by Kristin Bogdan
Engineering and GIS Librarian
University Library, University of Saskatchewan
Article: Kollen, C., Dietz, C., Suh, J., & Lee, A. (2013). Geospatial Data Catalogs: Approaches by Academic Libraries. Journal of Map & Geography Libraries, 9(3), 276-295.
I was excited to have the opportunity to kick-off the C-EBLIP Journal Club after a brief summer hiatus with a topic that is close to my heart – geospatial data! This article was great in the context of C-EBLIP Journal Club because it introduced the basics of geospatial data catalogs and the services around them, and provided an opportunity to look at the methods used by the authors as part of an ALA Map and Geospatial Information Round Table (MAGIRT) subcommittee research project.
Most of the group was unfamiliar with geospatial data catalogs, so the introductory material provided a good base for further discussion. There was good material about the breadth of the different metadata standards involved and how they are applied at the different levels of data detail. There was also good discussion about the importance of collaboration and the OpenGeoportal consortium in developing geospatial data catalogs.
One of the key themes of our discussion was that we would have liked to see more information about the research design and more data. We would have liked to see mention of the ethics process that the authors went through before carrying out their study. Our group had questions about the process that the subcommittee used to choose their sample, as it seemed like it was fairly limited. The authors acknowledge that this was not meant “to create a complete inventory” (p.281), but it seemed like it could have been broader to be more representative. We would also have liked to see the questions that were asked during the interviews and more of the qualitative data from the interviews themselves. It was unclear how structured the conversations with the catalog managers were and how the data presented in the tables and the conclusions were derived. The information presented in the tables was not consistently organized and seemed like it would have been more useful in the context of the interview. The pie chart they used on page 283 to show the “Approaches to Developing Geospatial Data Catalogs” was not as useful as a table of the same information would have been, as there are 5 pie sections to represent 11 data points.
In light of the questions around the data collection, the leap from the tables of responses to the recommendations seemed fairly large. In general, the lists of questions to consider when determining how to implement a geospatial data catalog were helpful but they aren’t really recommendations. The cases that they present provide some ideas about the staffing and skills required to create a geospatial catalog, but they are vague. The first case seemed unnecessary, as it states “The library has determined that there is a clear need to provide access to the library’s spatial data and other spatial data needed by the library’s customers. However, the library does not have the technology, staffing, or funding needed to develop a spatial data catalog.” It would have been nice to see some alternative solutions for those without the ability to create a full-blown data catalog like suggestions about some practices that could be put in place to start building the foundation of a geospatial data catalog like specific cataloging practices or file-type considerations.
Our discussion concluded with reflection on how carefully and critically we read articles in our general research lives. One of the great things about Journal Club is that we have the opportunity to really interrogate and dissect what we are reading. The ensuing discussion is an opportunity to see the article from many different perspectives. This makes us better researchers in two ways: we are trained to more thoroughly evaluate the things we read and we take that into consideration in the research that we produce.
This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.