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Beyond Our Horizon: Reaching out to Engineering Faculty to Teach Spatial Literacy

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Libraries Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

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Paper Authors


Sylvia George-Williams Southern Methodist University

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Sylvia George-Williams is the Engineering Librarian at Southern Methodist University. Before coming to SMU, she was the Engineering Librarian at the University of Texas, Arlington, and at Clemson University. She is also the Interim Head of Access Services at SMU.

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Jessie Marshall Zarazaga Southern Methodist University

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Jessie Zarazaga directs the SMU LIbraries Initiative for Spatial Literacy and teaches GIS and Sustainability and Development in the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU. Working across the boundaries of urbanism, landscape mapping, and public engagement, Zarazaga explores ways to connect culture and community to place. Using GIS and participatory community mapping, she explores the impact of civil and environmental choices on the design of the sustainable city. Trained in architecture and urban design, her research spans education and practice, working on the integration of community research into project based learning. Her work overlaps areas of GIS mapping, global sustainable urbanism, design and creativity. She undertook a Fulbright in Valparaíso, Chile, to investigate, and map, devices of landscape as inspirations for the orders of community space.

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Beyond our Horizon: Reaching out to Engineering Faculty to Teach Spatial Literacy

The National Research Council of the National Academies has recognized spatial thinking as an important skill in the 21st century, and in its report “Learning to Think Spatially”, supports its integration in the K-12 curriculum. Building on universities’ increasingly recognized and integral support for Information Literacy, comes the realization that Spatial Literacy should be another of those skills that should be taught at the tertiary level. Recognizing the growing need for GIS support on the Southern Methodist University campus, the Central University Libraries set out to develop a full structure for the support of Spatial Literacy on campus. Engineering support in the library has traditionally remained firmly text based, supporting the academic side of engineering research, but leaving much data development and practice in the domain of the laboratory. In fact, at SMU, there has not been that much demand for library instruction in engineering classes. In contrast to this trend, SMU’s initiative for Spatial Literacy was launched, by the hiring of a faculty member from the School of Engineering who spearheads the program, in collaboration with the university’s Engineering Librarian. This paper will explain what spatial literacy is, describe how the program was developed, and how it has grown and expanded to become a truly multi-disciplinary program on campus. We will argue that integrating GIS into the services offered by the library encourages students, particularly engineering students to reconnect with the library, and to participate in interdisciplinary, and collaborative processes.

George-Williams, S., & Zarazaga, J. M. (2018, June), Beyond Our Horizon: Reaching out to Engineering Faculty to Teach Spatial Literacy Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29847

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