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Information about finding and describing maps

How do I find a map or atlas in the Library Search?

This 3 minute video provides an overview of how to use Library Search - further details of how to incorporate these functions to find maps is given below.

To find a map on a particular subject or area use the following search option in Library Search:

  • Use a Keyword search option
    • e.g. geolog* Australia
  • In the results, restrict content type to Maps

To find a map on a particular subject or area and limited to a particular time of publication use

the following search options:

  • Use a Keyword search option
  • Type your search words e.g. Australia discovery
  • An ‘and’ operator is automatically inserted between your search terms
  • In Year fill in the after date or the before date
    • eg From 1750 or To 1850
  • Click on Refine to apply the modifications

To find a map with a particular scale use the following search options:

  • Use the Keyword search option
  • Include the scale in the search option
    • e.g. geolog* Australia  1 000 000

What if I still can't find the map I want?

Library Search

Many maps belong to large national or international sets consisting of many sheets. To find these on Library Search you need to make your search geographically broad.

For example use

  • Brisbane rather than Toowong
  • Queensland rather than North Queensland
  • Australia rather than Queensland

In Library Search use the drop down boxes in the Request Options area to locate a sheet within a larger set of maps.

Most map sets have an index sheet, which accompanies the maps. This index sheet will help you to locate individual maps.

Maps may accompany books and journals. Large maps are often folded and kept in a pocket within books and journals. The Library Search record will include the note:

  • Maps in back pocket - to describe maps with books
  • Maps accompany some issues - to describe maps shelved with journals
  • If searching for an Australian topographic map try a place name search to locate the individual map sheet number.


Maps can be located using printed or electronic indexes. Choose a database which covers your topic, for example try GeoRef for information in geology and the geosciences:

  • Check if the database allows searching/limiting by format
  • Use map or maps as a search term
  • Check Library Search to see if the library holds maps located as a result of database searches
  • Ask the staff at the AskUs Desk for assistance or referral to the librarians who can assist with map research.

Some databases available at the Library which include maps are: