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.

  • Does the "business" tag really fit here?
    – BradHards
    Commented Jan 19, 2013 at 6:03
  • 2
    @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. Commented Jan 19, 2013 at 6:08

2 Answers 2


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: http://www.overpass-api.de/api/xapi?*[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.


You can start with some online data at arcgis.com. 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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