, the error of these unofficial estimates will increase. At the same time our users' reliance on these unofficial datasets will increase as ACS is insufficient to satisfy their needs. Perhaps the timeliness of the ACS will help to counteract this.

Now, I understand the Census Bureau (which means us, the taxpayers) is saving money by shifting from the decennial long form to the American Community Survey, but is it really worth it. Perhaps if I knew the amount of the savings it would make more sense to me. There are a whole lot of bright folks working at the census, and I reckon if they decided this is the best thing to do, then perhaps it is.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Oak Cliff Interactive - Student ArcMap2GMap Project

Student-Created Map: Oak Cliff Interactive

Want to discuss this political science student's work to show an example of the effectiveness of our library's GIS workshop program and our endeavor to create customized tools to increase the access and attractiveness of geospatial resources.

Have been working this semester with Charles Jackson, an enthusiastic political science student to develop an interactive map for an undergraduate public affairs course. Charles, (who gave me permission to discuss his project here), first attended the Google Maps workshop I held earlier this semester. He was so excited about the idea of creating an interactive map that he spent countless hours (at least 80) in the GIS lab learning how to access business location information, various demographic datasets, pull them all into ArcMap, and create an interactive map using our ArcMap2GMap script. I tell you, his enthusiasm was so infectious and always got other students (at nearby computers) and myself excited as well.

Oak Cliff is an old neighborhood south of Dallas, and Charles is working to develop a revitalization plan. The Oak Cliff Interactive map is the community services component. He explained to me numerous times that there has never before been a comprehensive analysis of the services/resources available to Oak Cliff's residents. This interactive map allows users to view various business, non-business, and housing facilities in Oak Cliff. If an address is geocoded, the 10 closest facilities of each visible facility type is listed, along with links to driving directions.

Hopefully, the professor will be impressed enough to begin encouraging future students to integrate geospatial resources within their projects. I will follow up with the professor and see what happens...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Texas Redistricting & Workshop - Texas Redistricting

# Google Map: Redistricting in Texas

# Workshop Materials: CD Image (350mb)

Held our library's 3rd and final workshop of the semester, entitled Congressional Redistricting in Texas: The Maps & The Demographics. It was a blast as we had 15 students, 4 staff, and 2 faculty members attending. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

The 2-hour workshop was organized into three sections.
  1. Dr. Jose Gutierrez, political science faculty, first gave an outstanding 30-minute introduction to the redistricting process in Texas, with an emphasis on the 2003 Texas redistricting and the 2006 Supreme Court decision that required the Texas legislature to redesign District 23. Jose is a fantastic speaker and it I learned a lot.
  2. Spent approximately 30 minutes exploring local voting results and congressional district boundaries using the UT Arlington Library: Texas Redistricting interactive map. Using the same interface design as Mapping the Afghan Experience and the developing Texas Time Machine. The Texas Redistricting Google Map (image above) incorporates voter tabulation district (VTD) election data from the 2000 & 2004 presidential elections, and the 2006 gubernatorial election. There are app. 8,500 VTDs in Texas, so the data allows for local analysis. Not quite as numerous as block groups (app. 14,500 in Texas), but still quite small.
  3. Spent the remaining 45 minutes using ArcMap.
    1. First, we showed everyone how to use the spatial join function to find the % Hispanic population (from block group Census data) in the infamous District 23 in the 108th Congress (before the 2003 redistricting), the 109th Congress (results of the 2003 redistricting), and the 110th Congress (results of the Supreme Court demand to redraw the Congressional district boundaries. This was quite effective as the percentage dropped over 10% from the 108th to the 109th.

    2. Second, we ran through an exercise where participants adjusted the 109th Congressional Districts based on their preferences, whether they be biased or impartial. No programming was necessary for this automation. I was able to create it rather quickly using ArcMap's Model Builder. I implemented an extremely simple algorithm making use of ArcMap's built-in mean center function and then creating a simple voronoi polygon map. Now, our campus has not yet upgraded to ArcGIS 9.2, so I used the euclidian allocation function instead of the voronoi map functions included in 9.2.
So, where did all of this great data come from? Mostly from the Texas Legislative Council's Redistricting FTP Site. Note that Firefox has some issues with this FTP site, so if you use a browser to access FTP, use IE. For more details about data sources, see the workshop handout, which is basically a bibliography of relevant data sources.