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USGS transforms its role from mapmaker to map gatekeeper

The U.S. Geological Survey, which issues most official maps, is transforming its role from mapmaker to map gatekeeper. Like most agencies, USGS is transitioning from print to digital media. The transitions have left USGS officials and government librarians struggling to preserve cartographic information. When most people think of the nation’s historical records, they think of written documents. But maps, which are increasingly created in digital formats, are also federal documents that USGS must retain for future reference.

The growing amount of geospatial data generated by federal agencies, states, industry and nongovernmental organizations must be filed somewhere. The question is where. Increasingly, storing geographic information is a team effort. Last month USGS launched an improved, comprehensive Geospatial One-Stop Web portal. The online tool combines thousands of resources from federal, state, local and private sources. And the National Map project — a constantly updated topographic map on the Internet — is a collaboration among government agencies, industry and nongovernmental organizations.