Answered By: Sonya Adams
Last Updated: Sep 19, 2016     Views: 13

Mostly map collections are catalogued in a similar way to books, though there are some differences. You may need to visit a specialised library to access the maps. As a general rule, if you frequently need to consult maps as part of the work for your course, then it is worth enquiring in your departmental library in the first instance. There is also a Map Department in the University Library which has extensive collections, including specialist charts.

Types of maps: What's available and where best to find them

  • Small-scale maps and atlases

If you only need a map of a large area at a small scale to find general features of a region, or for route planning, then most college libraries carry a good atlas in their reference collections.

  • Topographic maps

This includes series such as the Ordnance Survey Landranger and Explorer series at 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 respectively. The Earth Sciences Library and University Library Map Department should have substantial holdings of such maps, while other libraries may cover limited areas. In general, only the series is catalogued and you will need to consult other indexes to find the required sheet number.

  • Large-scale maps

Including Ordnance Survey maps at scales of 1:10,000 and larger. These are particularly useful for mapping land use as they can show individual fields and buildings. The University Library Map Department will hold most major series. Other libraries may have smaller holdings of restricted areas and a limited choice of scales.

  • Street plans

Local street plans, and those for other major cities should be widely available, but always consult iDiscover first.

  • Specialist maps

These include geological surveys, marine charts, and even star charts or maps of the moon! Start by asking in the relevant department library: the Earth Sciences Library for geological maps, or the Institute of Astronomy Library for star charts, for example.

Searching for maps using iDiscover

Go to iDiscover and type in the relevant search term(s).

Then because it’s a map we’re looking for, restrict your search to Resource type: Maps in the refining options on the right-hand side of the results screen.

You may want to restrict your search to a particular library. Again, this is an option on the right-hand side of the page.

Click on the title of any item of interest to view more detail. Pay special attention to any note of the scale or coordinates in each record to help select the right item. If you have found the record for a series of maps then you will probably need to consult a printed index for the series in order to find the right sheet number. Such lists are available in the University Library's Map Department, and can sometimes be found online.

Finally, if you are looking for older maps then they may not be listed on iDiscover. The UL map department uses a card catalogue for items published before 2000. For other libraries, ask if you are in doubt.

Online resources

There are some online sources which may fulfil your requirement, and at the very least they can be useful to help you narrow down the area you need.

  • Google Maps is probably the most obvious, and also has the advantage that there is an interface for mobile devices. You can obtain mapping at various scales, from an atlas style map of an entire country, through road maps, to street plans. It is less useful if you need topographic or more specialised maps.
  • OpenStreetMap may be helpful if you only need a street plan of a well-known area. This is a collaborative, open source resource, so the data quality will not be as high as professionally produced maps, but there are fewer restrictions on usage.
  • Edina Digimap offers access to a large range of current and historic Ordnance Survey maps at various scales between 1:250,000 and 1:1,250. You need to register first and can then log in using your Raven password. This is a tremendous resource, but the license terms are more restricted.
  • Finally, the Earth Sciences Digital Map Library has a useful list of cartographic resources online and it may be useful to check this if you can't otherwise find what you are looking for.