Geospatial Electronic Media Inventory


Academic Libraries collected digital geospatial data on fixed e-media (e.g. CDs and DVDs) and removable drives throughout the mid-1990s and early 2000s when U.S. government data producers began to create and distribute geospatial data through the Federal Depository Library Program. Some of these resources had finite lifespans, became damaged or are no longer accessible for some other reason. Of those resources that are accessible, some remain protected by licensing agreements and still others were delivered in file formats that are no longer accessible using contemporary computers and software. Few libraries have taken stock of what geospatial data they have on their shelves, in their staff offices and/or in their annex holdings. This page describes a comprehensive inventory of geospatial data in the Penn State University Libraries.

The project objectives were to:

  1. Inventory geospatial data
  2. Determine the accessibility of geospatial data that was discovered
  3. Survey whether accessible geospatial datasets were already posted publically online from trusted data sources (e.g. academic institutions or government agencies)
  4. Create metadata documentation and post unique geospatial data resources to a public website
  5. Centralize and back-up all digital files to a cloud-based file storage system (Box)
  6. Create a demonstration project of how data from this inventory could be used in a contemporary research project.


Over 147 gigabytes of data including 250 fixed e-media resources were centralized and backed up to the cloud-based service Box.  Of the fixed e-media resources that were accessible, 168 (62.8 GB) were found to contain geospatial data and almost half of these datasets (82) were not available from an online data service provider at the time of this project.

The second half of the Carlsen (2017) presentation linked to below details a project that demonstrated use of 1992 and 2016 TIGER/Line boundary files from the U.S. Census to explore the evolution of road networks in Centre County, PA.


Ben Carlsen, Tara Anthony, Nathan Piekielek, Tara Mazurczyk


Carlsen (2017). 2016-2017 Bednar Intern Project: Geospatial data inventory (and Use Case). Penn State University Libraries. University Park, PA.


Support for this project was provided by the Penn State University Libraries Bednar Internship Program.