Mapping the ASU Library map collection

3D Explorer allows library users anywhere in the world to visit the Map and Geospatial Hub

August 20, 2021

Everyone, no matter where they’re located, now has the power to visit Arizona State University's Map and Geospatial Hub, located on the third floor of Hayden Library, to explore and access its geographic information resources.

All thanks to a new tool: the 3D Explorer. Computer illustration of ASU map hub The 3D Explorer is an interactive 3D web scene that literally maps the ASU Library map collection. Download Full Image

The 3D Explorer is an interactive 3D web scene that literally maps the ASU Library map collection, the Map and Geospatial Hub. With some powerful search and visualization features, the tool allows anyone, from anywhere in the world, to virtually visit and explore the thousands of maps and other materials housed in the Map and Geospatial Hub as if they were physically located in the space itself. 

“Especially during the pandemic, when it may be more difficult for some to visit the library in person, the 3D Explorer lets us bring library treasures directly to them,” said Matthew Toro, director of the Map and Geospatial Hub, who oversaw the project, which was led by the hub’s first fully remote intern. “The main driver for this project was really about expanding access to the ASU Library’s cartographic collections.”

The Map and Geospatial Hub is home to tens of thousands of maps, aerial photographs and other geographic information resources. These collections focus on the greater Phoenix metro region, the peoples and communities throughout the state of Arizona, the greater American Southwest and Mexico, but its collections cover the whole globe. 

Toro spoke with ASU News about the library’s new virtual research tool, the 3D Explorer, and how it allows people to get closer to library collections even if they can’t visit in person.

Matt Toro

Matt Toro is the director of the Map and Geospatial Hub at the ASU Library.

Question: Is the 3D Explorer a kind of virtual map librarian?

Answer: That’s a great way to think about it. At the Map and Geospatial Hub, we’re always happy to help library users find what they’re looking for, but we also recognize the efficiency of, and increased demand for, more of a self-service model of access to library assets, especially through direct online access. The 3D Explorer offers a new route for users to independently discover and access geospatial information — through a dynamic and engaging 3D web scene. Not only can users easily search for and find geographic information resources themselves, but they can also virtually tour and explore the Hub space itself.

The 3D Explorer models the entire Map and Geospatial Hub. Nearly every feature in this application is selectable by the user – from staff offices, to globes, to various hardware and office equipment. We also added some cool functionality to support this virtual experience, including a panoramic photo viewer allowing users to view the interior and exterior of the space in 360 degrees. 

Q: What would you say is one of the most valuable functions of the application?

A: The core value of the application is its search functionality. The 3D Explorer allows users to search for inventoried maps with both simple or advanced search. The tool will dynamically visualize the exact location of any particular map, aerial photo, atlas or other cartographic resource held at the Map and Geospatial Hub. When a user selects a specific map from the list of search results, she will be greeted with a pop-up box indicating not only the drawer location of the map in question, but, when available, she will also be greeted with a digital thumbnail image of the map in question. 

In the future, once we’ve got everything fully digitized, she will also be greeted with a link to directly download the high-resolution image. We want to bring as much of the in-person experience of visiting the hub and exploring its resources to online audiences. We want to bring the ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub to anybody in the world, no matter where they’re located.

Q: How did the tool come about?

A: We’ve actually been experimenting and prototyping this for a few years. While the Map and Geospatial Hub is currently located in the newly renovated Hayden Library, we used to be located in a different ASU Library building. In anticipation of the move — completed in early 2020, just before the pandemic — we had to plan for how we would relocate the collection from one site to another. We needed a way to systematically manage the physical layout and organization of the collection and to analyze its contents so that we could make sound decisions about which maps would go and which would stay. The most reasonable solution was to literally “map” the collection itself. 

We began work to develop the two core components: the 3D space model and the database table of our map inventory. Taking it to the next level as a customized, feature-rich web application required real programming talent. Robert Cowling, our first fully remote intern, brought the skills to make it happen. Bob, who holds a master’s degree in (geographic imformation systems) and is currently finishing his second master’s in library information systems, was able to devise and implement a clever software architecture solution to bring the vision to life. Eric Friesenhahn, our map and GIS specialist here at ASU Library, created and refined the geometric features that comprise the latest, most sophisticated version of 3D indoor space model. Jill Sherwood, our geospatial data analyst here at ASU Library, contributed critical input to the design, function and maintenance of the application.

It was a true team effort. And I’m happy to report that the 3D Explorer is already revolutionizing the way we’re able to serve the ASU and broader community with geospatial resources. 

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

ASU Law welcomes inaugural cohort of Advance Program students

Program builds next generation of diverse legal leaders

August 20, 2021

The new Advance Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University welcomes its first cohort this fall including 20 students representing diverse backgrounds with nearly half of the group the first in their families to attend college.

The yearlong program aims to foster an inclusive community, bringing together students who have overcome adversity and who can offer diverse perspectives from racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, socioeconomic and geographic diversity. Photo of first cohort of Advance Program students of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Students in the first cohort of ASU Law’s Advance Program are (back row from left) Brian Ridley, Kathryn Walker, Grant Navakuku, Andres Machado, Kaleb Lester, Erin Ferber, Alex Egber, Aidan Wright, Andrew Ford, Carrie Hoffelt and Mike Veguilla. Front row from left: Taylor Vasicek, Esther Suh, Joanna Rivers, Courtney Moore, Natalia Sells, Angie Vertti, Bego Contreras, Nyelah Mitchell and Hyunji Park. Download Full Image

The students who comprise the inaugural group – eight men, 11 women and one nonbinary person – range in ages from 21 to 61. They identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian and white/Caucasian. Four are military veterans.

“ASU Law is driven by our commitment to providing our students the best possible legal education, in an environment that is inclusive and cultivates a true sense of belonging. The Advance Program is the embodiment of that mission,” said Zachary Kramer, ASU Law co-interim dean.

Alyssa Dragnich, ASU Law clinical professor of law and faculty director of the Advance Program, kicked off the three-day workshop on Aug. 11. The students attended sessions taught by ASU Law faculty on topics such as reading and briefing cases; understanding issue, rule, application and conclusion; and preparing for class and the Socratic method. They also “climbed” Mount Everest in a simulation designed to encourage teamwork and heard from a panel of current law students.

“This is a phenomenal group of students. Their level of engagement, right from the start, is amazing,” Dragnich said. “We are going to see great things from them over the next three years.”

Paired with an attorney and 2L/3L student mentors, the Advance Program participants will continue to meet monthly throughout their first year of law school for a mix of academic and nonacademic programming.

Photo of ASU Law students breaking for lunch during the first day of the Advance Program workshop

From left: Courtney Moore, Erin Ferber, Carrie Hoffelt and Joanna Rivers break for lunch during the first day of the Advance Program workshop.

Some of the upcoming events include a session on preparing law school outlines; an interview skills session taught by Sharon Ng, an ASU Law alumna; lunch with local judges; and an end-of-the-semester Arizona Coyotes game organized by ASU Law alumna Marina Carpenter, general counsel, chief compliance officer and executive vice president of public affairs for the Coyotes.

“As someone who has known that a legal career was the path I was going to take for most my life, I often found it difficult to find and speak with people who have gone through the law school process,” said Andrés Machado, among the first program participants. “The Advance Program workshop helped give me a sense of what to expect in the coming three years of my life and prepare me for the various obstacles that I will have to face as a law student. I could not be more thankful for the program.”

“If the students with whom I shared this experience and the professors who generously shared their knowledge are representative of the others I will walk the path of ASU Law, I know I am about to enjoy the wonder of compassionate relationships and superior academic education," said Kathryn Walker, another participant who will also be part of the Indian Legal Program. "The Advance Program is a gift for which I am truly grateful.”

Brian Ridley, among the first Advance Program students, shared his story earlier with ASU News. An Army veteran who comes from Black and Japanese heritage, Ridley said he chose ASU Law because it incorporated things he had come to depend on: being part of a diverse team that felt like family, embeddedness in the community and mentorship.

“I was looking for a team,” said Ridley, who served nearly three decades in the Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel. “I needed a diverse place. I wanted to ensure that that team was ingrained in the community. I needed a microcosm of every military post that I've ever lived on, and that was ASU. And then to boot, it was well-respected. I mean, it was an easy, easy call.”

ASU Law professors, including Kaipo Matsumura, joined ASU Law students in teaching sessions during the August workshop.

“I was so impressed with these students’ active engagement, curiosity, and ability to bring different perspectives to our discussion about legal reasoning,” Matsumura said. “They participated confidently and engaged in deep discussions with each other. I also loved seeing them hanging out together after the day's sessions ended.”

For more information about the Advance Program or to make a contribution, contact

Photo of ASU Law Advance Program students listening to Professor Amy Langenfeld

Students in ASU Law’s Advance Program listen to Professor Amy Langenfeld as she teaches about reading and briefing legal opinions.

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law