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About Geographic Information Systems

Major libraries in the United States have begun to provide Geographic Information Systems (GIS) services, and the University of Hawaii Library, in a pioneering move, initiated GIS services on campus in 2007. GIS services include finding and providing data, creating data consumable by the research public, educating the community about GIS and possibly providing a campus-wide leadership role that could bring the campus GIS community together.

The library provides a physical center/laboratory for the research community to learn about and use GIS software, help digitize maps and print out GIS products, including maps.

Students may request a trial version of ArcGIS Desktop 10.0. Make sure you meet the system requirements, have a speedy Internet connection, and have 3.76 Gb filespace before trying to download and install this software.

What is GIS?

There are far too many definitions of GIS to cull through, as GIS is different things to different people. Definitions range from GIS as a container for maps in digital form, a computerized tool to solve geographic problems, a "spatial decision-support system," a "mechanized" inventory of geographical features, a tool for discovering new information otherwise unavailable and a tool to mechanize operations on data that would be too laborious and time-consuming when "performed by hand" (Longley et al 2005).

Here is a more generic definition:

"An organized collection of computer hardware, software, geographic data, procedures and personnel designed to efficiently capture, store, update, manipulate, analyze, and display all forms of geographically referenced information" (ESRI 1995).

GIS is therefore much more than simply a piece of software, and actually a network of "things" working together to form a Geographic Information System.

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