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I am just starting an Intro GIS course, so I really have no idea what the best place is to find downloadable GIS data. I was really hoping to do my semester project on library or bookstore locations in Southern California, but I am having major trouble finding some kind of library locations GIS file to download.

I'm sure I'm using all the terms incorrectly, but could someone please help? If such a thing does not exist at all, that would also be useful to know.

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Does the "business" tag really fit here? – BradHards Jan 19 '13 at 6:03
@Mary, there are so many similar questions to this, I think if you search our site for questions with the poi and data tags and you should find all the data sources you are looking for. – RyanDalton Jan 19 '13 at 6:08

You can get data on specific types of features such as libraries (not necessarly all of them, but at least a good sample) from Open Street Map.

In the case of library, you're looking for things with an amenity tag of library. You can download the OSM data in a lot of ways, but you may find the Overpass API useful. Here is a very simple query you can use:*[bbox=-122.5,25.4,-118.5,35][amenity=library]

Obviously you can modify the bounding box to match whatever you think southern California is.

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You can start with some online data at You should be able to use a national places data set and select the libraries from that. So you wouldn't necessarily search for libraries but national places database, or gazetteer.

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