The map collection includes thematic and topographic maps of California and small scale topographic maps of the United States. It can be found on the 2nd floor.

Who Can Use:

The collection is open to students, faculty, staff and the public during regular library hours.

Checking Material Out:

Maps are non-circulating. Permission to check out a map for a class presentation is given on a case by case basis at Circulation & Reserve on the 1st Floor.


Note: not all maps in the collection are cataloged.

Cataloged maps, like books, have a call number. These maps are shelved numerically according to their call numbers in the map cases. Many maps appear on the Library's catalog. You search for a map as you would search for a book. The easiest method is to enter the geographic location (country, state, county, city, national park, region, river, etc.) i.e. "California" and the the term "maps". You will see a listing of all maps pertaining to California. However, you may want to limit your available resources. To do this you may enter a subject category with the geographical location., i.e. "California" "mines and mineral resources" "maps".

Here is a short list of some of the most commonly used subject qualifiers:

  1. Administrative and political divisions
  2. Agriculture
  3. Botany
  4. Census districts
  5. City planning
  6. Earthquakes
  7. Ecology
  8. Faults
  9. Floods
  10. Forests and Forestry
  11. Geology
  12. Historical Geography
  13. Hydrology
  14. Land use
  15. Landowners
  16. Mines and mineral resources
  17. [place] maps, outline and base
  18. [place] maps, physical
  19. [place] Photo maps
  20. Real property
  21. [place] maps, tourist
  22. [place] maps, recreation
  23. Vegetation and climate
  24. Water resources development
  25. (Don't forget to always include the term "maps")

Another way to find a cataloged map is to browse through the map drawers. All cataloged maps begin with the letter designation "G". The first set of four numbers following the "G" refers to the geographic location represented on the map. General, non-specific maps will end with the digit "0" (a few end in "5") This last digit can be modified to make the map more specific.

  • If you add a "1" to the last digit = subject.
  • If you add a "2" to the last digit = physical area.
  • If you add a "3" to the last digit = county.
  • If you add a "4" to the last digit = city.


  • G4360 = California
  • G4361 = California land use
  • G4362 = California Sacramento Valley
  • G4363 = California Butte County
  • G4364 = California Chico

Maps must accurately show distance and location. A map must also be a convenient and usable size. This means that all the information must be shown proportionately smaller than it actually is. This proportion is the "map scale". Scale is the relationship between distances on the map and distances in the 'real world'. Map scales are usually given as a ratio, i.e. 1:100,000. One unit of measurement on the map represents 100,000 of the same unit of measurement on the ground. The first number is always '1' and the second number is different for each scale. "Large is small" or the larger the second number the smaller the scale (detail) of the map.

Most geographical areas have been mapped at different scales. When choosing a map, its intended use should be considered before deciding on which scale to use. For a close view that will give you the most detailed information of a small geographical area, choose a map with a small second number, i.e. 1:100. For a broad general view of a large geographical area you would use a map with a larger second number, i.e. 1:100.000.

Following is a short list of map scales.

Scale 1 Inch on Map Represents 1 Centimeter on Map Represents
1:24,000 2,000 feet 240 meters
1:50,000 4,166 feet 500 meters
1:63,360 1 mile 633.6 meters
1:100,000 1.6 miles 1 kilometer
1:250,000 4 miles 2.5 kilometers
1:500,000 8 miles 5 kilometers
1:1,000,000 16 miles 10 kilometers
1:2,000,000 32 miles 20 kilometers

The Land Ordinance of 1785 devised a system base lines and meridian lines using to survey the western lands outside the initial 13 colonies. Base lines run east/west and meridian lines run north/south. CSU,Chico is located on the Mt. Diablo Meridian and Base lines. Along these lines the land was divide into 6 square mile blocks, called "Townships". Each Township is given a identifying number, according to where it falls. The east/west numbers are identified by the term "Range" and the north/south numbers are identified by the term "Township". Chico is located in Township 23 north, Range 1 East, Mt. Diablo Meridian. Each township is divided into 36 square-mile parcels of 640 acres, called "Sections". Every section is numbered from 1 to 36, depending upon its position within the township. A section can be further divided into halves, quarters, etc.

Many legal property descriptions are identified by the township/range system, i.e. "North West 1/4, Section 34, Township 1 South-Range 3 East, Mt. Diablo Meridian". To locate a land parcel from its legal description, the trick is to read backwards-beginning with the principal meridian line and working back through the township and range, the section, and then the fractional section.

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