Geographic Resources from Penn State Libraries and Online

Many thanks to Marcy Bidney, Assistant Librarian, Head of the Donald W. Hamer Maps Library at Penn State University Libraries for sharing these great tips on Penn State resources for geographic information.

Don’t stop reading this blog if you think maps or geographic information have nothing to do with your course of study. I’m here to tell you that they do! If you’re researching eating habits of a particular demographic, studying ancient history, looking at the growth of poverty rates or food habits and you think having a map will help you illustrate the issues in a way that will stand out, then keep reading.

The Donald W. Hamer Maps Library website has links to lots of useful resources if you are looking for maps and data, such as our Digital Map drawer where you can browse some of the collections we’ve digitized. Check out our links page to find our recommended resources to find data, general outline maps, coordinate information and Pennsylvania related geographic data via PASDA. We are experts at finding both national and international level data of all kinds and helping you find creative ways of using data to enhance your research.  Need help making maps or have general GIS questions? We have you covered there too!

One of the best tools we’ve purchased is a database called SimplyMap. It is chock full of business and census data and has a cool, easy to use mapping function built right in.  I made the map below showing the number of people who ride the bus or take the subway to work by counties in the United States in about five minutes – it is that fast and easy!

Demographic map created using SimplyMap database
Demographic map created using SimplyMap database

Some of the other data available via SimplyMap include Claritas Prizm data for 2009, a variety of quality of life data and general census data. You can use many of these data variables to create simple maps like the one I created or you can combine different variables to construct queries and more detailed analysis. You can export your data as an image or shape files for ease of use in geographic information system software. The options are many!

Another cool mapping tool we provide is called Social Explorer and they provide access to lots of readymade maps and reports using Census data from as long ago as 1790. Here is another map I made in less than five minutes using Social Explorer showing the percentage of the population that was German born in 1790.

Map created using Social Explorer
Map created using Social Explorer

I could write a blog entry every day for a year talking about all of the other resources that are available here in the libraries and online. The amount of information can be overwhelming so if you are looking for geographic information and aren’t finding exactly what you need, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me personally  –  you can call me or shoot me an email. My contact information can be found on the Map Library’s website.

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