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Map Collection at Milner Library

For students and others interested in maps, this guide provides information on the collections and services in Milner Library.

GIS Resources

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geospatial data are electronic data that include some kind of location information, which could be latitude longitude coordinates, an address, a zip code or a county. These data are generally used in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), cartography, and remote sensing software packages. Data can be obtained from central clearinghouses (listed below), local organizations, and/or generated by researchers in the field.

From the interesting GIS Lounge portal: There is a distinct difference between GIS and Geospatial data, in that GIS refers more narrowly to the traditional definition of using layers of geographic data to produce spatial analysis and derivative maps.  Geospatial is more broadly used to refer to all technologies and applications of geographic data.  For example, popular social media sites such as Foursquare and Facebook use “check-ins” that allow their users the ability to geographically tag their statuses.  While those applications are considered to be geospatial, they don’t fall underneath the stricter definition of what makes up a geographic information system.

The Institute for Geospatial Analysis & Mapping (GEOMAP), housed in the Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment provides synergy for faculty research across campus and offers unique learning and professional development opportunities for students.

The library has five GIS workstations which are located in the uLab.on the east side of main floor in Milner Library.



  • Illinois Geospatial Data Clearinghouse
    Access Illinois GIS data sets and documentation (metadata) for ArcIMS Interactive Map Services, USGS digital topographic maps, aerial photography, orthoimagery, orthophotography, geology, land use, natural resources, and infrastructure. Illinois data sets and map data layers are available for download free of charge.
  • Illinois GIS Data Providers
    A large selection of agencies and bodies providing local data.
  • Illinois Free GIS Data
    Free Geographic Information System (GIS) Data: This service is for GIS professionals to accompany our imagery offerings. You must have the appropriate GIS software and experience in order to utilize this data. We recommend ESRI ArcView to utilize data with different formats and projections.
  • Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN) GIS Clearinghouse
    The mission of GLIN Maps and GIS is to provide a centralized location to discover, publish, and acquire geospatial data for areas within the Great Lakes region. The site has four major components: 1) a portal for viewing and exploring the Great Lakes and associated data layers, 2) a data portal (GLIN GIS) through which GIS and geospatial data for the Great Lakes can be published and acquired, 3) a gallery of downloadable images depicting Great Lakes geophysical data, and 4) a collection of links and tools intended to connect users to additional resources relating to Great Lakes datasets.
  • McLean County Regional GIS Consortium
    The McLean County Regional GIS Consortium is constituted through an intergovernmental agreement for regional GIS development and maintenance, ratified by the governing board of each participating agency. The local governments are equal partners in the GIS and share equally in the costs of maintenance. The GIS is also funded in part by document recording fees collected by the McLean County Recorders office, and by the State of Illinois.
  • Illinois GIS Association Board
    ILGISA brings together the GIS community of the State of Illinois through biannual conferences and the publication of Illinois GIS Notes.
  • DoubleMap
    Bloomington Transit bus locator ... showing current locations of public buses.


Some Helpful Tools:


SimplyMap -- a software product providing web-based mapping capabilities utilizing extensive demographic, business and marketing data.  A tool that requires a far less intensive learning curve than the more powerful ESRI suite of GIS software. A personal account is required in order to Save your work on the central server. 

Scribble Maps

Scribble Maps allows you to create quick maps with pins, highlighting, and annotations. It also allows you to use lines to calculate distances. This sample map that highlights a few locations took only a few minutes to create ... and can be inserted into web pages, blogs, or paper documents. You can also use Scribble to create Visual Indexes which contain links to other materials.


GIS vocabulary

The following are simplistic descriptions to help a beginner understand some of the key terms and concepts used in GIS:

  • Raster image - a shape file (think of a park coded as a square area).  Such a shape entity can not be easily manipulated and analyzed.
  • Vector image - object composed of points with both spatial and value descriptors (This complex object can be manipulated and analyzed.)
  • Georeferencing - describing an object's location within a spatial grid (for example, longitude and lattitude). Such objects can be overlayed with other objects (as layers) with a similar frame of reference.  Imagine overlaying streets, bus routes, and parking lots.
  • Layers - data sets that can be added to other data sets and overlayed onto a spreadsheet and/or map grid. Imagine railroad tracks, rivers, gas stations.
  • Datum - a standard for cailbrating spacial relationships and references at a given time.  Imagine the exact location of earth's continents on Jan 1, 1995.  These spacial objects move in relation to each other, so you must be careful to use similar calibrations when overlaying data sets. 
  • Projections - various ways to represent a round object on flat surfaces or maps. Different projections provide skewed approximations and can result in significant distortions in relative sizes from North to South, top to bottom, etc.
  • Scripts - programs written to perform various manipulations on data sets. Imagine defining vegetation types from the color of reflected radiation patterns.

For a more complete set of definitions see the esri GIS Dictionary

Subject Guide

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Vanette Schwartz
Milner Library 416