Guide to Maps, Atlases, GIS Resources, and Related Publications

Find your way around Fondren's map, atlas and GIS collection.

Maps and Map Texts

The Government Publications and Microforms Department houses sheet maps from governmental and commercial sources.  The types of maps found in the collection include:

Index maps:  outline maps showing maps published and status of work-in progress for various series received.  Available for the U.S. and foreign countries; they are located on top of the map cabinets.

Topographic maps: maps showing the position, shape and elevation of terrain by contour lines.  Scales vary from 1:24,000 to 1:1,000,000 quadrangles of 7.5 or 15 minute latitude.  Texas quadrangles, 7.5 minute (1:24,000 ) and 15 minute (1:62,500), are filed alphabetically by name in cabinets 10 to 12.  See index map on top of the cabinets to identify names.  1:250,000 scale maps known as "East/West of the Mississippi" are also housed in this area and have an index map on top of the cabinets identifying them.Topographic sheets of Harris County is in cabinet 20.

Orthophotomaps: multicolor photo-image maps with added topographic detail.  Available for Texas. Located in Cabinet 20

Orthophotoquads:  monocolor photographic image maps without added topographic detail.  Available forTexas.  Located in Cabinet 20

Planimetric maps:  maps showing location of surface features, including natural feature, manmade structures, transportation, routes, political or private boundaries.  Thematic and general purpose series available. Located in general map area in Cabinet 23 (with SuDoc number PrEx 3.10/4: no.).

Geologic maps:  maps showing surface and/or subsurface structure and composition.  Several seriesspecialize in a given type of commercial mineral resource; scales vary; some regular 7.5 minute quadrangles.  Located in Cabinets 2-9 by Library of Congress call number with geol designation at the end of the call number.  Some drawers have additional labels indicating:

  • "C" for Coal  Investigations  (call number: G3701s .H9 var  .U5 no. C # Geol), cabinet 9
  • "GQ" for Geologic Quadrangles  (call number: G3701s .C5 var  .U5 no. GQ # Geol), cabinet 5-6
  • "HA" for Hydrologic Investigations Atlases  (call number: G3701s .C3 var  .U5 no. HA # Geol), cabinet 4-5
  • "I" for Miscellaneous Investigations  (call number: G3201s .C5 var  .U5 no. I # Geol), cabinet 2-4
  • "MF" for Miscellaneous Field Studies  (call number: G3701s .H1 var  .U5 no. MF # Geol), cabinet 7-8
  • "MR" for Mineral Investigations  (call number: G3701s .H1 var  .U52 no. MR # Geol), cabinet 8
  • "OC" for Oil and Gas Series and Charts  (call number: G3701s .H8 var  .U5 no. OC # Geol), cabinet 8
  • "OM" for Oil and Gas Investigations  (call number: G3701s .H8 var  .U52 no. OM # Geol).cabiniet 8-9

Organization of the map collection

The map collection is housed in the map cabinets in the Government Publications Department. These cabinets are numbered and divided into the following sections:

I. Cabinets 1: Geologic atlas of United States.

II. Cabinet 2-14: LC (Library of Congress) classified geologic maps.

III. Cabinet 10-13: LC classified topographic maps. 

IV.  Cabinet 15: SuDoc (Superintendent of Documents) classified maps.

V.  Cabinet 16-18: DMA (Defense Mapping Agency) maps. 

VI.  Cabinet 20: Photo Atlas of major cities in Texas, Colorado and Arizona and topographic sheet of Harris County, Texas.

VII.  Cabinet 22: Map text of LC maps.

VIII. Cabinet 23: SuDoc folded maps and texts.

IX.  Cabinet 24: Indexes to State Maps and Navigation Charts.

X.  Cabinet 25-26: Navigation charts. 

XI.  Cabinet 27:  Highway and tourism maps of the world.


Most atlases in Fondren are housed in the main library stacks and reference stacks in Library of Congress classification by subject.  A few atlases are located in the Government Publications Department.  These include:

Geologic atlas of United States: Location: Cabinet 1

Geologic atlas of Texas: Location: Cabinet 22

Aerial photo atlases: Includes atlases for Houston from 1969 to the present, as well as other major cities in the Southwestern part of the United States. Located in Gov-Maps on a map stand.

Federal and Texas Depository Library atlases: The Federal and Texas Depository Library atlases are on top of the map cabinets and in the map drawers, as space permits.

Other atlases: All other atlases in Fondren are housed in the main library stacks and reference stacks byLibrary of Congress call number.


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help you create custom maps.  In fact, because it is the coordination of computers, data, and software it is more than just making maps for display.  GIS can also help with capturing, analyzing, and managing geospatial data.  Most of our GIS resources are restricted to Rice University faculty, staff, and students.  An exception to this are those materials received through the Federal Depository Library program, such as the TIGER/Line files.  Please consult GIS/Data Center staff for more information on our GIS resources.

Access to Resources and Map Indexes

To find maps and atlases in Fondren:

Fondren Library's online catalog: Most maps and atlases are cataloged and listed in the online catalog.  To access these materials, you can do an "advanced search" from the online catalog, change the location to "GOV-MAPS" and search using terms that describe your topic.  Some materials only have a record for the map series, not the individual maps, so you may want to try a variety of search terms.

Another good rule of thumb is to try to broaden and narrow your search terms to ensure retrieval of all pertinent materials.  For example, when searching for a map of Nigeria, terms as narrow as "Beli" (city), the broader term "Nigeria" (country), or the very broad term "Africa" (continent) could be used.  Also keep in mind that a world atlas may contain a map of the desired region.

Some materials, such as some Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) maps, are not in the online catalog.  These materials can be accessed using the blue colored DMA Index map book located on top of the map cabinets.  This contains index maps in order by DMA series number.

Some older maps are housed in the Woodson Research Center, 1st Floor, Fondren Library.  Please consult Woodson staff for assistance in locating these materials

United States Geological Survey (USGS) publications:

While Fondren Library does not receive all USGS publications, there are several resources for finding materials produced by the USGS.

Publications of the U.S. Geological Survey. Location: some issues Gov Stacks, some issues Gov Micro, call number: I 19.14:year

Lists USGS books and maps, as well as selected articles by USGS personnel.  Published monthly with annual accumulations 1970-present; see Publications of the Geological Survey, 1897-1961 and Publications of the Geological Survey, 1962-1970 for earlier accumulations.

Guide to USGS Publications: Geologic and Hydrologic Maps. Location: Gov Ref, call number: Z 6026 .G3 G82

Catalog of maps included in the active and inactive series of the USGS.  Organized by map theme.  Indexed by area, subject, coordinate, and author.  Basic descriptive information is frequently supplemented with brief annotations. 

A Cartobibliography of Separately Published U.S. Geological Survey Special Maps and River Surveys by Stark, Peter L. Location: Gov Ref, call number: Z 6027 .U5 S7 1989

Contains listings of maps which do not conform to the standard geographic grid specifications used by the USGS in its various map series.  Provides checklist of all editions and reprintings of separately published USGS special maps and river surveys from 1882-1961

Indexes to other maps:

Maps for America.  U.S. Geological Survey, 3rd edition, 1987 Location: Gov Stacks, call number: I 19.2:M32/12/987

Describes the history of American cartography, kinds of maps and map data, mapping conventions, and future trends in cartography.  Includes maps produced by the USGS, as well as other U.S. organizations

CIS US Serial Set Index: Part XIV, Index and Carto-Bibliography of Maps, 1789–1969 Location: Gov Ref, call number: Z1223.Z9 C65

Indexes over 50,000 publications in U.S. Serial Set. Four separate index sections provide access by geographic areas and subjects, by map titles, by personal names, and by corporate names.  The carto-bibliography provides full bibliographic data and annotations for each map, including a description of any special features.

Notable Map Series and Related Publications

Central Intelligence Agency Country and Regional Maps Location: Gov-Maps, call number: PrEx 3.10/4: no.

These 8 ½" x 11" maps show political boundaries, major physical features, and geologic information for countries and regions from the entire world.  Issued irregularly.  Housed in Government Publications Stacks.

County Maps of Texas.  Texas Department of Transportation Location: Main Stacks Oversized Atlas, call number: G1371 .P2 T49

These maps show public roads, incorporated city limits, and generalized hydrology for all of Texas.

Houston-Harris County Atlas.  Key Maps, inc.  Location: Main Reserve, call number: G1374 .H8 K4

Highway and Tourism Maps of the World Location: Gov-Maps, cabinet 27, and vertical filing cabinet by the Tax Forms area 

This set of maps contains various official highway maps, as well as tourism guides from publishers such as AAA (American Automobile Association)

Rand McNally state map collection : [United States]. Location: Main Reserve, call number: G3700 svar .R36

Collection of foldable road maps for all 50 United States

USGS Bulletins  Location: older issues in Main Stacks, call number: QE75 .B9 no., Location: newer issues in Gov Micro, and Gov-Stacks, call number: I 19.13:no.

USGS Scientific reports of a more limited scope or geographic coverage than professional papers; frequently include folded maps.

USGS Circulars  Location: older issues in Main Stacks, call number: QE75. C5 no.,Location: newer issues in Gov Micro, and Gov-Stacks, call number: I 19.4/2:no.

Present information from USGS of a wide popular interest, which can be either technical or non-technical in nature; may include maps.

USGS Open file reports Location: Gov Micro, Gov-Maps and Gov-Stacks, call number: I 19.76:no.

Present information on specific sites in a informal manner (e.g., unpublished manuscript reports); frequently include maps.

USGS Professional papers Location: older issues in Main Stacks, call number: QE75 .P7 no., Location: newer issues in Gov Micro and Gov-Stacks, call number: I 19.16: no.

Comprehensive scientific reports of the USGS, frequently containing folded maps of the region under study. 

URLs to Files from old site