GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 222-5
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


ZELLMER, Linda R., University Libraries, Western Illinois University, One University Circle, Malpass Library, 415, Macomb, IL 61455-1390,

Librarians are strong advocates of open access, from journal articles to data. Geoscience librarians who oversee collections containing maps and other forms of spatial information are sometimes asked for information about the location of a place. Those questions could deal with anything from the location where an ancestor lived to finding a map showing the location of quarries that existed in an area during the late 1800s so an architect can find the source of the stone that was used to build a historic building. Most librarians will attempt to answer these types of questions by directing users to resources such as gazetteers, atlases, current and historic maps and plat books. However, there are some locational questions that should give librarians cause for concern:
  • I want to go spelunking this weekend. Are there any caves nearby that I can visit?
  • I want to visit Truitt cave. What is its exact location?
  • Where can I go prospecting for dinosaur bones?
  • I am going four-wheeling this weekend and want to visit some ruins. Is there an area in the back-country that has ruins?

There are several reasons why librarians might want to think twice about answering these questions. Caves on Federal lands are protected by Federal law and some states also have laws protecting caves and speleothems. Fossils are also protected on Federal lands and in some states. Archaeological sites are also protected by both Federal and state laws. This presentation will discuss federal and state laws protecting caves, fossils and archaeological sites, the reasons for these laws, and other issues to consider when asked for cave information, including ecology, safety, property ownership and liability. It also proposes a policy for dealing with users requesting information about caves, fossils and archaeological sites and suggests other steps for librarians to consider to help protect information about sensitive places.