Users perspectives for geospatial collections development in an open access era:the case of Greek libraries
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The use and diffusion of geographic information is continuously increasing in the areas of education and research since considered significant for everyday life. As the greatest challenge for libraries is to provide users with the most relevant geographic information, many of them have adapted to the current information climate. Moreover, as librarians are equipped for managing data, they are considered those professionals who have contributed to the development of institutional repositories and the development of many digital collections, changing the information environment. The last few years things have been changing rapidly in Greece considering the dissemination of public geospatial data, as several public sectors are becoming familiar with open access “culture” and provide geospatial data for free. Nevertheless, this tremendous change has left untouched, in the field of geospatial data collections, the Greek academic libraries that constitute the main information providers, covering their institutions strategic agendas. Therefore, libraries should exploit all the advantages of open access environment especially nowadays that financial crisis has affected all aspects of their operation. Throughout this study we aim to highlight this specific absence of digital geospatial collections in Greek libraries and answer the following questions: 1) Do GIS experts use Greek libraries for covering their information/educational needs? 2) Is geospatial collection development considered a necessity for fulfilling their obligations (educational/research/professional)? 3) Is open access crucial in their everyday life (in public and private sector, in universities etc). To achieve this aim we chose to investigate patrons’ opinions as they are the core element in an organization that provides services. Consequently, our research is addressed to Greek GIS users who were approached through an electronic questionnaire circulated via e-mail. We collected 304 completed questionnaires that represent a 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 Greek libraries, we consider the number of questionnaires capable of drawing conclusions. According to our results, the majority of users certify libraries as the main organizations for collecting, organizing and distributing geo information even though the current situation does not fulfill their informational needs on the promotion of geospatial data and GIS services. They consider the absence of collection development policies as the main obstacle of preventing libraries from being active in the development of collection/s regarding geo information and the establishment of GIS services. GIS users also claim that libraries are the organizations that ought to deliver geospatial data using the open access method not only to the members of their organization complying simultaneously with the intellectual property laws. The results depict user’s expectations for constant expansion of library’s role and provided services in order to cover their information needs. The paper emphasizes in potentially valuable information since it will demonstrate the initial findings of the research above. Issues regarding policies, open access, co operations and strategies will be discussed extensively.