Service: By Location

GIS Service at the Map Collection:

The GIS Service at the Map Collection aims to provide as comprehenive a GIS service as possible. The Service at the Map Collectioncan best be understood by understanding the process one generally endures thoughout the course of utilizing GIS for research. Initially, a general GIS user will need geo-spatial data to use in their research, then they will need a GIS software to process and analyse the data, then some level of instruction for using the software depending on their familiarity with GIS, and finally they will need a way to output the results of their analysis via a computer printer, the web or presentation slides.

Data Searching:

The first step of searching for geo-spatial data can be a very difficult and time consuming task. This service is provided by the GIS Service at the Map Collection. One thing that must be understood about GIS is that there is a lot of jargon which the user would have to be familiar with in order to do an effective search for geo-spatial data. While this web site provides a some GIS jargon basics, it takes some time to become accustomed with the many sources of geo-spatial data and the many ways to search these sources. Generally, it is expected that the patron will do his or her best to search for needed geo-spatial data, then consult the GIS Service when they have exhausted the extent of their searching capability.

Besides geo-spatial data, there is a range of statistical and cartographic data and products that serve as a piece of the complete geo-spatial data set. For example, there may be a statistical table with variables describing certain economic values broken down by municipal districts in the Philippines but no geographic features representing these municipalities. A solution to creating a complete geo-spatial data set with this piece may be finding a vector file that contains the Philippines municipal boundaries to which the statistical table could be linked.

The GIS Service at the Map Collection provides a mechanism through which the patron can work to find solutions to these processing problems. However, providing searches for quasi geo-spatial data is limited mostly to cartographic data rather than statistical data. Services provided by other libraries on campus may be more suitable for finding statistical data. For example, if you needed to find statistics on the occurence of asthma in children in Connecticut by town and wanted to map it out, the Epidemiology and Public Health Library may be a more appropriate place to find the statistical data. Once found, then the GIS Service could help the patron determine the utility of the statistical data as a geo-spatial data set and find town boundaries to link to the statistical table.

If no exsisting digital cartographic files can be found for the patron, the GIS Service can also search the wealth of paper maps provided by the Map Collection as well as other cartographic sources to help the patron convert the paper maps into geo-referenced cartographic vector files.

Before requesting geo-spatial data, a patron should narrow the focus of what they are looking for and the purpose of using the data in their research. Generally the patron should provide some basic elements with requests for geo-spatial data: a specific geographic location or scope, preferred geographic units, scale, resolution, thematic type(s) of data desired projection, and coordinate system.

GIS Software:

ArcGIS/ ArcView is the standard GIS software on campus. There is a site license for the software for the entire campus. The installation disks for the software can be checked out at the GIS Service at the Map Collection and can only be loaded on Yale-owned computers. The GIS Service at the Map Collection provides 3 public machine with both ArcView version 3.3 and version 9.0. This public machine also contains additional GIS software such as DLG Viewer and Mico DEM/ Terrabase II. It also contains various ArcVeiw scipts and extensions that have been downloaded, created or purchased to extend the capabilities of the software. Patrons may request installation of additional scripts and extensions to extend the capabilities of the software to support their research. The GIS Service at the Map Collection also performs searches for ArcView scripts and extensions as well as other softwares to meet the research needs of patrons. The public computer is only available by appointment for use. See the Software page to discover other computers or labs on campus that contain GIS software.

Processing & Distribution:

There are many different types of geo-spatial data sets in many different fomats available to GIS users. Often a patron will require data that whose souce may span several differnt Internet sites, vendors, and collections and will have difficulty converting all the data to one stadard and interoperable data set. The GIS Service at the Map Collection provides a processing and conversion service that is flexible according to the needs of the patron and the current work load at the GIS Center.

Basically, the GIS Service at the Map Collection will take the geo-spatial data it has downloaded, purchased, vectorized, etc., convert it to the appropriate format, put it all in the same projection and coordinate system, merge or clip data to fit the geographic scope, then burn a CD-R containing all the geo-spatial data in an organized directory, metadata files that may have come with the data, and a readme file contaning information on additional metatdata, all the processsing that was done for the data, and the source of all the data sets. The GIS Service does this as a free service and the acuracy and integrity of the data is the responsibility of the patron.

Most geo-spatial data contains some sort of licensing agreement and copyright. Before distributing any geo-spatial data to patrons, the GIS Service at the Map Collection will explain the licensing and copyright indiocyncracies for each data set and have the patron sign a document stating they understand the licensing and copyright issues.

For data that isn't a complete geo-spatial data set, the GIS Service at the Map Collection will assist in processing it into a complete geo-spatial data set. This may include finding and linking vector files to statistical data or digitizing geographic features from paper maps. The process of digitizing is aided by tools such as a scanner and a software called WiseImage Pro Color, which performs raster to vector conversion. Both of these tools are available at the GIS Service at the Map Collection. This type of service is available by appointment only.

Find out more about the raster to vector conversion process and view examples.


The GIS Service at the Map Collection provides a variety of instruction and instruction resources. There will be an attempt to provide at least one lab class on how to use ArcView each semester. In addition, unilimited seats of ArcView/ ArcGIS online classes were made available with the site license for the software. These are available to anyone affiliated with Yale University. The GIS Service also provides point of need instruction to patrons for particular tasks that may need to be performed with ArcView. Many of these instructions are documented and will be converted into online tutorials that will be made available soon on this website. See the Instruction page for more information.


The last step in the process of utilizing GIS in research is outputing the analyzed and manipulated data. This is generally done by printing out a cartographic product on a printer. Currenlty, the Map Collection GIS Service provides a large format color printer (42" wide). The GIS Center will assist patrons with GIS printing issues such as visualization, basic cartographic elements that are part of a map, printing maps with large file sizes, and printing to scale. See the printing section for more information on the specs and cost of large format printing.

Also, the GIS Service will assist the patron in exporting maps to other formats or converting them for use in presentation programs such as MS PowerPoint or on the Web as HTML, Flash, temporal maps, or interactive maps


Yale University / Yale University Library
Last update: August 26, 2004 14:16
© Yale University Library
Send comments to: