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Points of Reference

A Booklist Blog
This is the archive of the blog Points of Reference. From 2009-2012 a team of library reference experts talked about resources (books, databases, Web sites, e-books, and more) and publishing trends.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009 10:31 am
Is the Print Atlas Dead Yet?
Posted by: Admin

300px-mercator_world_mapA recent article in The Chicago Tribune about how traditional maps have been vanishing from classrooms got me thinking about one of the staples of the print reference collection, the atlas. While print dictionaries and encyclopedias have crumbled under the onslaught of digitization, it has taken awhile for the atlas to be replaced by online sources, partly because of problems with imaging and display. This is changing, however, thanks to better scanning. 

If you're looking for online maps, the Perry-Castaneda Library at the University of Texas is a good place to start. It has a collection of more than 250,000 maps, and more than 11,000 images from the collection are now online.  The Web site also offers links to numerous other online resources ranging from Google Earth and MapQuest to maps published by the CIA to The JewishGen ShtetlSeeker.

Of course, like everything else on the Web, map sites vary widely in quality, and the Perry-Castaneda Map Collection site has a disclaimer about the timeliness and geographic accuracy of the map sites to which it links. Even with the advent of Google Maps and similar sites, it's still hard to beat a standard atlas like The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World for authority, as Reference Books Bulletin's atlas expert (and Points of Reference blogger) Chris Bulson keeps reminding us in her reviews.

One Response to “Is the Print Atlas Dead Yet?”
  1. Elizabeth Says:

    I have to say that the atlas is dead at The University of Alabama. I had some friends from library school tell me they went looking for one for a Ready Reference assignment the other day, and all the atlases had been moved out of the reference room and into the circulating collection or to the Annex. I haven't used an atlas since that same assignment last fall; I stick to online sources, mostly Google Earth.


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