Library Resource of the Month - Maps and Atlases
Library Resource of the Month - Maps and Atlases

January 1, 2008


Maps, like pictures, convey tremendous amounts of information quickly and powerfully.

From street maps of present-day Lethbridge to historical atlases of Aboriginal settlements, from bathymetric maps of the ocean floor to topographic maps of the lunar surface, an ever-increasing amount of information is available in map format.

As a depository library for the Canada Map Office, the University Library’s map collection contains topographic maps for every square inch of Canada, with the greatest emphasis on Alberta. In addition, the Library selectively collects maps and atlases that portray cultural and historical landscapes as well as geographical terrain. We have atlases for most regions of the world as well as thematic maps in a wide range of subjects such as geology, land use, epidemiology, history, electoral boundaries, population and climate.

Maps are filed in map cabinets and require the use of an accompanying index to locate the appropriate map sheet. Many of our maps can also be found through the Library’s catalogue.

The catalogue can also be used to locate atlases, which provide both visual and textual information, and gazetteers that provide lists of places and their location, historical significance and name changes. The Library’s web site also links to government agencies, such as Natural Resources Canada, that provide a large array of maps online.

Maps uniquely and powerfully explore and explain geographical facts and features in a visual format. Visual information can be strongly persuasive and easily misleading, and so it must be critically evaluated with the same rigour as information found in print sources. Along with maps, atlases and gazetteers, the Library provides books on the principles of cartography, map reading, analysis and interpretation.

For additional information, please contact your subject liaison librarian or ask at the Information & Research Assistance Desk. This column is a monthly feature by Librarian Judy Vogt. Please e-mail your story suggestions to Vogt at

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