Helpful Hints for Small Map Collections

Components of a Basic Map Collection


1:24,000-scale, 1:50,000-scale, 1:100,000-scale; all topographic sheets of the county in which your library is located.

1:250,000-scale topographic sheets of the state in which your library is located.

Planimetric (usually 1:100,000-scale);topographic and shaded relief maps of your state (usually 1:500,000 scale).

Source: Any commercial map dealer or USGS Map Sales, Box 25286, Federal Center, Bldg. 810, Denver. CO 80225(1-800-USA-MAPS). For shaded relief maps, try: Raven Maps & Images, P.O. Box 50, Medford, OR 97501-0253(1-800-237-0798).

Thematic maps per your clientele's needs.

City maps per your clientele's needs, starting with maps of cities in your county (good source: chambers of commerce).

Aerial Photographs

The vicinity of the urban area in which your library is located and also of the county (as your budget allows).

Source: A two-pronged approach is to have a free search done on APSRS Aerial Photography Summary Record System): any ESIC (Earth Science Information Center) can do this: to find the ESIC closest to you. contact: ESIC, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA 22092 (1-800-USA-MAPS); also, check with local city and county planning (and assessment departments.

Atlases and Other Reference Books

(see Books in Print for current prices)

The Times atlas of the world. 9th comprehensive ed. (New York: Times Books, 1992).

The National Geographic atlas of the world. Rev, 6th ed. (Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Society, 1992).

The book of the world. 1st. U.S. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1996). (Includes CD-ROM.)

Merriam-Webster's geographical Dictionary. 3rd ed. (Springfield, Mass. : Merriam-Webster. c1997).

Chambers world gazetteer 5th ed. (Cambridge ; New York : Chambers, c 1988).

A gazetteer of your state; either: Gazetteer of the United States of America: [State]. Reston, VA: U.S. Geological Survey. (it's Professional Paper 1200-[State], or Omni Gazetteer qf the United States (of America. (Detroit. Mich.: Omnigraphics, Inc., c1991).(9 regional volumes). lf your budget allows, also get the following one alphabet listing of place names throughout the United States: Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America (Detroit, Mich. : Omnigraphics, Inc., c1991.) (Volume 10: National Index.)

To find out what topographic and scientific maps have been published, indexes to various map series, andfor map publisher addresses:

GeoKatalog. Stuttgart: GeoCenter. 197?-. (Mailing address: Postfach 80 80 30, D-7000, Stuttgart 80. Germany) Looseleaf service. updated regularly.

World Mapping Today. (London: Butterworths, 1987). Description of mapping by country with indexes butno updates.

General works on map reading and cartography:

Muehrcke, Phillip. Map use: reading, analysis, and interpretation. (Madison, Wis. : JP Publications, c 1992).

Robinson, Arthur. Elements of cartography 6th ed. (New York: Wiley, c I 995). The classic.

To be able to refer a user to a larger collection, or to ask a colleague for assistance:

A Guide to U.S. Map Resources. Edited by David Cobb. 2nd ed. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1990). (A new edition is planned.)

General guides to map collections and cartography:

Larsgaard, Mary. Map Librarianship: an introduction. 3rd ed. (Littleton, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited. 1998).

Information Sources in Cartography; Edited by C.R. Perkins and R.B. Parry. (London -1 New York : Bowker- Saur, c 1990)

For keeping up to date with new developments in map librarianship:

base line: a newsletter of the Map and Geography Round Table (ALA). (Chicago: ALA, 1981-). 6 issues per year.

Bulletin of the Geography and Map Division, Special Libraries Association. (New York [etc.] : Special Libraries Association, 1951-). 3 issues per year.

Information Bulletin of the Western Association of Map Libraries (WAML). ([Sacramento, Calif.] : Western Association of Map Libraries, 1971-). 3 issues per year.

Digital Data

Federal Government agencies and some private companies are releasing spatial data in digital form. In the 1990's, the formats of choice are CD-ROM and the Internet. One example of this kind of data is the TIGER/ Line files from the 1990 Census. The data sets require appropriate software and sufficiently powerful hardware to read and work with the spatial data. It is suggested that you check with local government agencies and/or one of the larger map collections to learn more about accessing spatial data.

World Wide Web Sites to Explore (Link no longer active) (Link no longer active) (Link no longer active)

Cataloging those maps...Why do it?

It improves access for patrons and staff. Patrons won't use a map if they don't know the library owns it.

Resource sharing. By sharing machine-readable records, libraries can readily learn what maps other libraries have.

Preparing lists and bibliographies. This is much easier to do if the maps are cataloged.

Circulation and inventory control. Automated circulation is faster/easier than manual circulation, but automated circulation is only possible if the maps are listed in the catalog. If you don't know what you have, how will you know if it is lost or stolen?

Preservation. Digging through a pile of maps to find what you need is very hard on them.

Uncataloged materials are a waste of staff time, too. Reference questions take much longer to answer when the maps are uncataloged. Cataloging time is time spent ONCE; time spent answering the same questions over and over again is reference time poorly spent (and it's boring!).

The main tools for cataloging maps are:

Cartographic Materials: a manual of interpretation for AACR2. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1982). A second edition is in the works.

Map Cataloging Manual. (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1991). (Source: The Library of Congress, Cataloging Distribution Service, Customer Services Section/Dept. W, Washington, D.C. 20540-4912 ; 800255-3666.)


No matter how tempting it might be to put together your own system or to say, "But the collection is so SMALL, it doesn't need to be classified," CLASS CARTOGRAPHIC MATERIALS NOW, while the collection is small enough to make it easy to do. Use the Library of Congress's Schedule G. (Source for Schedule G: The Library of Congress, Cataloging Distribution Service, Customer Services Section/Dept. W, Washington, D.C. 20540-4912; 800-255-3666.)

Preservation and Storage

Heavily-used or fragile maps can be protected by encapsulation in 3-millimeter polyester film, with double sided tape sealing the edges (leave gaps at the comers). DON'T LAMINATE MAPS. Store unfolded any map that you wish to have around for a long time. A map stored in a folded state is a kamikaze map. Tears? If you use standard adhesive tape, sooner or later the map will self-destruct. Either encapsulate it or use archival quality tape (e.g., "filmoplast P" from Neschen Corp., 722 S. Homer Street, Seattle, WA 98108 (206-7625527). Processes should be reversible, and you should use materials that are permanent and durable. The originality of the map should not be destroyed; information should not be obscured or damaged; the repair should be tidy, evident but not obtrusive; and the process should be appropriate to the item and as inexpensive as possible while keeping in mind the above principles.

Some sources of preservation supplies:

Hollinger Corporation

3810 South Four Mile Run Drive

Arlington, VA 22206-2305


Light Impressions Corporation

439 Monroe Avenue

Rochester, NY 14607-3799


University Products

517 Main Street

Holyoke, MA 01040-5514


Store maps in 5-drawer steel cases (Hamilton 3J size is the best) and not in wood or cardboard. If the latter two are what you have available, use acid-free folders to protect the maps and/or line the drawers with sheets of polyester film. The ideal size for a map drawer (outside dimensions) is 55 1/4 inches wide by 44 5/9 inches deep by 2 5/8 inches high.

Some sources for map cases:

Mayline Company

619 N. Commerce Street

Sheboygan, WI 53081-3901


Ulrich Planfiling Equipment Corp.

2120 Fourth Avenue

Lakewood. NY 14750-9726


Stacor Corporation

71 MacCulloch Avenue

Morristown, NJ 07960-5231


A source for compact shelving:

Spacesaver Corporation

1450 Janesville Avenue

Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-2798


Continuing Education

Find out what's going on in map librarianship: join the Map and Geography Round Table of the American Library Association and a regional map library association for your area. Examples include COSML, the Committee on Southeast Map Libraries, Association of American Geographers,Southeast Division, c/o Dr.HelenJane Armstrong, Map and Imagery Library, Science Library, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611; NEMO. the Northeast Map Organization, c/o Jim Walsh, Tisch Library, Tufts university, Medford, MA 02155; Western Association of Map Libraries, c/o Mary L. Larsgaard, Map and Imagery Lab, Library, University of California - Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106; or the Special Libraries Association Geography and Map Division, which has local chapters in New York City and Washington, D.C.
If at all possible, gain access to the Internet and subscribe to MAPS-L, the map listserv started and run by map librarian Johnny Sutherland at the University of Georgia. To subscribe to MAPS-L, send an e-mail message to LISTSERV@UGA and type the following in the text of the message: SUBSCRIBE MAPS-L [your first name] [your last name].
MAPS-L is an invaluable resource for current information about maps in libraries and it can also serve as a powerful reference tool the next time you're stumped by a patron who is trying to locate a small village in Russia where his grandfather was born.

By Mary Larsgaard and Katherine Rankin

Revised by Stephen Rogers (6/97)