Finding paper maps and atlases

This tutorial demonstrates how to find paper maps and atlases in the University of Toronto Libraries catalogue, then locate them in Map & Data Library's fifth floor collection.

The vast majority of map titles in the Map & Data Library collection are indexed in the University of Toronto Library online catalogue. The Advanced Search option allows you to limit your search to the collections of the Map & Data Library and/or to cartographic materials only.

The Library dropdown menu will return only items located in the Map & Data Library in the search results:
UTL catalogue Advanced Search screen showing Library dropdown menu.

Changing the Format dropdown menu will allow you to limit your search to only cartographic materials, or just paper maps or atlases:
UTL catalogue Advanced Search screen showing Format dropdown menu.

Here is an example of an item record for a paper map at MDL. The call number is highlighted in red below.
Screenshot of paper map catalogue record with call number highlighted.

Scrolling down will give you additional details about what is represented on the map.
Screenshot showing Subjects and More Details sections of map catalogue record.

The call numbers for all paper maps at MDL will begin with the letter G. However, the G is not included in the call numbers written on the maps in our collection, or on the labels on the drawers they are contained in. Therefore, when looking for the above map, you will look for 4364 .L8 1984. The inclusion of “Rare”, “B2” or “VF” in a call number represents a map that will need to be retrieved by Map & Data Library staff. Email us or drop in during reference hours for assistance.

The call numbers of all atlases will begin with a letter (likely G), which will appear on the labels on their spines. In the catalogue record, you may also see the designations “Fo” or “Oversize” in the call number. These indicate larger volumes that will be shelved in our oversize section. Again, feel free to ask for assistance during reference hours if you need help locating materials.

Tips for searching the catalogue

When searching for maps, try using keywords associated with your geographic area of interest, and the type of map you wish to locate. For example, to find a map of bus, subway and streetcar routes in Toronto, try typing Toronto transit into the search box.

Note that not every geographic area covered by a map will necessarily be described in the catalogue record, and hence these maps may not come up in a search. If you find no results for a particular query, try “zooming out” to a broader level of geography in which your area of interest is contained. For example, if you were looking for a map that showed the Rexdale neighbourhood in west Toronto, a search of all items in the Map & Data Library using the search query Rexdale will return no results, but this does not necessarily mean that we do not have any maps that show the neighbourhood. Rexdale likely appears on many maps of the former municipality of Etobicoke, later amalgamated into the city of Toronto – searching the catalogue for Etobicoke or Toronto will provide you with other maps in which you may find Rexdale.

Locating paper maps in the MDL collection

Each drawer of maps is labeled with a brief description of its contents, as well as a reference to the call numbers contained within that drawer. Many drawers will have two call numbers listed, indicating the beginning and end of the range of call numbers associated with the items inside.
Photo showing labels of two adjacent map drawers.

The call number is found within the red box stamped on each map, usually at the bottom right of the sheet. 
Photograph of a call number on a map.

A drawer labeled with a single call number indicates that the contents are part of a larger map series that may span several drawers. 
Photo of drawer labels indicating location of a single map series.

To find the sheet associated with your area of interest, you may need to use a map index, which should be housed at the top of the first drawer containing that map series. 
Photograph of a map index.

Locate your area of interest on the index, and use the given sheet number to find the appropriate map within the drawers. Maps belonging to a series are arranged in alphanumeric order according to the labels on the drawers.

When finished with a map, please do not file it back in the drawer it came from – leave it on top of the map drawers for MDL staff to refile. If you can’t locate a particular map, please ask staff for assistance during reference hours (11 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday).

Data format: