Introducing the Map Room

Mar 09, 2006

Map RoomWondering in what corner of the world you might find the Apostle Islands? The towns of Tehachapi or Tonopah? The Map Room at the University Library is a good place to look for the answers. The Map Room collection contains hundreds of atlases (with indexes in the back): world atlases, country atlases, state atlases, star atlases and more. Once you find where the place is supposed to be, the Map Room also has thousands and thousands of sheet maps in wide varieties of theme and detail to help you visualize the location. The Map Room gazetteers offer another good place to search for places. The handy thing about a gazetteer, whether it be for the world, a country or a state, is that if you know the name of a place it will give you, at the very least, the latitude and longitude of that place and sometimes a text description as well.

And speaking of latitude and longitude, does reading a map make your head spin? Ever see a legal description of a place and see things mentioned like townships and sections? The Map Room staff is there to help you with just those kinds of map reading questions. They are also there to help you navigate your way around the room itself, because a big part of the collection is housed in map cases and may be more intimidating than just picking a book off a shelf. Once you are familiar with how the room is organized you are more than welcome to help yourself to any book or map in the room (after all, the maps are organized by call number, just like everything else in the library), but if you still prefer the hands-on help of staff that is exactly what they are there for. Staff will also handle the check-out of all Map Room materials, whether you want to check something out of the building or just out of the room in order to make a copy at the library self-service scanner or copiers.

So, you need one of those oversized maps for a class presentation, but how do you conveniently wrestle the ungainly thing from library to class? The Map Room has map tubes for just that purpose. They also have a large collection of maps in 8.5 inch by 11 inch size to easily incorporate into research papers.

Do you have to have an academic reason to use the map room resources? Heck, no. Many staff, students, and people with no connection to the University at all like to use the maps and other geography materials in the room to plan vacations, do genealogy research, peruse the topography of that little piece of land they've been dreaming of buying, and any other use they can find for a map.

Finally, is it really necessary to go to the Map Room itself when there's so much great stuff, even maps and driving directions, on the Internet? Well, the Map Room staff is still sentimentally attached to the tactile experience of actually getting your hands on a map or atlas, but they've kept up with the times. They're up to date on many map related web sites that you might not know about (like all the wonderful Iowa maps available on Iowa State University's own GIS facility's web site), and are happy to show you how to get things done on some of the less intuitive sites. They're also eager to hear about web sites you know about. The Map Room also has a few materials in electronic format, has a workstation with a CD-Rom drive to view their electronic resources right there, and also has two workstations dedicated to people who need to use GIS software applications (specifically, ArcView and ArcMap).

The Map Room is located on the second floor of Parks Library (you'll see the globes in the windows as you ascend the main staircase) and shares a beautiful rotunda (the one with the cool murals) with the Periodical Room. In spring and fall semesters, the Map Room is open Monday through Thursday from 8am to 8pm, Fridays 8-5, and weekends 1-5. During summer and breaks 8-5 every weekday that Parks Library itself is open.

And where in the world are the Apostle Islands? In Lake Superior. Tehachapi and Tonopah? Come to the Map Room and look it up.