This is the author’s accepted manuscript version of Kong, N., Zhang, T., and Stonebraker, I. (2015). Evaluation of Web GIS Functionality in Academic Libraries. Applied Geography, 60(1). 288-293.

© 2015, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution – Non-Commercial – Non-Derivatives 4.0 International License


The rise of web-based GIS resources has expanded the scale and scope of spatial information seeking in most, if not all, academic libraries. Even without formal GIS training, users can search for spatial information, create customized maps, as well as perform simple spatial analysis. However, few systematic evaluations have been conducted to summarize common web GIS functionalities as GIS moving from traditional desktop applications to the web. In this study, we evaluated and assessed the major functionalities of web GIS applications and their potential value for information discovery and access, using six most popular applications in the academic libraries. In addition, since web GIS targets non-GIS professionals, we also conducted an empirical usability evaluation of the six GIS applications in academic libraries. As the result, we identified eight major GIS functionalities that web GIS offers for information seeking purposes. The usability evaluation suggested that a user-friendly web GIS application should provide users a clear starting point, predictable map interaction, flexible customization capabilities, and familiar web experiences. Our study is one of the first studies to examine web-based GIS functionalities and their associated usability in a systematic way. The results will serve as an important reference for web GIS developers.


web GIS, GIS functionality, usability, information seeking

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