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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wk 2: A single map from "Wisconsin's Past & Present"

The comments posted thus far each take on a different tack and are really good. The book is, like Nick remarked, an excellent example of cultural geography mapped in and presented in a book like this. Another example would be the cultural map of Wisconsin put out by the State Cartographer’s office at:

http://www.geography.wisc.edu/sco/maps/state.php

But back to the assignment at hand: I like Elizabeth’s critique and her interpretation of the question but I take on a slightly different view of the assignment: the assignment forces you to make decisions on choosing a single map that is important to librarians. I agree with many no single map in there is very useful on it’s own, but could form as a “base map” to add more layers from other data that are pertinent to libraries. Often you need to make choices given the data you have – not the correct way of doing research, that is, you establish a research question, then find the data to help you, rather than, look at the data and then make your question. But research is a recursive process and limits of data, time, expertise etc, come into play.

First, I like to qualify my response by saying that I am looking to see how the maps serve the public, so I am coming from the public library domain. (In other words, the education system maps on p.88-89 are invaluable for academic libraries domain, and indeed, like Jeff said, they could be engines for economic growth, educate the populace, which might increase the need for public libraries). The map that I would choose that would help us in beginning to locate new public libraries and perhaps relocate existing public libraries is the Newest Arrivals (NA) map, p28. This was a tough decision because the Population & Representation maps (P&R) p82-83 is also important given the key role of politics and demographics in gaining support for libraries. But the P&R map is looking at broad trends and the NA map is looking at more current nuances in the population, especially new immigrants that lack social networks (family and friends that are established in the area) and I believe need the services of the library even more (this is critical as other “arms” of the government are not seen positively by new immigrants). The library could be then the only friendly face that represents their new country. Servicing this group is important because they often do the jobs many are not willing to do, and at the white-collar level, generate revenues that help bring in retirement incomes. The maps not only identify groups, but tells us a little bit about where they are from and how they got here. There is also enough granularity in the data (p.29), which breaks down, for example, the make-up of Asians by county. While just this on it’s own is not enough information to locate a new library, it does clue us in on where populations of different ethnic groups could grow, pushing the need for a library even further. Of course, the data can help us customize a library to a particular population—for example, the Alicia Ashman Branch of the Madison Public Library has a good collection of dvds of movies from South Asia, reflecting a large South Asian population living in that area. If now I had the “luxury” of a second map, I could certainly the P & R map to provide more broader demographic information, including the congressional districts and senators and representatives from a given area. This would give me a starting point to start the groundwork for applying pressure and getting funding for a new library (I realize that libraries are mostly funding at the local level, but the state legislature can play a critical role in diverting more of the state’s coffers to local districts).

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