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Guide to GIS resources available at Arizona State University
Last Updated: Dec 3, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Introduction to GIS

This guide is intended to help you find spatial information and learn about geographic information system (GIS) resources and software.  Any ASU student, faculty, or staff can contact me for help getting started with GIS.  Please keep in mind that advanced GIS software such as ArcGIS will take longer than an afternoon or two to learn.  Fortunately there are tutuorials and other resources help you learn.  Plus, there are simpler GIS alternatives to use for basic mapping and analysis needs.

In the ASU Libraries Map Collection there are two computers with GIS software that often available for use by ASU students, faculty, and staff when the Map Collection is open.

Faculty can contact me to request a classroom session or a library guide to introduce their students to GIS software and data resources.

Definitions of GIS

Examples of GIS



Definitions of Geographic Information Systems

What is GIS?  Geographic Information Systems are visualization and analysis tools that have a wide range of applications ranging from making a map to maintaining the various infrastructures of a large metropolitan area.  GIS works with layers of information relating to the given area.  Each layer might contain data or link to information outside of the layer.

Here are some more detailed explanations of GIS:

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) - Geographic Information Systems Poster

GIS Lounge - What is GIS?

ESRI's Guide to Geographic Information Systems


GIS and the Geospatial Revolution

The power and beauty of modern geographic information systems (GIS) is the flexibilities of the systems.  An example of a basic capability would be taking a list of the locations of people, places, or things and inserting them onto a map.  Detailed information about these objects can be made available through any GIS system.  An example of an advanced GIS would be a web-accessed system that allows secure, remote access to infrastructure information for both citizens and employees of a large metropolitan area.  A utility worker working in a neighborhood could find out when the lights of traffic signal were last changed.  If the worker replaces a light, they could immediately update this information from their vehicle – down to the brand and serial number of the bulb.  A citizen could learn about a waterline project on their street – what is the city repairing and how long do they intend to work on my street?

Penn State Public Broadcasting has produced an excellent series providing overviews of modern geospatial technologies.


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Map Collection Specialist

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Karina E. Wilhelm
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3rd floor Noble Library
(480) 965-5183
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