Spring 2019 Grant Recipient Spotlight Series: Professor Mario Giraldo

CSUN Map Library curator Chris Salvno (standing) and GEOG 206 class looking at the project’s final products. Courtesy of Mario Giraldo.

Maps are ubiquitous, even in this digital age. While paper maps were intuitive to use, maps now exist as apps and other digital forms, thus resulting in a change in how people utilize maps. People now use map apps for everyday things like looking up nearby restaurants or finding the fastest way to their destination. For something that is integral for the lives of many people, understanding the changes in usage is crucial in order to make improvements.

Professor Mario Giraldo’s class, GEOG 206 Intro to GIS, worked with the Oviatt Library Map Collection on a project that aims to understand how the new generation of map users extract information from a map in order to improve accessibility to maps. The idea for the project came about from Giraldo’s interest in participating in class-based projects and –– through his conversations with the Map Collection’s map curator Chris Salvano –– the realization of the collection’s potential.

“The Geography department’s map collection and Oviatt Library Map Collection has old documents that have been collected in storage for the last 50 years, which now belongs to the University. Unfortunately, until recently, it has been highly neglected,” explained Giraldo. “When I have my Geographic Information Science (GIScience) class, I realized that for you to do GIScience, you need to have data sets. (Map Collection) is a place that is very rich in information that we can use.”

Through the class, students got to learn about Geographic Information Science (GIScience), a technique that has been around for 15 years. According to, GIScience “conceptualizes how to store spatial information, collect data and analyze it”, which will help with the technical implementation of the Geographic Information Systems.

An example of work done by GEOG 206 student April Radics with maps provided by the CSUN Map library, thanks to Chris Salvano and Thomas St. George.

Students utilized maps from the collection, maps from the present and aerial photos of Greater Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley in order to create a visual for comparing the old and the new. The class exceeded their initial expectations of scanning and geometrically correcting 50 aerial photos, managing to scan over 400 aerial photos, with 50 photos included in the geographical database.

Apart from being a learning opportunity for students, the project will also benefit the library by utilizing its resources and bringing attention to the collection.

“The library’s priority is to serve a larger population. The larger amount of people that we serve, the better the benefits for the resources in the library,” said Giraldo. “Since the map library and our collections of maps are highly unknown, this became a great opportunity to bring all these collections back into life and the best way to do it is doing some projects in which we can bring those maps to a format that people can use them.”

This is only the beginning for the project. Giraldo has many plans for the project, like presenting the project’s findings to conferences such as American Association of Geographers and ESRI Education Users in 2020 and applying for the next Community Engagement’s Disciplinary grant, which will help with the project’s continuation. Understanding what makes a map readable in order to improve the accessibility of maps will benefit the community tremendously –– from small businesses that rely on apps like Yelp to attract new customers to a parent calculating the time needed to ferry their kids around for their activities.

The Oviatt Library Map Collection is a resource that is available for public use. For more information about the collection, please visit