Strategic considerations for geospatial collection development from Greek Academic Libraries in an open access era: GIS users point of view
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Today, that the access in a wide variety of data and services is possible more than ever, GIS patrons need libraries’ further engaged with them, meeting their increasingly diverse education/research needs. Patrons are the core element in an organization that provides services and that is why our research approached the Greek GIS users. Excluding some surveys for GIS technology in public sector organizations there have never carried out a survey of this type for geospatial collections and GIS services; therefore, this study provides the basis for future research in academic libraries and information services. The challenge in conducting this research was how to access such a diverse group and how to extract an understanding for their work. To achieve the aforementioned goal we used a three phase based methodology: The first phase aimed to determine the implementation of GIS technology in an academic environment and in informational organizations. We conducted a qualitative study by addressing four experienced GIS scientists (faculty and researchers). For this goal to be accomplished the interview was based on a controlled questionnaire that was used as a research tool. The questionnaire was focused on issues that American Research Libraries (ARL) and National Library of Australia consider as strategic considerations for establishing GIS services. Thus, the questionnaire involved issues concerning policies, staffing, costs, infrastructure, data/metadata, services, users, user education and evaluation. At the second phase a research in the websites of Greek academic libraries was conducted in order to identify whether academic libraries have developed geospatial collections and GIS services fulfilling their users’ informational needs. As from the above two phases, the key findings that emerged were a) the need for geographical/geospatial information and b) the lack of academic libraries to deliver geospatial collections and GIS services to their patrons; the third’s phase aim was the “mapping” of GIS user’s opinion regarding the current situation in Greek libraries. More particularly, our intention was to capture their beliefs about issues related to the use of libraries, the geospatial collections, GIS services and the open access. While the first two phases of our research will be presented briefly, results of this last research phase will be illustrated in detail in this paper. The electronic questionnaire was chosen as a research tool, which was circulated via e-mail in order to be answered when it’s convenient for the respondents. We collected 304 completed questionnaires which represent a wide variety of GIS users (faculty, students, researchers etc). Since this study is the first one that focuses on GIS users and their opinion regarding geospatial collections in libraries, we consider the number of questionnaires capable of drawing conclusions. Results indicate user’s expectations for constant expansion of library’s role and provided services in order to use more effectively the spatial data covering their informational needs. The paper emphasizes in potentially valuable information since it will demonstrate the findings of the above research. Furthermore, issues regarding policies, open access, co operations and strategies will be discussed extensively.