Applying Geographic Information Systems to the Weber County Library System

Article excerpt

Plotting information about patrons and library locations on a map provides library decision-makers with a spatial view of the library's market area and a better and more complete understanding of the library's user population. This study uses a geographic information system to analyze the Weber County Library System in northern Utah. The paper concentrates on three areas: (1) patron utilization of the main library and its branches, (2) the need for additional branch libraries, and (3) selected demographic characteristics of the population in the census tracts surrounding the library system.

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Numerous studies focus on library patrons utilizing geographic information systems (GIS). Fewer studies, however, have investigated the application of GIS in better assisting libraries to serve their populations. GIS allows libraries to map both patron locations and demographic data to match library services to library users' needs. This paper examines the application of GIS to the Weber County Library System (WCLS) in northern Utah. The study examines the location of patrons in relation to the library system and determines whether or not there is a need for additional library branches or services.

Background

The focus of this study is on the combined area of Weber and Davis counties located in northern Utah. Although WCLS primarily serves Weber-county residents, a reciprocal agreement between the library systems in the two counties allows residents from both counties to use either system. Approximately 196,000 residents live in Weber County, 40 percent of whom live in Ogden, the industrial hub of the county and location of the main WCLS library. The ethnic make-up of the county is predominately white (87.7 percent), although there is a significant Hispanic population (12.6 percent). Davis County has a population of approximately 238,994 residents, is predominately white (94 percent), and has fewer Hispanics (5.4 percent) than Weber County. (1) The majority of the population in both counties resides in a central corridor between Interstate 15 and Highway 89 (figure 1).

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The Davis County Library System emphasizes popular reading collections, while the WCLS collection focuses on lifelong learning. Additionally, WCLS has a much larger collection, containing more research and reference materials. As a result, the collections serve different purposes and may attract different patron populations.

The main WCLS library is located in downtown Ogden, the north branch in the city of North Ogden, the Ogden Valley branch in Huntsville, and the southwest branch in Roy (figure 2). Two new library branches have been proposed. One will be located in the southern section of the county, and its location has already been determined. The other proposed branch will be located in the northwest, although a site has not yet been selected (figure 2).

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Literature Review

A review of the literature revealed a large amount of information on library-location theory and public library user characteristics. A lesser amount of information was found regarding the application of GIS in public library planning.

The most important factor found regarding library location was accessibility, including patron distance from the library, and the selection of optimal locations when constructing new library buildings. (2) This study focuses on the location of current patrons of the library system, as well as analyzing areas for the construction of additional branch libraries. Hawkins, Morris, and Sumsion examined reasons why people use both main and branch libraries and, again, accessibility was a major issue. In their study, patrons' responses included "easy to get to" and "nearest my home." (3)

Additionally, Koontz found the demographic factors of income and ethnicity to be important determinants of library usage. (4) O'Connor and Fortenbaugh studied socioeconomic indicators and library use in the state of New Jersey and found that "[a]s a community's median family income increases, library funding increases. …