GIS and Geospatial Data Coordinator
University of Texas at Austin
When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted regular campus operations at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in March 2020, the UT Libraries had to quickly adapt to providing geographic information system (GIS) services to meet the needs of students, faculty, and staff who were suddenly working from off campus. Core GIS services like research support consultations, guest lectures, and workshops which had traditionally been provided via live, in-person interactions required particularly significant transformations. While there was initial concern that changes to established procedures might negatively impact GIS services, in many cases the opposite actually proved true–when forced to explore new ways of doing things, the UT Libraries ended up discovering previously hidden efficiencies and opportunities. Among these discoveries were newfound avenues of virtual collaboration via Zoom meetings, new sources of data about our services which could be used for assessment purposes, and attendance numbers for virtual events that surpassed expectations. While there have been unexpected benefits of adjusting to a virtual model of providing GIS services there are still challenges to overcome and questions about the future format of GIS services that need to be resolved. This project brief will provide an overview of the ways in which the UT Libraries adapted GIS services to meet the needs of the university community, the positive outcomes that have resulted from these changes, the difficulties that are still being dealt with, and the work that is underway to further improve services and prepare for a post-pandemic future.