History of the Map & Imagery Library

1974 photo of the UF Map Library published in the Gainesville Sun
1974 photo of the UF Map Library published in the Gainesville Sun

Establishing the Map Library

The Map Library was officially founded in 1973 at the request of six academic departments whose faculty believed strongly that maps were imperative for their research needs. 

The maps that UF obtained before 1973 were a small collection of maps primarily from the Defense Mapping Agency and the U.S.Geological Survey depositories. Some political and special topic maps supplemented the topographic maps. 

UF decided to develop the map collection into a research/reference facility that would serve the northern Florida region as well as the academic community and were lucky enough to find a “rare breed”, a map librarian in Miss Armstrong.

The reputation of the institution and the collection grew. By 1984, the Library Direct Gus Harrer reported that “it has grown by leaps and bounds until it is now one of the outstanding Map Libraries in the country”

At that time, it was also reported that the UF Map Library was one of the few academic map libraries in the United States whose catalog of maps was searchable by computer. The public computer catalog was called FOCUS at that time.

In 1987, the Map Library moved into the newly built Marston Science Library which alleviated concerns about humidity, temperature, and space. A unique aspect of the new location is the use of electrically operated compact shelving carriages to store 123 large map cases. This innovation was the first of its kind.

1992 brought tremendous change when the library received a generous gift of 69 antique maps of the Holy Land from James and Adina Simmons who donated their prized collection to the University of Florida in honor of their beloved parents. It was a gift of more than twenty years of knowledgeable and thoughtful effort in researching and compiling a collection that documents four centuries of cartographic record. Since coming to live at the University of Florida, these maps have served as the foundation for a distinctive collection of more than 2,000 antique maps of Florida, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and of course, the Holy Land.

Imagery, Science, and Computers

In 1986,  Dr. Armstrong mused, ”Computer mapping is the wave of the future” she said “I can conceive of a day when, just like James Bond, people will be able to drive along and call up a road map on their on-board computers.”

Early in the 1990s, the Map Library became the Map & Imagery Library as its remote-sensing imagery collections grew. The University of Florida was at the forefront for providing this type of materials in the libraries and Dr. Armstrong was the recognized expert and presenting nationally on Identification, Control, and Utilization of remote-sensing Imagery. The remote-sensing collections included an impressive collection of USDA aerial photographs, Kennedy Space Center film, and SPOT Imagery from the French satellite purchased from Lottery Funds. The aerial photography collection continues to expand to this day as we receive donated collections from water management districts and the Florida DOT.

The Map & Imagery Library was also a leader in digital and computer mapping. 

In 1993, the Map & Imagery Library was one of the original 30 Libraries in the ARL Geographic Information System Literacy Project. UF was also the first university to negotiate a campus wide site license for ArcInfo/ArcView. 

In 1996 grant created a pilot project to facilitate the gathering, organization, and distribution to the public of GIS databases created, with public funds by the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and other state and federal agencies in the State of Florida. The original investigators included faculty of GeoPlan Center, Urban & Regional Planning Dept. & Head of Map & Imagery Library.  The result was the Florida Geographic Data Library (FGDL) and it continues to be the largest provider of free geospatial data in the state.

The Digital Library Center at the University of Florida was also an important collaborator on a number of innovative projects. 

One large digitization project was “From the air: the photographic record of Florida’s lands”. The project was proposed in 2001 in collaboration with UF’s Digital Library Center for collaborative preservation and distribution of the historic aerials and to promote their use in education.

In 2002, UF Libraries received a Library Services and Technology Act Grant (LSTA) from the State of Florida to digitize aerial photographs of Florida (1935-1952). Two subsequent grants, one in 2003 and the other in 2009, digitized the rest of the aerials through 1990. 

Changing Leadership

In 2005, Dr. Armstrong retired after 33 years of service.A new map librarian was hired, Carol McAuliffe. She had been working under Dr. Armstrong since 2001 while obtaining a Masters in Information and Library Sciences.

In the first year, Ms. McAuliffe extended hours for the Map & Imagery Library to include weekend and evening hours, and helped to bring the first GIS Day celebration to UF in 2008.  A needed renovation to the space in 2009 allowed for more a new and improved layout and reference books and atlases were allowed to circulate for the first time. 

In 2014, the Map & Imagery Library underwent one of the biggest changes to date when it relocated BACK to the 1st floor of Smathers Library. The move allowed the Florida History maps which had been kept in Special Collections to be integrated into the Map & Imagery Library.