The position of spatial data librarian is not commonplace at universities, but it is growing. I have met at least 10 new librarians in this position over the past several years. The small but expert and energetic group of spatial data librarians has been making headway in several key innovative projects germane to the themes of this blog and our book. These include the creation of useful data portals, moving the digital humanities field forward, and coordinating data production, dissemination, and use–not only between departments on their own campuses, but between universities, government agencies, industry, and nonprofit organizations. A group of these spatial data librarians recently met at a “Geo4Lib” camp, for example, and among other topics, explored a solution called GeoBlacklight to host geospatial data.
One group from Colorado is considering the use of GeoBlacklight tools to host a statewide Colorado GIS data portal. Colorado is sorely in need of such a portal as Colorado has no curated and supported statewide data organization or portal as exists in Texas with TNRIS or Montana with NRIS, for example. To see GeoBlacklight in action, see Stanford University’s instance of it here, led by my colleague Stace Maples.
Try the Stanford University instance of GeoBlacklight. What are your reactions to its usefulness, as a geospatial data professional? Do you have a geospatial data librarian at your local or regional university? What can the GIS community do to advocate that universities hire such staffpersons in the library?
One of the most robust data portals is The Open Geoportal (OGP). It is a collaboratively developed, open source, federated web application framework to rapidly discover, preview and retrieve geospatial data from multiple curated repositories. The Open Geoportal Federation is a community of geospatial professionals, developers, information architects, librarians, metadata specialists and enthusiasts working together to make geospatial data and maps available on the web and contribute to global spatial data infrastructure. Patrick Florance at Tufts University and others have been diligently working to make this resource one that will be valued and useful for the GIS community for years to come. The project’s code repository is hosted on github. Documentation can be found here. To search the repository, you can enter information using the “where” and/or “what” search fields or zoom in on a location using the map,
Like any large data depository, this one takes some getting used to–but I found it to be straightforward: You enter where you are interested in searching, and what you are interested in searching for. Where and What: It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. The only thing I could not get to work was the “Help” link on the page. After selecting and viewing your data on the map, you add it to a Cart. The Cart acts like something you would see on Amazon, and you can add to it and delete from it as you are searching, which I found to be quite convenient. Another nice touch is that you can adjust the symbology of the data that you are examining on the map before you download it. Even better, you can stream web services directly to your desktop, web, or mobile applications from the Cart. After you have made your selections, you access your Cart, whereupon you are presented with download options. If a layer is restricting by licensing agreement, you can add them to the cart but you must log in to preview or download restricted layers. Spending time with the OpenGeoportal will be well worth it given its ease of use, but moreso for the thousands of international data layers accessible here.
Additional tools that the OpenGeoPortal community is in the process of building include a Harvester–an open source web application that provides the automation of customized harvesting from partner metadata nodes and XML metadata files within a web or local directory. Also in progress is a Metadata Toolkit–a publicly available website that provides tools to easily create guided, geospatial metadata, and a Dashboard to analyze and visualize massive spatial data collections.
Europeana, Europe’s digital library and archive, provides an Internet portal for European cultural heritage, facilitating access to a diverse range of cultural objects, historical maps and archive collections maintained in galleries, libraries and museums across Europe. In addition to the collections and content maintained by the host organisations, Europeana also uses a number of additional open data sources to augment some of the content available via the portal, including GeoNames, the geographical database of place names.
The library has published a Public Domain Charter, setting out the principles for a ‘healthy Public Domain‘, explaining what the Public Domain is and why it it important. According to Europeana, works in the Public Domain are ‘…the material from which society derives knowledge and fashions new cultural works. Having a healthy and thriving Public Domain is essential to the social and economic well-being of society.‘ The Europeana website also discusses the importance of Public Domain in the digital age, which has resulted in ‘massive digitisation efforts‘ producing digital collections on a scale previously unimaginable and introduced new funding challenges for the organisations that develop and maintain those collections. Given the current fiscal conditions facing many European countries, Europeana acknowledges the pressure many organisations may be under to generate income from licensing their content to help offset the costs of producing these new digital resources. However, by publishing the Public Domain Charter, Europeana hopes it will send out a strong signal to content providers and policy makers as to the importance of maintaining works in the Public Domain.