Map metadata: essential elements for search and storage

Ashley Beamer (Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Publication date: 13 February 2009



The purpose of this paper is to develop an understanding of the issues surrounding the cataloguing of maps in archives and libraries. An investigation into appropriate metadata formats, such as MARC21, EAD and Dublin Core with RDF, shows how particular map data can be stored. Mathematical map elements, specifically co‐ordinates, are explored as a source of optimal retrieval.


This paper is based on both the personal experiences of map cataloguers as well as previous literature on map retrieval elements, metadata formats and map retrieval systems.


The difficulties behind map cataloguing do not lie in metadata file formats but rather in maps themselves, staff and budget. They also lie in the lack of map‐appropriate retrieval systems and the lack of co‐ordinate search capabilities.

Practical implications

The practical implications of this work reflect the necessity for strong map‐retrieval systems and strength of available metadata formats to store essential map data for retrieval. Future map cataloguers should secure appropriate systems for retrieval and include geographical location information, specifically numerical co‐ordinates.


This paper provides insight into current issues in map data and the file formats currently used for storing this data. It also investigates current map‐friendly systems in use by libraries and archives.



Beamer, A. (2009), "Map metadata: essential elements for search and storage", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 43 No. 1, pp. 18-35.

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