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GIS (Geographic Information Systems)

Start here for general GIS questions.


The guide will direct you toward data (on the web and on our servers) as well as connect you with other relevant resources. As you conduct your research, please use these pages to keep up to date on GIS events on campus, new data acquisitions, and library resources for GIS

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are tools to explore spatial questions.

The acronym GIS most commonly refers to Geographic Information Systems, the interconnected hardware, software, users, data, and procedures that together form a system for geospatial analysis.  GIS can be used to study, analyze, and visualize any phenomenon that has a spatial component.  If location plays a role in your research, GIS offers a way to include these spatial features in your analysis.


Bill Winston

GIS Analyst 

Jennifer Moore

Data Services Coordinator, Interim Business Librarian

Mollie Webb

GIS Programmer, Interim Director of Data Services

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Map a network drive (Windows) and create a folder connection in ArcMap

The WUSTL GIS Data Library is also known as "gispublic" and serves as the repository for all spatial data available to the WUSTL community.

To access data on "gispublic," your computer must be connected or "mapped" to the network drive containing the data AND a folder connection must be created in the ArcMap or ArcCatalog applications.

Map a network drive (Windows)

  • Connect to the WUSTL network (encrypted, not guest)

  • Open Windows File Manager / Windows Explorer: Start > Computer (or My PC)

  • Right click on Computer (or My PC) > Map network drive

Map network drive

  • Select the desired drive letter using the "Drive" drop down menu

  • In the "Folder" text box, type \\\gispublic

  • Check the "Reconnect at logon" box if you wish to create a persistent link

  • Click Finish


If you receive an error message that mentions security policies (below), you may still access the network share.

In the "Map Network Drive" window, click on "Connect using different credentials"

Enter the phrase "accounts\<your wustlkey>" (replace <your wustkey> with your own WUSTL Key) and your WUSTL password to log in.

Create a folder connection in ArcMap

1) Open the ArcMap application (Start > All Programs > ArcGIS > ArcMap)

2) Open the Catalog window (Icon located in the Standard toolbar)

3) In the Catalog window, right click on Folder Connections > Connect to Folder

4) In the Connect to Folder dialog, navigate to the mapped network drive "gispublic" and click OK.

5) The gispublic drive is now mapped in the Catalog window.  Expand the drive to view its contents.

Map a network drive (Mac)

1) Connect to the WUSTL network (encrypted, not guest)

2) Open Finder > Go > Connect to Server

Finder Window Connect To Server

3) Enter the server address: smb://

4) When prompted, connect as Guest

5) The shared drive 'gispublic' will now appear as a mounted drive in Finder and on the Desktop

Importing an Excel spreadsheet in ArcMap

When attempting to add a sheet from an Excel workbook (.xls or .xlsx) to ArcMap, the following error may appear:

"Failed to Connect to Database - Class Not Registered"

This issue stems from Microsoft Office drivers that may or may not be installed on your Windows system.  To install these drivers, see the the Microsoft Download here:

Other methods to bring tabular data into ArcMap:

  • Use the Excel to Table tool to convert the sheet to a stand-alone or geodatabase table.
  • Convert the sheet within the Excel file to a comma separated values (csv) format.


Unknown Spatial Reference

You add a shapefile or feature class to ArcMap and the following message appears:

Unknown Spatial Reference

This message indicates that the file you are attempting to add does not have any associated spatial information and thus, ArcMap may not be able to place it in the correct place.  Spatial reference information can be applied to a shapefile or feature class using the Define Projection tool from the Data Management toolbox.

1) Activate the Search window from the Standard toolbar and type "Define Projection" in the search field.

2) Click Define Project to open the Define Projection tool.

3) Click the folder icon next to Input Dataset or Feature Class and navigate to your shapefile or feature class.

4) Click the pointer icon next to Coordinate System and navigate to the desired coordinate system.

Note: For more information on selecting an appropriate coordinate system, see the following links:

Choosing the Right Map Projection -


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