Columbia University Launches Spatial Data Catalog

NEW YORK, November 9, 2007 Columbia University’s Electronic Data Services (EDS) announced the launch of Columbia’s Spatial Data Catalog, a new resource for identifying and locating Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-compatible datasets from Columbia’s spatial data collections.


The CU Spatial Data Catalog is designed to serve as the primary access point to Columbia University’s growing electronic spatial data collection. The Catalog will allow easier access to geospatial data for users in the University community by bringing together data from many sources, and supporting remote access from home or in the field.

The CU Spatial Catalog is being developed by partners from the GIS working group: Columbia University Libraries (CUL), Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP), Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT). CIESIN provides server space and software support for the catalog.

The goal for the Catalog is to describe spatial data that can be used by anyone at Columbia regardless of the department that acquires and maintains it. The first entries will describe data held by the working group partners. The catalog already describes about 80% of the Libraries' collection and work is underway to add entries for data held by CIESIN. Contributions from others will follow.

Currently, detailed records describe over 1000 individual layers, including information from throughout the globe and ready for use in GIS. Full record keyword searches are possible. Advanced searching options allow for keyword searches in the title, author, and abstract fields, and searches can be limited by one of almost 300 pre-set geographic extents. Thumbnail images are available for each layer to give a visual summary of the dataset. Most datasets are available for remote download to Columbia affiliates with an active university id (UNI) while some are available only on-site in the EDS computer lab in Lehman Library. Support for users is provided by Electronic Data Service in the Data/GIS computer lab at 215 Lehman Library, School of International and Public Affairs Building, 420 West 118th Street.

GIS is a computer system for assembling, storing, and displaying geographically referenced information. With GIS, researchers can analyze spatially distributed phenomena by comparing, overlaying, and combining layers of spatial data and by examining spatial patterns.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

For more information about the members of the GIS working group, please visit their websites at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at; the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) at; the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) at; and Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) at The Electronic Data Service (EDS) is operated jointly by the Columbia University Libraries and Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) to support instruction and research that involve numeric and geo-spatial data resources. EDS maintains a library of data and documentation that covers a wide range of topics, both national and international, including socio-demographic topics, public opinion polls, politics, health, and economics. Support services for the data library include the following: help in identifying and obtaining data, assistance with data preparation, and maintenance of a lab facility with the necessary software for data extraction. EDS provides this help in-house, on its website at, and via electronic mail.

11/09/07 LMK