By HELEN DALRYMPLE
With the recent donation of nearly $600,000 worth of computer equipment by Hewlett-Packard (HP), the nascent Center for Geographic Information and the related Geographic Information Systems (GIS) facility in the Library's Geography and Map Division (G&M) both took a giant leap forward.
At a ceremony on May 14 thanking Hewlett-Packard for its generous donation in support of the Library's National Digital Library (NDL) Program for Cartographic Materials, Dr. Billington noted the importance of the gift.
"As more powerful computers and satellite-based technologies revolutionize the way we can look at, analyze and map the world, the Geography and Map Division has expanded its range of collections to include modern digital forms of geographic and cartographic information. The equipment needed to support these new technologies is complex and expensive, and the Hewlett-Packard Co. has given the Library the tools it needs to work in these fields."
The Librarian also pointed out that this same equipment comprises the core of what is needed to support the scanning of the Library's historical maps for the NDL.
"In helping the Geography and Map Division adapt to the modern world of geography and cartography, the executives of HP who made this donation possible have also embellished the vision of their company's co-founder, David Packard." He added that the National Digital Library Program was started in October 1994 with $13 million in seed money, including $5 million provided by the Lucile and David Packard Foundation.
Ralph Ehrenberg, chief of the Geography and Map Division, explained the relationship between the HP gift and the Center for Geographic Information.
"The genesis for this donation began with the Center for Geographic Information, which was formed last year as a partnership of private sector firms and the Geography and Map Division to help us develop, enhance and promote the Library's geographic and cartographic collections and to aid in our transition to the era of geographic information systems."
The equipment donated by Hewlett-Packard, said Mr. Ehrenberg, includes a series 9000, K400 server; four workstations; three x-windows stations; four printers, including one large-format color plotter; six personal computers; and an optical disk jukebox with 165 gigabytes of storage. It will be used to support the development of general GIS capability in the division and to assist in the scanning program for the NDL.
The Geography and Map Reading Room was reconfigured this spring, with the assistance of staff from the Library's Facility Design and Construction Office and Information Technology Services (ITS) to accommodate the new equipment. Once installation and testing of the equipment and training of G&M staff are completed, the GIS facility will be available to congressional staff and members of the public who need to work with digital cartographic data.
The Center for Geographic Information. The Library's collection of cartographic materials is the largest in the world, with nearly 4.5 million maps, more than 60,000 atlases containing another 8 million to 10 million maps, some 300 globes and other related materials. In the early 1990s, digital files of geographic data began appearing among cartographic materials deposited by federal mapping agencies.
The development and evolution of the computer have revolutionized the possibilities for the manipulation of cartographic data in much the same way that the computer has changed the way we handle other kinds of information.
In the last 30 years, according to Gary Fitzpatrick, the Geography and Map Division's GIS specialist, automated mapping and geographic information systems have completely changed the way that professionals create maps and analyze geographic data. Different types of geographic information - such as roads, contour lines, streams, buildings, vegetation, population or other demographic information - are described in separate digital files, and they can then be mapped and analyzed within various computer applications.
When Geography and Map Division staff began assessing how digital forms of geographic and cartographic information could be integrated into the collections, they realized that the technologies required knowledge and skills that the division did not possess. It was also clear that a complex and expensive suite of computer equipment was required that would be difficult to acquire through normal budgetary channels.
"Only through the help of the industry that was driving these technologies," said Mr. Fitzpatrick, "would the division be able to make the transition to the digital era."
In November 1993 the James Madison Council, a private sector advisory group to the Library, provided $30,000 to investigate the establishment of a corporate support group for the division. That same month, Alan M. Voorhees, a longtime friend and supporter of G&M and the Library, volunteered to lead the effort in attracting industry support.
The first meeting of that corporate support group, the Center for Geographic Information, was held at the Library on Jan. 12, 1995, with eight firms committed to being charter members: Autometric Inc., Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc., Harvard Design and Mapping Company Inc., the H.M. Gousha Company, Intergraph Inc., Magellan Geographix Inc., MapInfo Corporation and Tangent Engineering Inc.
Mr. Voorhees, who is also chairman of the board of Autometric, a firm engaged in many aspects of the latest geographic technologies, agreed to be chairman of the Center for Geographic Information. He has also offered to sponsor a fellow for one year to provide technical assistance to the GIS facility and he continues to provide guidance on map collecting to the Madison Council as a member of its acquisition committee.
The purpose of the Center for Geographic Information is to coordinate the contribution of resources and knowledge from a wide spectrum of the geographic information and cartography industry to:
1. aid the Geography and Map Division in its transition to the age of electronic maps and digital forms of geographic information through advice and financial support for acquiring hardware, software and data sets;
2. facilitate sharing the rich cartographic resources of G&M electronically;
3. promote the use of electronic forms of geographic information by many sectors of the nation, including libraries, academia, industry and commerce, education and the general public; encourage deposits of digital spatial data sets by American and foreign government, industry and academic producers; and
4. advance the Library's publication, education and exhibition programs in geographic information and cartography.
Members of the center benefit in a number of ways as well. They have enhanced access to the vast cartographic collections of the Library, which they are encouraged to use as resource material and to distribute in a variety of value-added formats not for commercial distribution. The division's expertise in cataloging practices can be shared with developers and users of digital forms of geographic information.
Using its unique position, within the Library of Congress, the division can sponsor programs that address specific needs of the cartographic and geographic information communities and provide useful links among these communities, Congress and other institutions. Finally, through the center, the division will work with producers and users of geographic information and digital cartography to ensure that digital forms of geographic information are systematically collected and preserved for the future use of the nation.
The first meeting of the center, held in January 1995, resulted in a major development: the donation of a large-format, flatbed, color scanner by Tangent Engineering, a move spearheaded by its chief operating officer, Robert Garber. It can scan flat items up to 24 by 34 inches at resolutions of up to 600 dots per inch and in 24-bit color.
As a result of this donation, the division acquired the technology to scan its existing maps, and the Library's overall NDL program adopted G&M's proposal to establish a National Digital Library Program for Cartographic Materials, which it has agreed to support through the funding of four positions in the division to operate the scanning program.
In a ceremony in the division in April 1995, Dr. Billington and John Kluge, the president of the James Madison Council, cut the ribbon on the scanner and participated in the scanning of the first image from the Library's collections: George Washington's own plan of his farm on Little Hunting Creek, prepared in 1766. The result is so fine that it is difficult to distinguish the scanned map from the original.
In the year since the scanner was installed, the division has scanned several hundred maps in a trial phase and has been working with the members of the center on technical standards and work flow design in preparation for a large-scale scanning project of its collections.
The Center for Geographic Information has met three times since its January 1995 organizational meeting - in June 1995 at the Library; in October 1995 in Santa Barbara, Calif., at Magellan Geographix; and most recently back at the Library last May. Five more companies have joined as full members (Corbis Corp., Microsoft Corp., Mindscape Inc., Rand McNally and Tactician Corp.), and seven firms are participating as associate members (Comark Government and Education Sales, Environmental Data Resources Inc., Adrian B. Ettlinger, MapLink Inc., Macromedia Inc., Spatial Data Institute and Systems Planning and Analysis Inc.).
Full corporate membership in the center has been established at $5,000, with associate memberships at $500. Support from industry members also includes in-kind assistance as necessary in providing the Geography and Map Division with appropriate equipment and software to begin developing expertise in the scanning of maps and the use of cartographic/geographic software and digital forms of geographic data; deposit of data sets; and participation on task forces to accomplish the goals of the center.
Shortly after the donation of the scanning system, the Hewlett-Packard Co. made its offer of equipment to the division. And G&M found itself with the full infrastructure needed to accomplish its long-range goals.
In fact, Mr. Fitzpatrick said at the May 1996 meeting of the Center for Geographic Information that the GIS facility was already way ahead of schedule. "I thought it would take us five to seven years to get to the point where we are today."
Ten core historic Americana collections from Geography and Map have been designated as materials that will eventually be scanned for the National Digital Library Program, including Civil War maps, county landownership maps and atlases, panoramic maps of U.S. cities of the late 19th century, Sanborn fire insurance maps, and maps and atlases of the District of Columbia. When that happens, they will be available over the Internet like other digitized Library materials.
The May 1996 meeting of the Center for Geographic Information approved the draft prospectus for 1996-1998 and discussed membership, scanning and online access, general-interest programming and outreach. Some of its specific goals for 1996 and beyond are: to work with the Congressional Research Service of the Library to use GIS technologies and the division's scanning capability to assist Congress more directly; to begin laying the groundwork for the acquisition of foreign geographic data sets; to design a major training program for division staff in the new geographic technologies; to form partnerships with universities to provide students and faculty the opportunity to work with the division's collections and geographic technologies; to use center funds to bring in specialists to assist the division in learning to use the new technologies and equipment that have been donated; to initiate a corporate fellows program in which participating firms can place employees in the division for short periods; to present special programs and/or symposia on topics related to geographic information; and finally, to explore ways in which the division can use the Internet and other electronic data networks to share its resources with the nation.
The Geography and Map Division has made great strides in moving into the new world of digital geographic information in the last three years, largely because of the efforts of its staff and its success in convincing private sector companies that they have a lot to gain by becoming involved in this enterprise. Direct cash contributions to the center in 1995 totaled $41,500, and the value of hardware and software contributed to date is more than $715,000.
Rep. Ron Packard (R-Calif.), chairman of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, spoke of the significance of the Library's digitizing efforts at the ceremony on May 14.
"This whole program of digitizing key portions of our collections here at the Library of Congress - I can't tell you how significant that effort and that activity is. It is moving us truly into the 21st century in terms of information availability to the American public. ... I will take great pride in the rest of my life of being a part of that program because I see such remarkable future for the items that are here at the Library of Congress that are being digitized."
Helen Dalrymple is senior public affairs specialist in the Public Affairs Office.