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GIS Services at the Library

What is GIS?

Are you a new GIS user or do you just want to know more about it? 

  • GIS stands for geographic information system.  The term "GIS" describes a variety of software and hardware tools and processes that include some type of geographical information component.
  • GIS is used in a number of disciplines -- physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities scholars are increasingly applying GIS approaches to their research questions.
  • There are, broadly speaking, two main components of any GIS platform: the data and the visualization.The "geographic" part of GIS means that the main visualization will be map-based.
  • The data can come from within the GIS software, uploaded from other data sources, or collected as part of a your research project.
  • Your library has many resources that will support your motivation to learn about how GIS technology can help you work and research more effectively.  The Esri platform ArcGIS has been a leading tool in the field for many decades. The Claremont Colleges Library has an Esri site license that allows Claremont Colleges students, faculty, and staff access to those tools. 

Drone image with GIS visualization

Section of drone imagery with GPS mapping of woodrat burrows from the Bernard Field Station project

Which GIS software do I need?

There are several options for getting started with GIS. At the library and other campus GIS labs, you are likely to find the Esri ArcGIS tools to be the best supported. But open source options (such as QGIS) also exist.


ArcMap (Desktop)*
*Windows only

ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Pro*
*Windows only


What is it?

The original Esri platform for GIS and still widely in use. It runs on a Windows operating system and is good for most GIS analysis.

Online Esri GIS product with fewer features than the other tools but good for most beginners. (It runs through your browser and works on any operating system.) An ArcGIS Online account will also allow you to access Esri StoryMaps.

Newest Esri product and offers nearly all the features of the desktop version as well as several useful extensions including Community Analyst. It requires a Windows operating system with Internet Explorer and an ArcGIS Online account.

Free and open source GIS product. Fewer features than the (subscription) Esri tools, but still very useful.

How do I get it?

At campus labs or request an account and license key through the library for your own computer.

Access through Claremont Colleges Library GIS Portal.

1. Access ArcGIS Online through Claremont Colleges Library GIS Portal.

2. Download software from library (email us for help).

Related Research Guides

Data Science & Digital Scholarship Coordinator

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Jeanine Finn
Digital Strategies & Scholarship Division
Honnold, 3rd floor
The Claremont Colleges Library