May 28, 2010 Library of Congress and Columbia University Agree to Develop Geospatial Data-Preservation Clearinghouse

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: William Lefurgy (202) 707-8618

Digital maps, satellite images and other forms of geospatial data are critically important for responding to disasters, protecting the environment and a host of other matters. But much of this information is in danger of being lost, because of evolving technology and other threats.

The Library of Congress and Columbia University announced today an agreement to create a web-based clearinghouse of information about best practices for preserving significant geospatial data.

The Library’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) will fund development of the clearinghouse at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia’s Earth Institute. CIESIN will launch a beta version of the clearinghouse later this year.

“The geospatial community has told us that a clearinghouse to communicate preservation best practices is essential for keeping these information resources available around the nation,” said Laura Campbell, associate librarian for Strategic Initiatives. “With its long history of working with a broad cross-section of stakeholders, CIESIN is an ideal partner for us.”

“We are very pleased to work with the Library and the broader geospatial community to ensure that vital geospatial data and information will be accessible and usable for decades to come,” said Robert Chen, director of CIESIN. “These electronic resources are essential to research, education, and sustainable development and only grow more valuable over time.”

The clearinghouse is a direct outcome of a meeting held at the Library with representatives of the geospatial stewardship community in November 2009. At the meeting, experts discussed ways to frame a national preservation and access strategy for geospatial data that is at high risk of loss. Discussions centered on ideas for practical steps that could be undertaken quickly and would have broad impact on capabilities for long-term data management.

A recurrent topic was the limited ability to learn about data-stewardship advances, including new tools, methods and services that have potential for broad adoption. Participants were in agreement that leveraging best practices was essential to cope with explosive data growth in a cost-effective manner. There was also consensus that a web-based information service would be the best way to address the need.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with nearly 145 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning website at Many of the Library's rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at

NDIIPP is pursuing a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations. For more information, visit

CIESIN, a unit of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, works at the intersection of the social, natural, and information sciences. Scientists at CIESIN specialize in online data and information management, spatial data integration and training, and interdisciplinary research and education related to human interactions in the environment. CIESIN researchers seek to provide data that informs scientific, public and private decision-makers worldwide. For more information, visit External.


PR 10-133
ISSN 0731-3527