Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Academic Uses of Google Earth and Google Maps in a Library Setting

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Academic Uses of Google Earth and Google Maps in a Library Setting

Article excerpt


Over the last several years, Google Earth and Google Maps have been adopted by many academic institutions as academic research and mapping tools. The authors were interested in discovering how popular the Google mapping products are in the academic library setting. A survey was conducted to establish the mapping products' popularity, and type of use in an academic library setting. Results show that over 90 percent of the respondents use Google Earth and Google Maps either to help answer research questions, to create and access finding aids, for instructional purposes or for promotion and marketing. The authors recommend expanding the mapping products' user base to include all reference and liaison librarians.


Since their launch in 2005, Google Maps and Google Earth have had an enormous impact on the way people think, learn, and work with geographic information. With easy access to spatial and cultural information, Google Maps/Earth has provided users with the means to understand their world and their communities of interest. Moreover, the customizable map features and dynamic presentation tools found in Google Maps and Google Earth make each one an attractive option for someone wanting to teach geographic information or make customized maps. For academic researchers, Google Mapping applications are also appealing for their powerful ability to share and host projects, create customized KML (Keyhole Markup Language) files, and to easily communicate their own research findings in a geographic context.

Recognizing their potential for revitalizing map collections and geographic education, the authors felt that many academic libraries were also going to be active in using Google Maps/Earth for a variety of purposes, from promoting their services to developing their own Google KML files for users. With Google Earth's ease of use and visualization capabilities, it was even thought that academic libraries would be using Google Earth heavily in instruction classes bringing geographic information to subject areas traditionally outside of geography.

As active users of Google Maps/Earth in their roles as academic librarians at their universities, the authors became curious to know what other academic librarians were doing with Google Maps/Earth, particularly those working with maps and/or geography subjects. Were they using the technology as part of their librarian roles on campus? How were they using it? What impacts was it having in how they delivered library services?

To help answer these questions, the authors set out on a three-stage process with the aim of providing a more complete picture of Google Maps/Earth use in academic libraries. The first stage consisted of a literature search focusing on library and information science research databases, to see what (if any) scholarly research had been written that discussed the role of Google Maps/Earth in academic libraries. The second stage of the research had the authors examining over a dozen academic library websites to assess how they were integrating Google Maps/Earth either through an API plug-in on their website or advertising other Google Maps/Earth related services and collections. The third stage had the authors compile a set of twenty survey questions which were then distributed to academic librarians across Canada and the United States, probing the use of Google mapping products in the academic library setting.


Despite the ubiquity of Google for information searching, there was a surprising paucity of literature that documents the impact of Google Maps/Earth in academic libraries. Nevertheless, there are some articles which indicate just how much Google Maps can help raise the profile of library services.

Terry Ballard, a librarian at Quinnipiac University, describes in a few articles how he and colleagues were able to use Google Earth placemarks to promote his library's special collections. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.