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Geography and Map Reading Room (Geography & Map Division)
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Reference Policies


The Geography & Map Division Reading Room provides public access to the collections and services of the Geography & Map Division (G&M) and is open to patrons conducting research utilizing the Division's collections. The Geography and Map Division has custody of the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world with collections numbering over 4.6 million maps, 63,000 atlases, 6,000 reference works, numerous globes and plastic relief models, and a large number of cartographic material in other formats, including electronic. These unparalleled cartographic materials date from 14th century portolan charts through recent geographic information systems data sets.

Service in the Geography & Map Division Reading Room

Full use of the collections can only be made with the help of Division staff who provide assistance in understanding the Division's many different cataloging/filing systems and who oversee the safe use of the wide variety of materials served.

  • Two reference librarians are on duty in the Reading Room to assist patrons.
  • For best service, patrons are urged to use the Reading Room during times which are normally least busy - the early hours of the day (8:30-10:30), the months of January, February, November, and December, and early in the week.
  • Patrons are urged to bring with them as much specific information as they possess regarding the information they seek, including photocopies of official records containing placenames, photocopies of the image they seek to identify or reproduce, information regarding the item they are inquiring about, etc.

Reader Registration

  • Patrons must obtain a Library of Congress Reader Identification Card before using the G&M Reading Room. To obtain a card patrons must submit proof of identity and address. Cards may be obtained in Room LM 140 of the Madison Building near the front entrance of the building.
  • In general, children are not allowed to conduct research or accompany adults as they conduct research in the Division.
  • Patrons may not bring belongings other than paper, pencils, and research notes into the Reading Room. Free lockers are provided in the Reading Room for securing personal belongings.
  • Patrons must agree to follow special rules for the safe handling of cartographic materials.

Service from a Distance

  • There is no comprehensive published or online catalog for the more than 4.6 million holdings of the Geography and Map Division. However, since 1969 current acquisitions and other selected categories of cartographic materials have been cataloged and are available for searching through the Library's Online Catalog. See Tips for Searching Cartographic Materials for assistance in using the online catalog.
  • The Division will respond to inquries made via mail, email, and FAX. We, however, cannot conduct lengthy searches, make editorial selections for illustrations, produce long lists of descriptions, or undertake extensive research projects. Phone calls requiring simple answers are also responded to, but time does not permit handling more in-depth research for phone calls and patrons are asked to mail, email or FAX us with lengthier questions. The normal response time for these questions is four weeks.
  • The Division is participating in a new Ask-A-Librarian service, which provides an online form for sending inquries about our collections and services to the reference staff.
Copying Services
  • Xerox copies of most cartographic materials may be made provided the material is not fragile, too large, or a rare item. The Geography and Map has available in its Reading Room two black and white Xerox copiers and one color Xerox copier for use by researchers. These copies are operated by the using the Library's Copy Card which is available for purchase in The Law Library (LM 201) or the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room (LM 133).
  • Oversize Xerox copies are also available in the Reading Room. These photocopies are made by the staff and are limited to 10 copies per day when time permits. The cost is $5.00 per linear foot and payment can be made in the Reading Room by check. Other forms of payment must be made through the Photoduplication Service.
  • Better quality reproductions can be ordered through the Library's Photoduplication Service when a detailed description and call number can be provided. For assistance in obtaining the description and call number please send your request to Ask-A-Librarian.
  • Simple hand-held camera copying is allowed as an alternative to xeroxing. Exceptions are made for qualifying film makers or publishers.
  • Digitized images appearing in Online Map Collections can be downloaded at public reading room workstations. Cartographic images are large files and often require the use of a zip disk ("zip 100") formatted for use in IBM compatible machines.
  • Scanning equipment is not allowed.
Credits and Permissions
  • The Library does not grant nor deny permission concerning the use of cartographic images. While many maps fall within the public domain (generally, material published before 1923), large numbers of maps, particularily recent acquisitions, are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced by the Library.
  • Non-copyrighted cartographic materials reproduced from G&M collections may be used without permission of the Division.
  • When material reproduced from G&M collections is used in a publication, the Division requests a credit line stating that this material was reproduced from an original in the collections of the Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress. If known the filing location of the item should accompany this citation.
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  The Library of Congress >> Especially for Researchers >> Research Centers
  July 16, 2008
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