Movin' on Up
Data Resource Centre draws more users after relocating from library basement
BY DAVID DICENZO
An old business adage sums up the increased traffic at the University's new-look Data Resource Centre (DRC) in the McLaughlin Library — location, location, location. Guelph students are taking full advantage of the centre's fresh digs, now in plain sight on the first floor of the library.
Originally located in the basement of the building, the DRC moved upstairs last August, boosting its visibility.
“The best feedback is from the students,” says DRC co-ordinator Michelle Edwards. “They absolutely love it. Usage is definitely up.”
And that's exactly what the committee that decided to move the centre was aiming for, she says. That committee was made up of members of the chief information officer's office, Computing and Communications Services and the library.
In its basement location, the DRC consisted of a small room with two staff machines and a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) computer, along with a table outside in the hallway with three student computers. Unless a student happened to stumble across the centre, users typically learned what it had to offer through word of mouth, says Edwards. In its new location, the centre has much more space and is conducive to both group work and individual consultation, she says.
“Students now have easier access to get hold of us for help, and we also have a consulting room where we can go sit quietly one-on-one.”
Mark Leithead, a first-year master's student in environmental biology, says he spent almost every day of the fall semester in the DRC using the GIS computer for his work on the association of treefall gaps in the canopy of a 50-hectare piece of tropical land and species diversity.
“The computers here are very fast,” he says. “It takes a while to process 300,000 trees.”
In his first few days on campus, “I had no idea where to go,” says Leithead. “I just walked into the library and I walked into the centre. If it were still in the basement, there's no way I would have ended up coming here.”
The DRC offers two types of data: statistical/numerical and geospatial (GIS). Both are organized by categories, with most of the GIS information available online through various links, although some is CD- based. The numerical and statistical data are obtained through consortial agreements and from individual suppliers such as Statistics Canada, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. They cover information ranging from consumer and population data to public opinion polls and are accessed through the web retrieval system Nesstar.
Edwards says undergraduate and graduate students in programs such as engineering, economics, sociology and psychology are regular users of the centre. And some courses have assignments tied into the resources.
“Students have caught on really quickly how to drill down and look at the data,” she says, adding that regular workshops are available for those who need help gathering information. “It's one-stop shopping.”