rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 1: p. 62
Sources: Getting Started with GIS: A LITA Guide
Rachel Hamelers

Reference Librarian and Math and Science Subject Specialist, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Getting Started with GIS: A LITA Guide introduces and highlights the importance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to librarians. The author cites Wikipedia in defining GIS as “a set of tools that captures, stores, analyzes, manages, and presents data that are linked to location” (4). This book serves as an initiation and tutorial to a field that librarians may not have encountered or that might not even have existed when the target audience attended library school.

Mapping technologies and their use have exploded in the last decade, and, according to Dodsworth, today’s citizens live in a world where spatial literacy is an essential skill. It follows that librarians of all types should have some understanding of GIS and should possess the skills required both to answer patron questions and to integrate GIS into their libraries in various ways. Throughout the book, the author gives examples of the ways that GIS infiltration has already started to happen in many libraries.

The book is divided into chapters on background information, GIS in Web 2.0, guides to web mapping, GIS data and software, and library services and collections. Each section lists extensive sources and references for the reader who would like to delve further into the subject. Lists of resources on the web and ideas for web searches also are highlighted. Due to the largely online content cited, the book sometimes feels already out of date, and, as with so many technology guides in print, is likely to become obsolete far too quickly. Fortunately, a companion website is provided. Although the book begins at a level that, in places, is too basic for many readers, it expands outward into realms that may be less and less familiar to the average reader.

Reading this book stimulates the librarian to brainstorm new programs and interesting ways to use GIS. The book also could be used as a reference source when questions arise or as a guide for learning a new skill. Extensive tutorials are provided to teach GIS skills and to help librarians teach such skills to patrons. Also featured are ways to select GIS data and find open source GIS software. Examples of specific libraries that are using GIS in innovative ways are included.

Overall, Getting Started with GIS is a useful introduction to the field of GIS, taking a librarian to the next knowledge or skill level and providing ideas for GIS integration and use. Recommended for academic and public libraries interested in implementing GIS or training librarians in GIS.

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