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Results of the user survey on the map collection

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News from Mar 29, 2022

In summer 2021, the management of the University Library of the Freie Universität Berlin initiated a report on the current situation of the map collection at the Earth Sciences Library in Lankwitz. This study will be used to make reliable decisions on the future development of the collection. The report "Analyse zur geowissenschaftlichen Kartensammlung an der FU Berlin und Handlungsoptionen" is publicly available in the refubium: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/refubium-34217

For the report, the need for analogue maps in research, teaching and studies at the Department of Earth Sciences was surveyed at the end of 2021. The focus was on the question of what role analogue maps play in everyday research, teaching and study. For this purpose, an online survey was carried out at the department and six in-depth interviews were conducted with academic staff. In summary, the results show that analogue maps are still used in research, teaching and study in various disciplines of the geosciences, but that their importance varies (see Figures 2-3 and 6-9 of the report).

A total of 137 people took part in the online survey, with the geographical sciences as a subject area and students as a status group being the most strongly represented (cf. Fig. 1). This large response indicates the interest in analogue maps in the department.

Fig. 1 (=Abbildung A1): Participants in the online survey according to individual status groups and subject affiliation. (Source: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/refubium-34217)

Analogue maps: "important for a real understanding of spatial relationships".

For the majority of respondents and interviewees, analogue maps play an important role in their work or studies. Despite subject-specific differences, it is very often noted that analogue maps will definitively be of interest in the future. The evaluation shows that in disciplines such as physical geography, analogue maps offer a high added value for research, teaching and studies. According to one geographer, only analogue maps create a "real understanding of spatial relationships" and are also used, for example, before and during expeditions and excursions. Maps are often digitally processed and georeferenced for field trips. However, digital maps, it is often noted, do not replace analogue maps. The need for analogue maps in meteorology is rather low compared to geography. If analogue maps are used here, then for example for comparative work with aerial and satellite photographs.

For students, especially of the geological and geographical sciences, working with analogue map material is an integral part of their studies. In geography, it is an important part of the introduction to scientific work and thus also relevant for future activities. For subjects outside the Geosciences, such as Classical Studies - as an interview with an archaeologist shows - analogue maps are also an important medium, for example for determining toponyms.

Map Collection in Lankwitz: "Surprising Discovery" - "Jewel" - "Flagship"

The professional, ideal and historical value of the map collection of the Earth Sciences Library becomes clear in many places in the survey. In particular, the broad spatial coverage, the historical maps and the partly unique and therefore very valuable holdings are emphasised. The diversity of the collection is perceived and appreciated as a special added value for the science region Berlin-Brandenburg. In addition, the spatial proximity to the department and the uncomplicated possibilities of use are seen as advantages. Although there are other options for researchers and students to obtain analogue maps (e. g., of the map department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum in Potsdam), these options are perceived as too inconvenient and expensive due to longer distances, user fees and waiting times. Only about 15% of academic staff and just 7% of students, for example, make use of the services offered by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (see Fig. 2 and Fig. 3).

Fig. 2 (=Abbildung A2): Sources of maps for researchers and lecturers. Subject average. Multiple answers possible. "AG": Working group. (Source: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/refubium-34217)

Fig. 3 (=Abbildung A3): Sources of maps for students. Subject average. Multiple answers were possible. "I don't know": Students do not always know where analogue maps come from that are provided and used in courses. "AG": Working group. (Source: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/refubium-34217)

Marketing challenge: "many students do not even know what our map collection is".

In their opinion, the potential of the map collection described by the respondents cannot be fully exploited due to a lack of visibility. For example, 17 of the 80 students surveyed do not even know about the map collection yet, and 30 have never used it. The map collection is considered "far too unknown" - even by the academic staff. Across all status groups, it is clear that the added value offered by the map collection should be "effectively communicated". The participants - especially the lecturers - see themselves as responsible for this (e.g. strengthen analogue maps as study content, seminar visits to the map collection) as well as the Earth Sciences Library (e.g. through website, information events and talks with new professors). In addition, there is a desire to communicate the library's services better, for example through the Geo.X research network.

Next steps: "Curation of the map collection is essential".

In addition to better visibility, the respondents would like to see an improved support situation on the part of the Earth Sciences Library. In particular, long-time staff at the department would like to see the map service "restored to the level it used to be". This includes improved curation of the map collection and expert support for users. Students also say: "there is a lack of expert staff". In addition, technical improvements such as comprehensive digital indexing of the map holdings and meaningful metadata in an electronic research system, ideally provided with thumbnails or digitised index sheets, are frequently suggested.

The Earth Sciences Library and the University Library (Central Library) are currently working together to determine which concrete measures can now be taken to implement these suggestions in practice and how the map collection of the Earth Sciences Library can be further developed in the future.

Lea Schneider, trainee librarian, University Library
Julian Katz, trainee librarian, University Library

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