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Purpose: The major focus of the paper is sharing the research processes and results of secondary analysis using GIS to map usage of a university library to contribute to ongoing efforts to help identify how library spaces are used to explain how university libraries can continue to evolve as teaching, learning, and shared communities of scholars. This paper details the use of ArcGIS to visualize where students are in the library in order to explain how this method can used by libraries to visualize the use of their facilities.

Design: This research utilized secondary analysis of data collected during seating sweeps; through secondary analysis, data were analyzed and visualized in. The seating sweeps were conducted three times a day during a sample week, with researchers noting on maps of the library floor plan where students were sitting. Data were entered into an ArcGIS database file and mapped to display usage directly on the library map to improve stakeholders’ understanding of the ways students are using the library as a place.

Findings: Even though this project used consistent instruments and procedural instructions and trained observers, a combination of factors resulted in an incomplete dataset, including the length of time between research design and data collection and lack of agreement about the use of map worksheets. It was still possible to make maps that depict heavier and lighter areas of use, present data to library stakeholders, and show what can be accomplished when data are collected on copies of the floor plan.

Research and practical limitations and implications: This research is limited by being a conducted in one university library, but the implications far outweigh the limitations. While bar and pie charts are effective at visualizing data, they do not provide a way to visualize where activities occur; maps provide multi-layered visualization, allowing libraries to visualize the same usage data as bar, pie, or other charts in addition to seeing where that usage occurs. The implications for librarianship include better understanding of how library spaces are used and the ability to use visually appealing maps to demonstrate the library’s use, value, and impact.

Originality and value: Mapping library statistics is an area that has been growing in the last decade, but practical examples of using GIS to map facility usage are few. This paper explains in detail how the mapping process works and how libraries of all types can adapt this method for their own usage assessments to more vividly depict the value and impact of the library facility as a place.