Inaugural Geo4LibCamp forges new collaborations

February 5, 2016
Darren Hardy PhD

From January 25th to 29th, we hosted Geo4LibCamp 2016 at the Hartley Conference Center and Branner Library. Inspired by the success of LDCX 2015, this inaugural event was planned as a hands-on meeting to bring together those building digital repository and associated services for geospatial data. We wanted to focus on sharing best practices, solving common problems, and addressing technical issues.

We had 40 attendees from 21 research libraries: Alberta, California Digital Library, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cornell, Emory, Harvard, Lafayette, Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, NYU, Oregon, Princeton, Reno, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Washington at St. Louis, and Yale. The roles for the attendees were 15 developers, 18 librarians, 5 managers, and 2 others.

We kicked off the event with introductory remarks from Julie Sweetkind-Singer from Branner Library and Bess Sadler from Digital Library Systems and Services, both of whom stressed the importance of the role geospatial data curation and sustainability plays in research libraries. Jack Reed taught the afternoon workshop on GeoBlacklight, an open discovery platform for geospatial resources based on the popular Blacklight project (SearchWorks, for example, uses Blacklight). We installed and customized GeoBlacklight on our laptops, and learned about its powerful features for discovery and multi-institutional collaboration. We also looked at two GeoBlacklight production services -- Stanford's EarthWorks, and NYU's Spatial Data Repository.

On Tuesday, we heard from panelists from institutions who have launched GeoBlacklight projects at their own institutions. Based on those comments, we discussed lessons learned and best practices for curating and developing discovery services using GeoBlacklight. We then discussed how to model map sets, such as aerial photography or large atlases, which a common but complex problem map librarians face when moving to digital repositories. We also discussed how to reach out to faculty and students to curate their geospatial research data. In the afternoon, Kim Durante, Darren Hardy, and Eliot Jordan from Princeton taught a workshop on approaches to geospatial data modeling and metadata workflows (see Kim and Darren's article in JMGL). We learned about end-to-end workflows associated with accessioning geospatial resources into a repository, like the Stanford Digital Repository, and emerging best practices and technology such as GeoConcerns.

On Wednesday, we spent the day in group discussions on a variety of topics, include sharing metadata, querying gazetteers, planning GeoBlacklight v1.0, and using metadata authoring tools. We also discussed deciphering metadata standards like FGDC, ISO 19139, and RDF led by John Huck from Alberta and Susan Powell from UC Berkeley. Sharing metadata was a consistent theme throughout the week, and we highlighted work in the OpenGeoMetadata community who publish their metadata on GitHub repositories. OpenGeoMetadata currently has tens of thousands of geospatial metadata records from nine institutions.

On Thursday and Friday, we hosted post-conference sessions at Lathrop Library. The focus was addressing technical issues and we installed, designed, and developed software and tools. For example, we integrated ESRI ArcGIS web services into GeoBlacklight. We also wrote a proposal for a geospatial repository workshop at Open Repositories 2016.

Feedback on the event was overwhelmingly positive. Participants felt the unconference breakout sessions were well-organized, topical, and informative. They also appreciated having plenty of time to socialize in the evenings with a Monday night dinner and informal happy hours the rest of the week. As a result, many new collaborations were forged and email addresses exchanged. One exciting new collaboration we learned more about is the CIC Geospatial Data Discovery project where nine institutions are funded to build federated geospatial resource discovery services.

We created a new mailing list, geo4libcamp@lists.stanford.edu, to continue our conversations throughout the year, and we welcome others to join us. We're already starting to plan the next Geo4LibCamp in January 2017!