The new map department in the National Library of Poland and the first steps to the automation of cataloguing its collections
The new map department in the National Library of Poland and the first steps to the automation of cataloguing its collections

Lucyna Szaniawskã

In 1961, when the Krasinski Palace (the Palace of the Republic) was rebuilt, it was given to the National Library's use. All the departments of the Division of Special Collections were placed in the Palace, including the map department. In 1963 the government made a decision to construct a new building for the National Library of Poland. In the beginning it was planned to move all the collections from the buildings, which they had occupied before, placed in three different districts of Warsaw (including the Division of Special Collections) to the new National Library's building. Its construction started in 1977. But during the works on the site and the move of the collections of books and periodicals dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, it became obvious that those departments, and in particular, their collections, took up too much space, and there was no room for them all. So new plans of enlarging the new building of the National Library were made, but the economic crisis which we are now going through in our country has postponed its development until the distant future. Until now, there is still a remaining part of the Division of Special Collections in the Krasinski Palace, the departments which preserve collections of manuscripts, early printed books, graphics and drawings. Special grand exhibitions are also held in the beautiful baroque rooms there.

A decision on 5 June1995 about the move of the Department of Cartographic Collections also concerned the furnishing arrangements of the rooms designed to hold the Department. The transfer itself into the ready-furnished rooms started on 10 July 2000. Collections such as atlases and books were transported in metal boxes, separate maps kept in drawers as well as wall maps were wrapped in paper. All the cartographic materials as well as the reference book collection went through the sterilization chamber before they reached their new places. The fumigation process using ethylene oxide and carbon dioxide took place in a sterilizing chamber manufactured by the Spanish company "Suphatec" with the total volume of 70 x 70 x 200 cm. It was installed in the new separate building and was completely finished in the beginning of the year 2000. Standard size librarian documents were loaded into two containers, but bigger items were put directly into the chamber. All the sterilizing cycles were controlled by a computer controlled system.

On 21 March 2001 the last packs with maps were transported and thereby a certain chapter was closed in the history of the map department. The entire collection was placed in the new building with the address: Aleje Niepodlegosci 213.

A new Head of the Department of Cartographic Collections has finally been appointed, namely M.Sc. Barbara Przyluska who is a geographer and cartographic editor. Now the map department has four full-time posts and three members of the staff who work half-time. On 19 April 2001 several hundred representatives of scientific communities, cartographic companies and libraries from all over Poland took part in the official opening ceremony. The managing director, Michal Jagiello, welcomed the people gathered in the room. Then a few occasional papers were delivered. The symbolic ribbon was cut by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Kazimierz Michal Ujazdowski. The participants of the celebration saw the cartographic exhibition "We are displaying our collections" and then they viewed the furnished rooms of the department.


The whole area of the old map rooms was less than 200 m2. In the new building the department got 754 m2 altogether which could be arranged by ourselves. The area consisted of two large rectangles divided by a narrow corridor. The smaller rectangle of 108 m2 (18 x 6 m) was divided into 4 rooms, and the bigger one of 646 m2 was designed for: two map stacks, a room for store-keepers, a reading room and the room adjoining it with catalogues. The whole bigger rectangle is controlled by air conditioning, anti-burglar and fire-extinguishing systems. Storerooms were additionally secured against a fire by installing metal doors, a double door for the entrance and another double for a quick evacuation. All the rooms of the department are equipped with brand-new furniture.

The cartographic documents are characterized by a variety of sizes. Among them there are small pocket atlases, but also some 80 cm high and weighing several kilos. There are separate maps that can be folded to the size of 22 x 12 cm and framed maps of up to 200 x 150 cm, as well as wall maps with rollers. Keeping globes creates problems of a different kind.

Not only was the surface of the stores changed to the best advantage, but also all the furniture, wooden and damaged, was replaced with new items. We could not find furniture of the proper size on the Polish market, so it was necessary to design it and find a producer. A company in Ciepielów won the tender and we purchased metal chests of drawers, cabinets and shelves. The first batch of furniture was placed in the storeroom in December 1999. Keeping the oldest 16th and 17th centuries atlases was a problem. Because of their value they had to be kept in wooden custom-made cabinets. The craftsman's company of Waldemar Boratynski in Warsaw was chosen. The company had made furniture for storerooms holding scripts of the National Library before.

The following types of furniture were acquired:

  ·   a chest with roll-slide for old atlases, one module: height 80 x width 75 x depth 70 cm
  ·   a chest of drawers for lying maps: width 150 x depth 100 x height 100 cm
  ·   a cabinet for framed maps or rolled wall maps: depth 210 x height 240 cm
  ·   shelves for maps in boxes: distance between the shelves 37 cm; depth 40 cm
  ·   a cardboard box for folding maps: height 28 x width 16 x depth 35 cm
  ·   shelves for standing atlases: distance between the shelves - 80 cm


The National Library of Poland carries out its role as a central library of the State, acting as the archival repository of the nation's literary output. The main focus is on collecting the ever-growing but irreparably incomplete treasure of the intellectual output, past and present, of the Polish people and, to a lesser degree, other nationalities, especially those residing on present-day, or former Polish territories. Therefore, the department has a duty of collecting all the cartographic materials of the Polish imprint and related to Poland, but gathers also some of the major foreign publications, such as national atlases.

As you can see from the above information about the department, all the time we have been talking of preparing traditional cartographic materials for storage. At the time being, we do not store and foresee gathering or making electronic cartographic materials accessible. Documents on CD-ROMs in Polish libraries have been subject to collecting in separate departments for a few years now and they are kept irrespective of their contents (besides music). In my opinion, it is generally caused by economic restrictions. Furthermore, in 2001 The Polish Standard for Bibliographic Description for Electronic Materials was imposed, which allows the uniform cataloguing of the materials. In the future we are going to store digital maps on CD-ROMs only as a secure second copy of original maps kept in the National Library in the map department.

Modern topographic, environmental and hydrographic maps are produced by using geographical information systems (GIS). Computer databases created for them are kept and rendered accessible in Poland in institutions where they are created. The scope of activities of those companies is geodetic and cartographic. Production by those companies is aimed at a customer, who needs certain information to use in administration, building, and trade or for other entirely private purposes. The Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography is the central institution that co-ordinates civil geodetic and cartographic works in Poland as well as publication of maps of civil issue. Libraries in Poland do not make this kind of databases available and do not collect geological databases. In both cases libraries only collect maps printed on paper, one of the products created by GIS databases.


The right to receive legal deposit copies of all publications issued in Poland had been bestowed in 1927 and was formalized by the Polish Parliament by the Bill of 7 November 1996 signed by the President of Polish Republic Aleksander Kwasniewski and by the Ordinance of the Minister of Culture and Art on 6 March 1997. The law allows 17 libraries to receive by legal deposit all kinds of publications. Since 1928 the National Library has received two copies of each publication. About 80% of incoming maps and atlases come via legal deposit. In this way the map collection is supplemented with about 1,300 new items annually. The most important of them, in terms of reader demand, are topographic map series and medium-scale thematic map series.

Two institutions edit the topographic map series: the Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography (GUGiK) and the Geographical Survey of General Staff of Polish Army. The national office coordinates cartographic works on topographic maps of so-called civil issue, produced by the Geodetic and Cartographic Services at scales of 1:10,000, 1:50,000, and 1:100,000. Their sheets cover the whole territory of Poland. Topographic map series for military purposes are produced by the military survey. It publishes maps at scales of 1:10,000, 1:25,000, 1:50,000, 1:100,000, 1:250,000 and 1:500,000. In the recent years the maps of the military survey have been made using digital techniques and in accordance with the standards of the NATO. On the basis of the topographic maps The Military Cartographic Enterprise (WZKart) produces the so-called topographic-tourist issue of map series or separate maps (for example environs of towns) at scales of 1:50,000, 1:100,000 and 1:200,000. We receive all these maps currently through legal deposit.

The thematic map series are mostly published under supervision of four institutions: the Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography, the State Geological Institute, The Hydrographical Bureau of the Polish Navy and by the Romer Polish Cartographical Publishing House (PPWK S.A.). All are sent directly to the National Library.

The Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography specializes in map series: Mapa sozologiczna Polski 1:50000 (map of protection of natural resources and ensuring their permanent use), Mapa hydrograficznaPolski 1:50 000 (hydrographical map), Mapa przegladowa Polski1:500 000 (reference map). Without doubt, the most interesting products of the Head Office are tactile maps, which are edited for blind and visually handicapped children, at scales from 1:500,000 to 1:38,000,000. These are maps printed on soft plastic for people who read through touch. Such unusual products are difficult and expensive, but nonetheless they were published from 1985 to 1989 (5 titles). Since 1995, the production has been reprinted and at present, the Head Office is annually allocated money for producing the technical side of new maps. There are also re-issues of physical and political maps of all the continents and the entire world, and also physical, administrative and historical maps of Poland. The map department has received over 20 titles of this kind of mapping.

The State Geological Institute organizes works on two most important geological map series: Mapa geologiczna Polski1:200,000 and Szczególowa mapa geologiczna Polski1:50,000 (detailed map). Apart from this, the whole area of the country is mapped by two detailed maps at scale of 1:50,000: the geological-economic map and the hydro-geological map are being developed and published, and also three reference maps of geology, hydrogeology and bore holes at scale of 1:300,000. Through legal deposit we have received maps at scales of 1: 10,000 and 1:25,000 of certain regions: Tatra Mountains, Sudetic Mountains, Jura Krakowska, Upper Silesia from the Institute. Besides maps submitted through legal deposit there are maps in the Institute assigned for the use of geologists and archived only in the Institute.

The surveyed output of the Hydrographical Bureau of the Polish Navy in Gdynia is sent to libraries on a limited scale only. Marine charts are published mostly for the needs of the Navy and civil seafaring and as such are gathered and kept in libraries and archives in Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin. From the 1970s the National Library has been receiving maps of the Baltic Sea at scales of 1:500,000 and 1:100,000.

The Romer Polish Cartographic Publishing House (PPWK S.A.), which in 2001 celebrated its 50th anniversary, systematically hands over maps and atlases to the map department. It has been the biggest producer of cartographic materials on the Polish market since 1955. Until 1989 the publishing house was the only Polish publisher of desk maps and atlases for schools, reference atlases, wall maps, tourist maps and atlases, maps of cities, plasticmaps and globes, and it was also the publisher of may geodetic and cartographic books. PPWK S.A. created and published 105 atlas titles, over 1,600 map titles and 12 globes. A great part of these titles were reprinted 5 to 10 times on average, which results in about 10,000 cartographic materials, all of which enriched the collection of the National Library.

From 1989, when the transition to free-market economy in Poland began, many bigger and smaller cartographic publishing houses came to existence. Not all of them delivered maps as an obligatory copy. Some of them, after publishing a few maps, have stopped activities. Other publishing houses prospering in small cities or communities had no idea of the existence of the law of legal deposit. Up to this day, one often can find maps and atlases in bookstores, which have never been in possession of the National Library because the publishers had never sent them in. We estimate that the number of published maps, not sent to the National Library is about 20%, mostly originating from small, short-lived publishing houses.


Generally speaking, in post-war Poland, regulations relating to guiding and developing cartographic collections were used. They were drafted by Aniela Drozdowska and entitled: "Temporary regulations of cataloguing and making inventories of cartographic collections". They were published in the Geographic Bulletin by the Polish Academy of Science in 1954. These regulations were interpreted in many different ways by libraries, and although they were created as initial material for discussion, they have served the workers of map departments well for almost 50 years. In order to set about more modern description of collections, it was necessary to create new regulations adapted to Polish and European standards of the 1970s and 1980s. That is why the National Library first of all developed the Polish Standard of Bibliographic Description for Cartographic Materials and on 7 March 2001 had it approved by the Polish Standardization Committee. As a document published by the central authorities, the Standard has become valid throughout the country. The contents of the standard were based on the IFLA ISBD (CM) International Standard Bibliographic Description for Cartographic Materials. Rev. ed. London 1987 and Anglo-American Cataloging Rules. 2 ed. Chicago [et. al.] 1988. There are a set of elements of description that are established and the prescribed sources of information that are specified. Also the detailed rules for the transcription of the elements of description are presented. At the same time the standard had to be adjusted to conform to decisions concerning the related library materials such as: books, old printed books, and electronic documents. Preliminary essential public presentation of the standard took place in Polanica-Zdrój in April 2000 at the XXth All-Polish Conference of Cartography Historians. At that time the author of this paper presented the main new features and differences of the rules in comparison to Mrs. Drozdowska's regulations of 1954. The great interest and the lively discussion after the talk showed a considerable demand for this kind of document.

The next step in the preparation for computer cataloguing was using the standard in the Library MARC21 format. Trials were done and after an initial period Mrs. Lucyna Szaniawska at the XXIth All-Polish Conference of Cartography Historians in Krasiczyn presented the results in September 2001, in the paper entitled "The use of MARC21 format for description of cartographic materials. Range - bibliographical description".

At present some work is being undertaken on the creation of instructions for completing bibliographical and stock record for cartographic materials in MARC21 format in the INNOPAC system. This system has been used for a few years in the National Library in order to maintain the main bibliographic-catalogue database, which in 2001 converted over 475,000 bibliographic description of monographs (mainly books published after 1800), about 26,000 bibliographic descriptions of serials and over 252,000 authority records (subject headings, names, corporate bodies, geographic names and series).

In order to bring together, unify and popularize equal rules of creating records, all-Polish workshops for map curators were set up in the Central Geographic Library in June 2002. Finally, collaboration and systematic continuing of workshop meetings were coordinated. As a result of the general request of the participants, a discussion list was set up and put on the Internet in the Torun University Library.

LIBER Quarterly, Volume 13 (2003), No. 1