GIS & maps resources: Map collection

Map of Devastating 2003 Heat Wave in the Netherlands Observed from MODIS Satellite. Mehdi Aminipouri (PhD Candidate in Geography at SFU)

The Map Collection is housed on the Second Floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby). The collection contains cartographic materials to serve the diverse needs of the University community. It includes atlases, maps, digital maps, air photos and gazetteers. Except for air photos, all are listed in the Library Catalogue.

See Geography - Finding Maps and Atlases for tips on using the catalogue to find cartographic materials.


There are general, national, regional and subject atlases. For atlases on a particular country, province or state, or on a particular topic, search the Catalogue by subject and the word Maps , for example:

  • Canada Maps
  • British Columbia Maps
  • Europe Econom* Maps
  • Historical Geography Maps
  • War 1939 Campaigns Maps

You can also search by keyword, for example:

  • Canada and atlas
  • Population and atlas
  • Contemporary America and atlas

Atlases of world coverage published in the United States are listed by Subject under Atlases. Those published in other countries are listed under Atlases, Canadian; Atlases , British, etc. Due to the various sizes in which they are published, they are shelved in two different sequences, regular and oversize.


These consist of general, thematic, and topographic sheet maps.

Thematic sheet maps cover specific subjects or themes. These include physical, political, historical, human, cultural and economic geography, agriculture, natural resources, vegetation, transportation, climate and biogeography, etc. You can use these terms in combination with "map" and the name of the city, state or province, and country, etc. as keywords when you search the catalogue.

The sheet maps are filed in horizontal cabinets by call number.

Topographic maps

Topographic maps provide extensive information on relief, vegetation, roads, railways, buildings, and other physical and cultural features.

Canadian topographic series

The Map Collection is a depository for the Canadian topographic series published by the National Topographic System (NTS). They are available in various scales: 1:500,000, 1:250,000, 1:50,000, 1:25,000.

The individual maps in these series are not listed separately in the catalogue. Check the gazetteers (see section on gazetteers) for each province for the geographic coordinates and the NTS Map/Chart area number. Or access this information online at The Atlas of Canada - Toporama (click on View on Map. This resource allows users to find the NTS numbers online and find places via their NTS number). Maps are filed by scale on the hanging map racks, sub-arranged under each scale by the NTS Map/Chart Area number.

If you know the NTS Map number and you wish to see what the adjoining quadrangles are, refer to the NTS indexes. These are in a plastic container opposite the map racks.

Topographic maps of Canada at 1:1,000,000 scale are available as part of the International Map of the World series. They are filed in the horizontal cabinets with the call number G3201 C10 1913 S. Index is located at the beginning of the series.

Note: some historical Canadian topographic maps have been digitized: Historical National Topographic System (NTS): 1:50,000 Scale Maps, Data, & GIS on Borealis (from 1948 to the early 21st century)

U.S. topographic maps

The topographic maps of the entire United States are in the scales 1:100,000 and 1:250,000; Alaska, 1:250,000 and 1:63,350; California, 1:24,000; Hawaii, 1:24,000; Idaho, 1:24,000; Oregon, 1:24,000; Washington, 1:24,000 and 1:62,500. They are not listed separately in the catalogue. Refer to the U.S. Geological Survey map indexes in plastic containers nearby.

Under the various scales, the maps are filed by map name, A-Z.

A map is usually named after the most prominent city, town or natural landmark on it.

Air photos

There is a small collection of air photos of British Columbia, mostly of the southwestern area, taken in the 1960s and 1970s. They are shelved in filing cabinets in the Map Collection on the Second Floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby).

The index maps to them are located on top of the filing cabinets. These are numbered with the NTS Map/Chart area numbers. If you do not know the NTS number, check the British Columbia gazetteer [print]. Flight lines of what we have in the collection are marked in red. The air photos are filed according to the flight lines.


Gazetteers are geographical indexes or dictionaries giving locations of physical features and places, such as towns, rivers, mountains, etc. Geographic coordinates of latitude and longitude indicate locations.

For gazetteers on a particular province, state or country, search by keyword in the catalogue by province, etc., and Gazetteers, for example: British Columbia gazetteers.

Gazetteer of Canada. British Columbia. 3rd ed. 1985 [online and print]

Using the collection

Sheet maps and air photos may be borrowed for short periods at the Bennett Library Checkout Counter. Atlases and gazetteers cannot be borrowed.

Please do not refile maps. Leave them on top of the map cases, for staff to refile.

If you need assistance, ask at the Bennett Library Service Desk (SFU Burnaby) on the 3rd floor. 

Borrowing maps

Maps and other circulating materials (air photos, large maps) may be borrowed for 3-day or 7-day periods.

Up to three (3) maps may be checked out at a time.

Please follow these steps to borrow maps/air photos:

  • Fill in the Special Loan form by entering the information, making sure that the full Call Number, Edition, and Scale for each map are entered. The Call Numbers of maps can usually be found in the lower right hand corner of the maps.
  • Fill in the Date Due field: Choose either a Three-day or Seven-day loan option.
  • Once you have filled in the form please proceed to the Loans (circulation) Desk on the 3rd floor. Present the form and maps to the Loans Desk staff for verification.
  • To better protect the maps, they will be placed in tubes after the Loans Desk staff has checked them out. Tubes are available at the Loans Desk.
  • Maps should be returned to/or renewed at the Loans Desk.

Borrowing of maps is restricted to SFU Students, Researchers and Staff.

Photocopying maps

Maps and other materials may be taken out without filling a form for photocopying. Please return maps to the Maps room after photocopying and lay them on top of the map drawers. Maps should NOT be re-filed.