The Geography Library, opened in 1929 on the second floor of the National Historic Landmark Science Hall, houses a very unique and eclectic collection of resources focused on geography, cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), and climate change. As of today, Science Hall is dedicated mostly to the Department of Geography, including the Arthur H. Robinson Map Library, the Geography Library, and the Cartography Laboratory, as well as home for the State Cartographer’s Office and the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Given the proximity within the department, the Geography Library considers themselves one of the first truly imbedded libraries on campus!
Although many libraries at UW–Madison hold amazing and unique collections, it is safe to say that the Geography Library itself is a national treasure; it is one of the only, if not the only, geography libraries in the United States! Alongside the American Geographical Society in Milwaukee, it houses one of the best geography collections in the nation that supports one of the best geography departments in the world. Needless to say, we’re pretty lucky here in Wisconsin!
So how does the library support research at UW–Madison? It doesn’t take long to find out once you’re in the library. Encompassing three rooms and a unique second-floor mezzanine and mezzanine annex, the print collection covers a breadth of interdisciplinary resources spanning from international atlases to the social aspects of geography, and everything in between. The library also provides access to computer stations equipped with unique GIS software, which are often heavily used by patrons late into the evenings. Along with these resources, ample seating provides much needed space for students and other researchers to work individually and collaboratively. Department instructors and students also have access to laptops, projectors, speakers, and other equipment for their instruction and research needs.
Primary patrons of the library consist of graduate students, faculty, undergraduate students, and visiting researchers. Many of these individuals take full use of the aforementioned resources, and tap into the unique collections. One group of researchers, collaboratively working on the History of Cartography Project over the past thirty plus years, use the library extensively in the pursuit of finalizing a comprehensive six volume set detailing a complete history of cartography!
The library’s print resources include an actively circulating reserve collection, reference collection, as well as a comprehensive collection of master’s theses and doctoral dissertations from the Department of Geography. Among the vast print resources, the library also provides access to invaluable electronic resources. These include geographical databases, atlases, and even an electronic collection of The Complete National Geographic from 1888-2010! The library also curates four digital collections for the Geography Department.
As most of us know, libraries don’t run themselves, and the Geography Library is no exception. Tom Tews, Director; Melissa Roeder, Assistant Librarian; and their team of 5-7 student assistants work hard to assure the library is running smoothly and efficiently, and that patrons receive the best service possible. Along with resource selection, reference, instruction support, and other library duties, Tom currently serves as the Science Hall Building Manager. His 15 years of experience as the Geography Librarian and additional 15 years of experience as a paraprofessional in the department have made him a household name within the building, which he regards as a tight-knit and wonderful community of students and colleagues!
Interested in geography? Geography-related events in April include the Wisconsin state Geography Bee on April 4th, celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd, and the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida from April 8-12.
For more information about the Geography Library, please visit the website or call (608) 262-1706.