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Donna Koepp Appointed to The National Map Review Committee

Donna Koepp, head of government documents/microforms and head of reference and instruction for the Harvard College Library's Social Sciences Program, is the sole librarian appointed to the Mapping Science Committee Review of the US Geological Survey (USGS) Concept of The National Map. The National Map project will provide up-to-the-minute digital geospatial data for the entire United States. In a three-day session, at the end of September, in Washington, DC, Koepp and the seven other committee members met with individuals in government, private, professional, and academic sectors to gather information in order to prepare a formal recommendation to the USGS for the development of The National Map.

"The move from print to electronic format dramatically changes how maps are created, used, and archived," Koepp stated. Since the 19th century, the USGS has produced printed topographic quadrangle maps to chart the nation—progressing through such labor-intensive technologies as copper plates and, most recently, Mylar separates. When implemented, The National Map project will create a seamless digital map that will be consistently maintained and accurate to within seven days—a remarkable change for the USGS system in which the average primary-series topographic map is currently 23 years old. Users will be able digitally to overlay different layers of information, adding and subtracting elements such as land elevation, transportation networks, and geographic names.

"The USGS has employed electronic maps for the past ten years, but this project will make electronic maps their primary format. Electronic maps offer many new and unique possibilities. Yet, a precedent has not been established on how electronic resources are archived and accessed by libraries. In the original USGS proposal for The National Map, there was no provision for documentation; the plan was to delete the old copy each time a map was updated. The goal of the committee is to ensure that all aspects of the project have been considered. As the only librarian in the group, I hope to impart to them how crucial it is that libraries, and in turn scholars, have access to current and archived electronic maps," said Koepp.

Before coming to Harvard in June, Koepp served as head of maps and geomedia services at the University of Kansas, where she began a campaign to educate government and private groups on the library's need for electronic cartographic and spatial information. "Currently, the Government Printing Office (GPO) distributes one copy of all printed government publications and maps to designated depository libraries. The GPO is gradually transitioning to electronic distribution, but when publications are born digital, archiving and permanent access become very complicated. With The National Map, I hope that we can ensure adequate archiving to meet historical needs as well as maintaining long term access to the data in the public domain," said Koepp.

David Cobb, head of the Harvard Map Collection, stated that, "The world's changing political geography, environmental disasters, and national security issues have forged a commitment to process [geo]spatial data more quickly and to create a seamless set of public domain information. As a stakeholder, the library community will be able to use The National Map to meet the growing demand for current geographical information for our users studying census information, environmental change, transportation development, public health issues, biodiversity, and other related topics. While there remain many challenges before The National Map becomes a reality, the positive implications for libraries and library users of a uniform national data set are vast."

Lynda Leahy, associate librarian of Harvard College for research and instruction, noted, "HCL's map collections range from rare maps and globes to digital materials. The College Library is addressing the problems associated with the management of these digital images, and I'm very pleased that a Harvard librarian will be participating in The National Map planning process. Donna's contribution will have a significant impact on the map collections of research institutions, including Harvard."

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Last modified on Tuesday, November 19, 2002.