Geospatial Thinking of Information Professionals

By Bishop, Bradley Wade; Johnston, Melissa P. | Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview
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Geospatial Thinking of Information Professionals


Bishop, Bradley Wade, Johnston, Melissa P., Journal of Education for Library and Information Science


Geospatial thinking skills inform a host of library decisions including planning and managing facilities, analyzing service area populations, facility site location, library outlet and service point closures, as well as assisting users with their own geospatial needs. Geospatial thinking includes spatial cognition, spatial reasoning, and knowledge discovery. A lack of understanding of librarians' geospatial thinking called for some preliminary investigation into the geospatial thinking skills of information professionals. Findings from this pilot study's performance task indicate geospatial thinking skills improved for ten information professionals tested after some training with geospatial technologies. A summary provides recommendations on how to both improve future study of geospatial thinking and suggestions on ways to incorporate geospatial thinking into library and information science curricula.

Keywords: geospatial thinking, information literacy, geographic information systems, global positioning systems, performance task

Learning to Think Geospatially

In 2010, the ALISE Statistical Report stated that 38 LIS programs reviewed specific curriculum areas and a variety of courses were added (Wallace & Naidoo, 2010). Over a dozen courses related to literacy were either added or experimental. Geoliteracy, or spatial literacy, has emerged as a type of information literacy that librarians of all types need to understand in that geospatial data are sources of information and according to ACRL (2000) users need to be taught how to determine, access, evaluate, incorporate, and use this type of information. Therefore, many librarians who in their roles as educators need to teach these critical literacies would benefit from some training.

The skills necessary to navigate today's world of information have changed, resulting in new critical literacies that include spatial literacy as a vital skill for 21st century learners (AASL, 2007; Jenkins, 2006; Jewitt, 2008; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). Geospatial thinking and spatial literacy education have been infused in the K-12 curriculum in the United States because of the need for future knowledge workers to understand geography and how geography relates to environmental and economic issues (de Blij, 2005; National Academies Press, 2006; Pullen & Cole, 2010). Spatial thinking, as part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) initiatives prominent in education, promotes spatial reasoning as a way for students to learn critical thinking and decision-making skills to apply to real-world problems (de Blij, 2005; National Science Board, 2010; Pullen & Cole, 2010; Wai, Lubinski, & Benbow, 2009). As the movement to infuse geospatial thinking expands to higher education (Jo, Klein, Bednarz, & Bednarz, 2012; Lloyd, 2001; Sinton, 2009, 2010, 2011), there are implications for multiple types of librarians - not just those serving the K-12 community - as information professionals to understand the concepts of geospatial thinking and spatial literacy. Incorporating geographic competencies into training and courses to foster geospatial thinking across the LIS curriculum is necessary to enable librarians to assist and teach users how to use information effectively.

The increasing presence of technology and digital information in our society has necessitated changes in the LIS curriculum to address the needs of today's information professional. LIS is an ever-changing field and the curriculum to prepare future information professionals is constantly evolving to address these changes. In recent years there have been many movements implemented in the LIS curriculum to integrate new concepts into coursework to provide a relevant curriculum. Some of these efforts include topics such as Web 2.0, leadership, digital libraries, archival studies, cultural heritage, museum informatics, and information architecture (Bawden et al., 2007; Choquette, 2009; Everhart & Dresang, 2006; Latham, 2000; Long, 201 1; Marty, 201 1; Marty & Twidale, 20 1 1 ; Spinks & Cool, 1 999).

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