Re-imagining Paper Map Collections for the 21st Century Information Landscape

Talia Olshefsky, McGill University
Deena Yanofsky, McGill University

In today’s tight fiscal environment, budget cuts, staff reductions, and frequent branch closures more and more librarians find themselves having to re-evaluate the way they manage their collections. This is particularly true for map librarians; the proliferation of digital cartographic resources coupled with a reduced demand for print maps has forced many map libraries to find practical, cost-effective ways to manage a print map collection that best serves the needs of the 21st century user.

In 2012, the map and air photo collection at McGill University was moved across campus, from the former Walter Hitschfeld Geographic Information Centre to the centrally located Humanities and Social Sciences Library. After receiving over 60,000 largely uncatalogued sheet maps, a small team undertook the enormous task to inventory the collection, capture useful metadata, address storage and arrangement issues, and reimagine the ways in which this collection could be made visible, accessible, and useful to our community of users.

Following a brief review of the policies and practices that underlie traditional map collection management, this presentation will share our experiences, the challenges we faced, and the unique tools and solutions we developed based on existing literature and best practices.