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 default is to search the University of Toronto Libraries homepage. Click on the "Advanced search" icon. The Advanced Search option allows you to limit your search to the collections of the Map & Data Library and/or to cartographic materials only. Alternatively, you can also access this through the Map and Data Library homepage. Click on the magnifying glass icon. From here, please click on "Advanced Search"  

"The University of Toronto Libraries homepage search bar, with advanced search highlighted in a red box"

Alternatively, if you are on the Map & Data Library homepage, you can first click on the search icon:

"The Map and Data Library homepage, with the search icon highlighted in a red box"

Then, on the general search, please click on Advanced Search.

"General search bar, with advanced search highlighted in a red box"

In Advanced Search, use the Search Scope dropdown menu to select Map & Data Library.

"Advanced search criteria, with search term, search scope and Map and Data Library highlighted in a red box"

Search for the map or atlas you are looking for by entering a search term. For example, "Downtown Los Angeles".

On the left-hand side of the results, there are filter options. For maps, select Maps under the Format filter. Then click Apply Filter. 

"Filter options, with Maps highlighted in a red box under Format. Apply Filters is also highlighted in a red box"

Unfortunately, there is no filter for atlases. Some are listed as maps and others as books. It is best not to apply a format filter when looking for an atlas. 

Here is an example of an item record for a paper map at MDL. The call number is highlighted in the red box below (G4364.L8 1984).

"Item record with the call number highlighted in a red box"

Scrolling down will give you additional details about what is represented on the map.

"Additional Item details"

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