[Skip to Content]

About GIS

About GIS

What Is GIS?

GIS stands for "Geographic Information Systems".

Still confused? Well, to put it more simply a GIS is mix of specialized computer mapping software, geospatial data that links locations with information about those locations, and the people who use software and data to map and analyze real-world situations.

GIS is a mapping technology that allows the user to create and interact with a variety of maps and data sources. GIS displays, analyzes, stores, and manages geographic information.

GIS can give a better understanding of a place and what is happening in and around that place. For instance, GIS can give numerous amounts of information about a piece of property... Who owns it; What town it is located in; What school district it is in; What street it is on; How many people live there; and so on!

GIS has no limits as to how it can be utilized. It can be employed on a local or global scale and can give information for many purposes such as: tax assessment, planning, emergency management, environment, transportation, marketing, education, and many more.

So in many ways GIS is an entity which can produce high tech maps with much more detailed information then could ever be placed on a single map. Unlike a paper map, which only has the ability to show a limited amount of information, GIS can combine many layers of information. Oh yes, GIS can produce those nice, vivid maps that are needed to display particular information, but it is much more than that. GIS can analyze and discover hidden relationships; and it can even provide answers to "what if" scenarios.


Geographic Information System technology has existed in Berks County for over three decades. The county first needed digital mapping technology to create and display information about county tax parcels for the use in the Assessment Office. The task of creating a tax parcel base was contracted and the continued maintenance of this information was undertaken by the Mapping Office. The base tax parcel data that the Mapping Office got off the ground in the 1990s is the basis of many other GIS products that the County subsequently created and maintains today.

Since the integration of GIS at the county, the needs have expanded well beyond tax mapping. Another area where GIS plays a role every day is within Emergency Services. Addressing GIS data is integral in proper emergency response. Today the GIS Office is within the Information Systems Department and it plays a role in servicing the geospatial needs of additional departments. Some other departments that have embraced the technology and use it as part of the daily business practices are as follows: Planning Commission, District Attorney, Election Services and Agricultural Land Preservation to name a few.

Other departments continue to realize the importance of GIS and its worth in their daily operations. This technology has become a mainstay in county government and can further aid these departments in better serving the citizens of Berks County.