By Daniel Dotson
Given the huge role the U.S. government played in creating print maps in the past (and still plays with both print and digital maps), it should be no surprise that English-language maps dominate many print map collections across U.S. academic libraries.
Members of the BTAA Geoportal recently examined our print collection of cataloged maps to determine the languages represented. This is not a complete picture, as many un-cataloged maps may be in non-English languages, but we wanted to carry out a preliminary analysis using readily-available data.
So how did this shake out?
- Out of nearly 1.7 million maps in our sample, over 85% are in English.
- Over 75,000 maps were listed with an undetermined language, which may speak to examining them for this and other missing metadata.
- European languages by far dominated. For languages with over 1,000 maps, Japanese, Indonesian, and Chinese are the only non-European languages represented.
- Over 50 languages have 10 or fewer maps. More than 20 with just a single map. This points to some interesting possibilities for unique content that may be good candidates for future scanning projects.
- Scanning projects for non-Western languages to expand the diversity of our digital collections. Japanese in particular has over 1,000 maps at a few BTAA members’ libraries.
- Make corrections for incorrect or outdated language codes. This wasn’t a significant number of items, but these are items that should be addressed in terms of how they are described in our catalogs.
- Look at updating language info for cataloged maps without a listed language. This helps users for our print collections, but may show we have missing languages we might want to look at.
- Beyond scanning projects, could we make use of this information for local purposes? Perhaps collaborations with our area studies colleagues to support education and outreach activities?
- Working towards making sure that language is represented in Geoportal content metadata and searching.