Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy: Maps & Geospatial Data

Purpose or Scope of Collection

A. Curricular, Research, and Programmatic needs

Maps, atlases, digital geospatial data and cartographic reference books are acquired to serve the mission of Michigan State University.  The collections are meant to be used by all relevant departments at MSU since geographic information is being used broadly across many disciplines.  Along with departments the collections support many non-departmental programs such as International Studies Programs and other interdisciplinary fields.  At one time or another students and faculty from nearly every unit of the University have brought research questions to the Map and GIS Collections.  The collections are intended to be a resource for the academic community, as well as for local and regional community members.

Maps may be an end in themselves, such as an illustration wanted for reproduction in an authored work, to answer a question, or to be used for navigational or orientation purposes in travel.  Or a map may be that which is studied to understand the view of the world at the time it was created.  For instance, studying a succession of land ownership maps can bring an understanding of the history of land division and land ownership succession in an area over a long period of time.  Digital raster data (digital maps, scanned paper maps, or satellite imagery) is an extension of the paper map collection and is used in the same ways.  Digital raster data can be studied within a computing environment, generally in a geographic information system (GIS).

Digital geospatial vector data is generally used in one of two ways:  One is as an ingredient in compiling data layers to create a digital map using mapping software or a GIS.  The second is to perform geoprocessing tasks upon the data either by itself or as it interacts with other layers in a GIS to create new information. 

B. History of the Collection

Maps and atlases have been collected throughout the history of the university.  Michigan county atlases were collected systematically as were general atlases.  Great quanities of maps were received through the Federal Depository Library Program since 1907, and through the earlier US Department of Defense depository and a US Geological Survey depository.  Three times staff have participated in the Library of Congress Summer Internship program which resulted in large influxes of international and domestic maps.  The Library of Congress Cooperative Acquisitions Program results in a small number of maps from the Nairobi office.  The Map Library also purchases new maps to meet curricular and research needs and collecting priorities.  The Map Library collections today comprise about 250,000 sheet maps, about 5,000 volumes, and several thousand digital files.

C. Format

The Map Collection consists primarily of flat maps with dimensions that prevent them from being stored in regular library stacks. Folded maps may also be included in the collection, depending on dimension and/or anticipated usage. Most sheet maps at the Map Collection are topographic, geologic, urban, or thematic maps.  Maps will be purchased selectively, after consideration of relevance to the curriculum, research needs, and size and space constraints. 

In book form we have several thousand atlases from around the world and a reference collection of gazetteers, books on the history of cartography, and cartobibliographies.  Some items are purposely placed in the main library or be duplicated in the main library collection so that they may circulate to patrons.  For instance, our foreign topographic coverage consists largely sets from the US Department of Defense and therefore reflects those geographic areas of interest to that department. 

In digital form we have a growing collection of directly purchased or subscribed geospatial data.  Generally digital geospatial data is of two types:  Raster data (map images, scanned paper maps or satellite imagery) and Vector data (point, line and polygon, generally with attribute information attached).  Some are held on vendor servers, and some are stored on library servers.

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