Students Design Unique Maps Based On "Palaces for the People"

By Jordan Williams, William & Mary Libraries

The influence of the 2022 One Book One Community program extended beyond its February events. GIS Certificate Coordinator Shannon White used the book selection, Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg, as the centerpiece of a project for her Geovisualization and Cartography course. 

A diorama by Jordan Landrum '22. It illustrates climate change in Washington D.C. (East of the Anacostia River).

White challenged her students to exercise their creative talents by instructing the class to pick a theme from Palaces for the People, research geographic based data on the subject and create a map in the GIS software, then interpret the findings into a physical product that is not a paper map. 

“I give students a lot of flexibility on how they approach a problem and use a concept to come up with a unique map,” White said. “The non-paper map could be anything the students wanted to make. I invited the Makerspace folks to class to introduce what was available to students.  I did not limit them to making something from arts and crafts, but could also be an online map or made from upcycled or recycled materials.”

Palaces for the People touched on a breadth of social topics, which allowed the student-made maps to represent a wide range of data sets. A few map interpretations included themes on newspapers, parks, climate change, and of course libraries. 

A non-paper map by Stephanie Bar '23 titled "The Richness of Libraries."

“A number of students focused on the library's piece of Palaces for the People,” White said.  “I think that is important as it shows the students understood that libraries are the palaces for the people. They understood the message that libraries are spaces for open knowledge, learning and sharing.”

The students explored research that provided data sets at local, county, regional and national scale. Jessica Wyatt ‘03, a former GIS Certificate student, translated a national database into a non-paper map.

Wyatt used her quilling talents to design a map of the United States that illustrated the number of libraries across the country, their available volumes and use and circulation by state. The data from each category was distinguished by the color and shape of the quilling paper.

Wyatt shared there are 9,057 public libraries in the country, which are home to over 686 million volumes of books. She also made a graph that displays the comparison between the number of libraries and circulation by state. 

A quilling map of the United States by Jessica Wyatt '03. It depicts the number of libraries across the country.

“In areas where there is low usage at the library, I think the librarians can start digging for answers on why they don’t have more visitors and how they can attract more people,” Wyatt said. “Those libraries can find out if they need to do more programming, increase their outreach and find creative ways to grow their usage.” 

At the end of the semester, White invited Swem Library staff to watch the Geovisualization and Cartography Design students give their map presentation. Instruction and Research Librarian Camille Andrews attended the presentations and was beyond impressed with the approach each student took to building on the research by Erik Klinenberg.

“The creativity the students brought to making their physical versions of maps based on Palaces for the People was amazing and inspirational,” Andrews said. “This kind of making requires considering how to represent data in a completely different way, and the students admirably rose to the challenge.”