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Using The Map Collections


General Information
Topographic Maps
Subject & Special Purpose
Aerial Photographs
Searching in SearchWorks
GIS (Geographic Information Systems)
Online Maps
Additional Resources
Electronic Maps

General Information

The 270,000-sheet map collection is located on the mezzanine inside the Branner Library in the Mitchell Building. All maps in the Branner Library Map Collections are shelved by call number in the map cases and file cabinets. The exception are large-scale U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps which are arranged alphabetically within each state. Lists of map call numbers, arranged by country, state, or province are posted in several places around the mezzanine. Call numbers for specific maps can be found by searching in the Stanford University Libraries' catalog:

The main collection is a self-serve, open-stack collection. In addition to those in the map collection, many maps are cataloged as part of the book collection or appear within monographs and journals.

The collection includes maps on a wide range of social science and humanities topics; there is a strong collection of geological, seismological, hydrological, natural hazards, and natural resources maps. Many, but by no means all, of these maps are listed on SearchWorks.

All circulating maps may be borrowed for 28 days by undergraduates and for a quarter by graduate students and faculty. Items are subject to recall after the initial seven days if needed by another borrower or immediately when needed for course reserve. Items not needed by another borrower may be renewed. Check the Branner Earth Sciences Library pages for information on reference and photocopying policy.

The Map Collections are open during all hours the Branner Library is open; call 650-725-1103 or email for other information.

Map Collection Contacts:

The entire staff at Branner Library is knowledgable and friendly, and can get you started on your map collection search.

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Topographic Maps

Topographic maps are those at a relatively large (that is, detailed) scale on which elevations are measured by contours (lines connecting points of equal elevation). They typically also show a wealth of physical and cultural detail. The Branner collection of topographic maps of the entire Earth will support most study topics, but its most complete coverage in area and scales is for the United States.

  • The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Topographic Map of the United States 7 1/2 minute quadrangle series:
    • Scale is 1:24,000 (1 in. = 2000 ft.; 1 cm = .24 km)-- the largest scale USGS topographic map produced today
    • Shelved by state and quadrangle name in alphabetical order
    • Collection includes the most recent sheet of every U.S. quadrangle and
    • All editions of California and Nevada quadrangles
    • Most sheets cover 7.5 minutes of latitude by 7.5 minutes of longitude

  • Other USGS Topographic Map Sets of the United States:
    • 1:1,000,000 scale topographic series (Smallest scale; 1 in. = 16 miles; 1 cm = 10 km)
    • 1:250,000 scale series (Intermediate scale; 1 in. = 4 miles; 1 cm = 2.5 km)
    • 1:100,000 scale series (1 in. = 1.3 miles; 1 cm = 1 km)
    • 1:62,500 (15 minute) quadrangle series (1 in. = 1 mile) Discontinued by USGS in 1988, popular with users, and a useful scale
    • 1:125,000 (30 minute) quadrangle series (1 in. = 2 miles). Branner Library retains copies of this old, discontinued series for Arizona, California, Nevada and Oregon
    • 1:250,000 (1 degree) quadrangle series (1 in. = 4 miles). Branner Library retains copies of this old, discontinued series for Arizona, California, Nevada and Oregon

  • Foreign Topographic Maps
    • Include the entire Earth's topography at 1:1,000,000 (16 miles = 1 in. or 1 cm. = 10 km) by Operational Navigation Charts and the International Map of the World
    • Many countries by intermediate 1:500,000 Tactical Pilotage Charts and 1:250,000 Joint Operations Graphics as well as other series
    • A number of early 20th century sets for European countries
    • Some African and Latin American countries at larger scales (1:50,000-1:100,000)

Subject and Special Purpose Maps

A special strength of this map collection is in geosciences. Geoscience maps are most commonly produced by government agencies (California Division of Mines and Geology, USGS, etc.) and distributed in series, just like scientific journals. Geologic maps of special interest to the local Stanford community, with call numbers:
  • Geologic Atlas of California (1:250,000 quadrangles); G4361.C5 s250.C3
  • Fault Map of California; G4361.C5 s750.C3gd GD-6
  • USGS Miscellaneous Investigations maps, G3701.C5 svar.U5; including these special interest maps:
    • Landforms Map of the Conterminous United States; I-2206
    • Geologic Map of San Mateo County; I-1257-A
    • Geologic Map of Santa Cruz County, I-2005
    • Geologic Map of the Palo Alto Quadrangle; I-2371

    For more about these maps see the USGS Home Page for topographic and geosciences mapping information.

Some other topics actively collected are history, population and demographics, biology, and natural resources. The large scale topographic map sets (1:50,000) often include boundaries of municipal units and show vegetation coverage.

Many old road maps and town plans are included in the collection, as are reproductions of 16th-19th century maps and views of the world's significant cities.

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Classroom Wall Maps

Most classroom wall maps are located in the Stanford Auxiliary Library (SAL). They are available to faculty and instructional staff at SAL's circulation desk. Most of these maps are listed in the index to the main Collection of Classroom Wall Maps. All others are listed separately in SearchWorks, as are the geoscience wall maps in the Branner Library. To find them, search under the subject Classroom Wall Maps + Area Name.

Electronic Maps

Branner Library has many electronic map resources available, including some which are self-sufficient and do not require special viewing software include. To locate them in SearchWorks enter as a subject the area name (and subject, e.g., geology, if appropriate) plus the word "maps" (or "aerial photographs," "remote-sensing maps," or "remote-sensing images," as appropriate), and in the keyword box enter "CD-ROM."

    For example:


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Searching for Maps in SearchWorks: Stanford's Web-based Catalog

One may search the MAPS only file in SearchWorks, when using the "combined search" option. Do this when you seek a particular map which you are certain about. However, if you do not have a specific map title in mind, and you are not certain of what mapping exists for your subject and area, it is wiser to search SearchWorks without changing to a maps-only search. Many excellent maps are folded into book pockets. Additional maps are listed in the card catalog on the Branner Mezzanine. It's in two major sections: one for geoscience maps, and the other for all other maps. The part for geoscience maps is arranged by area and subdivided by title. The part for non-geoscience maps has separate sections for area/subject and title. Although many of the maps in the card catalog are also in SearchWorks, approximately one-half are not.

Subject searches for Maps

Broad subject searches work well for finding maps in searching SearchWorks. The broadest subject search is: ("Find Subject placename maps") and some examples are:


If these searches retrieve too many records, modify the search by adding "and" with another subject term, for example:


Title searches for Maps

If you know the exact title of a map you seek, check the "Exact" option. If you are sure of some title words but not the entire exact title phrase, title words (with truncation) can be used in any order:

TITLE: geolog? nevada esmeralda county map?

Sometimes the title and subject of a sought map are so broad, large results in SearchWorks are seemingly impossible to avoid. Please call the map collection at 725-1103 or contact for some other searching ideas.

Call Number searches for Maps

SearchWorks allows searching by Call Number using the "Call No. Browse" option. Our map collection is arranged by a geographic call numbering system, so this is an excellent way to browse our holdings. Examples of effective searches:

  • Select Earth Sciences Library and enter G4360 in the "Call No. Browse" field (To browse our hundreds of map titles of California)

  • or G3200 (To browse world maps)
  • or G4363.S28 (To browse maps of San Mateo County)

Use the Map Call Number Guide to find your geographic or country numbers to search.

Call Numbers for maps: a brief explanation:

The first 4 numbers after the G define the place or major subject area. If the four numbers end with a zero, the map is likely a general "base" map. Subject area number ending in "1" are special topic maps (the topic is defined by the letter/number combination following the four numbers). A Subject area number ending in "2," "3," or "4" define maps of regional coverage; the letter/numbers after the first period define the region e.g. "G4362.S22..." stands for San Francisco Bay maps in our collection. The third element in call numbers is a date (for monographic maps) or a scale code (for series or set maps). Last comes an "item identifier" for the map's principal author or organization. These somewhat arcane call numbers are effective in finding catalog records.

Other illustrative examples:

G4360 1992.A4 General map of California made in 1992
G4361 .C2 1955.R3 Topical map, geomorphology, of California
G4362 .S22 1873.U5 General map of San Francisco Bay region made in 1873
G4362 .S22C55 S250.A8 Set of maps at 1:250,000 scale, of SF Bay region seismology: C55=structural geology
G4363 .A3J1 1990.C3 Agriculture map of Alameda County, Calif. : 4363.A3=Alameda Co., J1=Agriculture)

Stanford cooperates with the University of California Map Collections in coordinated collection development and improved interlibrary borrowing. The plan description can be found at UC/Stanford Cooperative Map Collection Agreement.

The University of California campus map collections all have different strengths than ours. The catalog to search for their maps is:

Melvyl the UC campuses' online Catalog

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Public document.
Compiler: J.K. Herro, revised by Phil Hoehn. Maintained by Julie Sweetkind-Singer  

Last modified: March 22, 2007

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