m-Libraries Conference 2009, Second International m-libraries Conference

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Mobile GPS Devices and Geospatial Collection Development in the Library

David Sharp

Last modified: 2009-07-03



Carleton University Library has a very robust geospatial data collection, valued at over $1,000,000, and sourced from a number of providers, including but not limited to, Carleton University Construction Services, the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission, Land Information Ontario, DMTI, Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada. Despite the wealth and variety of local information in our geospatial collection, requests for unique data points about our campus and our city are becoming increasingly commonplace.  For instance, just recently, we have been asked for campus data on designated smoking spots, emergency phones, safety lighting, and stop signs, none of which are found in the detailed data sets supplied to us by Carleton University Construction Services. However, mobile GPS allows one to easily augment a geospatial collection.  With a GPS unit, clients can manually go to the locations for which they wish to collect data, and enter them as waypoints.  Once collected, the waypoints can be uploaded as traces into a Geographic Information System (GIS), such as ArcMap with its GPS toolbar utility, or uploaded into a web-based interactive mapping application, such as OpenStreetMap, Google Earth Pro or GPS Visualizer.  After being uploaded, the traces are ready to be spatially analysed in conjunction with the other layers of data that the client happens to be using.  


I would like to propose a 20 minute paper outlining the steps libraries can take to help clients use either a GPS device, or a mobile GIS device such as ArcPad, to collect local data and upload it into a GIS or an interactive mapping application.  Technical points covered would include the basics of using a GPS to gather waypoints, how to upload the waypoints into a GIS as traces, and a demonstration of how the traces would appear on-screen.  Policy points would include discussing the appropriateness of collecting data points, prior to client request, as a normal part of collection development duties; the kind of data to be collected; whether libraries should be buying GPS devices for loan; and whether libraries have a place teaching the spatial literacy skills needed to make this type of project accessible to all clients.


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