Enhancing Discoverability of Geospatial Data within Collections of Distinction: Perspectives on a Collaborative Effort to Develop GIS Services
The University of Texas Libraries constantly strives to improve its ability to share its distinctive collections with the campus community and the world. As part of this effort, the UT Libraries has worked to enhance discoverability of geospatial resources (datasets, paper maps, scanned map images) through the development of a geographic information system and GeoBlacklight search portal. This project has to-date focused on developing a data storage solution for geospatial resources in three of the UT Libraries’ collections: the Benson Latin America Collection, the Alexander Architectural Archives, and the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) Maps Collection.
These collections were chosen both for their academic significance and the varied structure of their geospatial data which was well suited for system testing and development. The Benson’s internationally renowned collection of historical maps and manuscripts with descriptions of historic places in colonial 16th century Mexico and Guatemala, commonly known as the Relaciones Geográficas, offered an opportunity to devise text processing workflows for developing a geospatial dataset. The Alexander Architectural Archives’ Buildings of Texas dataset, with 6250+ records of built works, provided a chance to devise strategies for extracting spatial and temporal information from tabular records for modeling the complex relationships between people, places, and events. The final test collection, a series of scanned Army Map Service maps from the PCL Maps Collection, presented the opportunity to develop workflows for georeferencing maps, generating metadata, storing rasters, and scaling server resources. A stakeholder group was assembled for this project that was comprised of digitization and preservation personnel, cataloging staff, data services coordinators, and librarians with strong connections to the collections selected for project involvement. This group was tasked with developing the requirements for a minimum viable product for the two major system components, the spatial data infrastructure for storing collections data and the GeoBlacklight search portal, and for testing these components during development to assess their stability and efficacy. The system development itself was carried out by a team within the UT Libraries’ Information Technology department who used input from the stakeholder group to guide their work. This panel will allow each major actor in the development of the UT Libraries’ GIS system to share their perspective. Librarians will comment on the challenges of preparing their data for ingestion into the GIS system as well as on the system’s benefits for their respective collections. Personnel from the UT Libraries’ IT department and Digitization and Preservation department will provide their respective views on the technical development of the system and the workflows devised to prepare new data for incorporation into it. The business product owner who has been responsible for coordinating communication between the stakeholder group and system developers along with various aspects of data preparation and technical development will also be on the panel to add another perspective. Overall, this panel discussion will allow attendees to gain a multifaceted and nuanced understanding of the challenges and benefits of developing a geographic information system for storing and enhancing discovery of geospatial resources from library collections.