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UC Berkeley's Map Library guides students and public, stages annual sale Saturday
02 November 2001

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

Berkeley - It can be tough enough to navigate your way around your own sprawling community or redeveloped city, but some current locations in the news can be even more intriguing. For example, exactly where is Moqor, Mazar-e Sharif, Kunduz or Dushanbe?

Students, academic researchers, authors and community residents seeking the answers to map-related questions often turn to the University of California, Berkeley's Earth Sciences and Map Library for answers.

Boasting the largest map collection in Northern California and one of the largest university map collections in the country with approximately 375,000 "sheets" of maps, the library tucked cocoon-like into McCone Hall's basement has experienced a flurry of inquiries in recent weeks. The days following Sept. 11 were particularly busy.

"There was a rush of people who came in and wanted to know exactly where Afghanistan is, and where all this commotion was coming from," said Michelle Robinson-Goode, operations manager at the library. "They wanted to see maps and if it is all mountains or desert."

Library and geography department staff expect another surge of visitors this Saturday (Nov. 3) for their annual map sale. A huge number of maps - including flat, topographic, satellite, thematic, nautical and those typically used for classroom walls - are on sale for an average of 50 cents each. The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at McCone Hall, on the first floor and in the library in the basement.

Most of the maps in the collection, says librarian Katie Fromberg, are from the 20th century and cover all states and countries. Many of those on sale are outdated, but still of interest, or are on sale because they are duplicates of other maps in the library's collection.

Regardless, the library contains a treasure chest of maps, including many confiscated from Japan and Germany, a new 3,000-map set of Vietnam, and maps of the San Francisco Bay Area prepared by Russians and containing Russian versions of the region's cities. It also contains online maps of Azerbaijan and the popular Sanborn maps, which chart U.S. communities' growth and development from 1849 to 1970, illustrated down to the level of blocks and building numbers and a scale of 50 feet to an inch. Other popular maps include a digital collection of 350 topographical maps of the Bay Area, dating back to the 1800s. The collection was produced with UC Berkeley in a cooperative project with the U.S. Geological Survey.

In addition to the map sale on Saturday, the library is open Monday through Saturday. For specific times, visit the library Web site:

A new library feature quite popular since its introduction in late summer is "Ask a Question." Most questions involve basic questions and often come from young K-12 students working on class papers, Fromberg said, but one recent query "took the cake as the silliest I've ever received."

Here goes: "I was wondering what would the world be like without food and water? Answer (me) soon."