We met with Sylvia George-Williams to spend a few minutes talking about GIS. Sylvia is one of Fondren Library’s Science Research Librarians and the subject librarian for engineering. She and Dr. Jessie Zarazaga, Project Director for Initiative for Spatial Literacy, will be leading the upcoming “Introduction to GIS Mapping for Research” workshop.

Q: What exactly is GIS and why should I know about it?

Sylvia: GIS actually stands for Geographic Information Systems. They are computerized systems that allow us to capture, manage, analyze, and display spatial or geographic data. One should know about these systems because they allow us to visualize and better understand relationships, patterns and trends as opposed to just looking at tables full of numbers and data.

Q: Is GIS only for scientists?

Sylvia: GIS is not only for scientists, but for anyone who uses geographic information to solve problems or make decisions. For example, politicians can use it in policy making, businesses can use it in making decisions as to where to locate a business, people in the healthcare field can use it to better understand how certain environmental issues affect people in a certain area, etc.

Q: What types of services do you provide in the libraries?

Sylvia: Right now, we provide workshops for people to learn how to use GIS; we’re planning on having specific times when people working with GIS can drop by and ask for help if they’re having problems.  

Q: What will we learn in the workshop this week?

Sylvia: The workshop this week will be a basic introduction to GIS. People will learn what GIS is, how they can use it, and participants will be introduced to ArcGIS online, which the current industry standard. Then, we will have some basic hands-on activities using the system.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday, February 8th, at 3:00 pm in Fondren Library. Register online if you are interested in attending. 

Image Credit: ‘Pippalou’ at Morguefile.com