University News

GIS Day Nov. 18; Event to Highlight GIS Impact on Science, Tech, Humanities & Info. Systems

November 10, 2009

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MACOMB, IL -- Western Illinois University will be hosting GIS Day activities 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18 at the Leslie F. Malpass Library Garden Lounge. Held each year on the Wednesday of National Geographic Society's Geography Awareness Week (Nov. 16-20 this year), GIS Day is an international event that informs people about geographic information system (GIS) technology and the important contributions it makes in the fields of science, technology, information and the humanities. Western's GIS Day activities will provide the WIU community and the general public with an opportunity to learn about GIS and to see its applications in action.

GIS Day activities will include talks, poster sessions and live demonstrations of how GIS can be used in a wide variety of subject areas, including geography, geology, history, criminal justice and education. GIS Day attendees will learn about how GIS is used and how it relates to daily life.

According to Linda Zellmer, the government and data services librarian at Western Illinois University Libraries, GIS is a computer-based mapping tool that takes in data about locations -- such as streets, buildings, water features and terrain -- and turns that information into visual layers.

"The ability to see geographic features on a map gives users a better understanding of a particular location, enabling planners, analysts and others to make informed decisions about their communities. GIS is a multibillion-dollar industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Using a GIS, the rows and columns in databases and spreadsheets can be converted to maps showing land use, potential business locations, emergency routes or geological features for locating minerals, oil or gas," Zellmer said.

Chad Sperry, director of the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Center, which is housed in the geography department at WIU, noted multi-disciplinary GIS has transformed the way geographic information is stored, analyzed and accessed.

"It is hard to escape its impact, whether one is using a mapping program to take a trip, receiving a delivered package or in need of emergency services -- GIS technology is used to improve efficiencies and services," Sperry said.

WIU's GIS Day is open free to the public and is sponsored and organized by the geography department and University Libraries.

For more information, contact Zellmer at (309) 298-2723 or, or Sperry at (309) 298-2562 or Learn more about Western's GIS Center at

GIS Day is principally sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers, University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, the United States Geological Survey, the Library of Congress, Sun Microsystems Hewlett–Packard and ESRI.

GIS Day and are trademarks, registered trademarks or service marks of ESRI in the United States, the European Community or certain other jurisdictions. Other companies and products mentioned herein may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective trademark owners.

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