Frequently asked questions

SIS Maps

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  • Which projects are eligible for support from SIS Maps?

    SIS Maps can support all scientific projects and research activities in Germany, in particular in the fields of cartography, geoinformation, the history of cartography, as well as any related discipline using geoinformation and maps.

  • Which service is offered free of charge?

    • Support with your application for the services of the SIS

    • Research of cartographic materials
    • Acquisition of digital or analogue maps/atlases or specialist literature for the library
    • Digitisation of maps (scans)
    • Expert advice and support in the selection of suitable geodata and data formats, the determination of the required spatial section and the definition of various factors such as scale, resolution and content etc.
    • Research of suitable geodata and mediation to the geodata provider
    • Download of data from an FTP server
    • Use of the international bibliography Bibliographica Cartographica
    • Publication of your research results, articles, essays etc. in the subject repository (under construction)
    • FID-Newsletter
  • Which service is subject to a charge?

    If the required geodata are offered by the provider for a fee, these costs have to be paid by the client.

Project Registration

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  • What must be done to use the services provided by SIS Maps?

    Some services can be used without prior registration. For other services that are specifically offered by SIS Maps, a project-related registration and a project ID are required.

    Use of services with prior application for a project ID via project registration:

    • Advice and support in the selection of suitable geodata
    • Research of suitable geodata and mediation to the geodata provider
    • Download from our FTP server
    • Digitisation of maps

    Use of services without project registration (without project ID):

    Note: If you have already received a project ID, enter it in the forms or by e-mail when using all services.

  • Where can I get a project ID?

    If a project ID is required, as described under "What must be done to use the services provided by SIS Maps?”, The project ID will be sent to your e-mail address once you have submitted the project application and it has been verified by SIS Maps.

  • Can a project ID be used more than once?

    The service of SIS Maps can be used several times, also by different project members.

  • Which legal conditions do I have to observe when using the SIS?

    Further details can be found in the guidelines of the Fachinformationdienst Kartographie und Geobasisdaten (only in german).


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  • What kind of information does the SIS Maps newsletter provide?

    Our newsletter provides information on new developments, upcoming events and current service offers.

  • How do I subscribe and unsubscribe to the newsletter?

    You can subscribe or unsubscribe using a registration form. It is also possible to subscribe anew. If you have any questions or problems, please contact us directly.

  • What happens to my personal data?

    We will delete your data from our mailing list when you unsubscribe from our newsletter. You will find detailed information on data protection in our data protection declaration (Private Policy).


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  • What are acquisitions?

    Acquisitions are materials obtained specifically for the applicant in order to support current research projects. SIS Maps acquires maps, atlases and other cartographic materials as well as specialised cartographic literature. Maps are acquired in analogue or digital format.

  • What can be acquired?

    For your specific current research topic SIS Maps can acquire materials which go beyond the normal collection focus of the map department. These materials include maps, atlases, globes, map-like representations and specialised literature (view Principles of Collection Development). Make suggestions by using the relevant form.

  • Which acquisitions are excluded?

    Satellite and aerial images (orthophotos) are not part of the Map Department’s collection profile. We are ready to help you during the acquisition process, as well as with finding suitable suppliers and collections. Do not hesitate to use our geodata service.

  • Can I order maps from any region?

    You may make acquisition suggestions regarding maps from every region worldwide and in every language.

  • Who will own the acquired items?

    Maps as well as cartographic literature acquired from the financial means of the German Research foundation (DFG) will remain in the possession of the State Library. The Map Department will make the acquired items available to their future users.

  • How do I initiate the acquisition of maps and cartographic literature?

    In general, you can always contact us via phone or email. We look forward to giving you advice and support!

    Note the following steps for a successful acquisition:

    1. We would be grateful if you could first have a look if the State Library already holds the desired maps, atlases or cartographic literature. You may use the online catalogues of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. For topographic map series it is best to use the Topo List. You are invited to use the help and advice of the Map Department.
    2. Please complete the form for ordering the maps, atlases or cartographic literature required for your project.
    3. In case of questions concerning your order or if we have information on the availability of the requested material, we will contact you via phone or email.
    4. Maps, atlases and cartographic literature will be supplied as described in „How do I obtain the acquisitions?“
  • Do I need a project registration or an SIS Maps project ID for the project-related acquisition?

    No, but we kindly ask you to indicate the purpose of the project and give a short explanation for your application.

  • How long will it take until I can make use of the acquired items?

    Your acquisition proposal has the highest priority; however we cannot give exact information on the provision of material as they are subject to availability. We will inform you as soon as we know when you can make use of the required maps and/or cartographic literature.

  • What are the acquisition costs for maps and cartographic literature?

    For you, the acquisition is free of charge. For the consultation in the Maps Reading Room of the State Library you may need a library card which is subject to a charge.

  • How do I obtain the acquisitions?

    There are following possibilities:

    Acquired maps and cartographic literature can be used directly in the Maps Reading Room. For this option please tick “I wish to reserve the item upon arrival” on the form.

    Cartographic literature can be borrowed in the library or ordered via inter-library loan. Articles published in specialist journals and books can be sent to you in PDF-format provided that the State Library has the item in digital format and the item is not available in your library.

    The SIS Maps digitisation service can digitise the acquired maps as described in „How do I order  the digitisation of cartographic materials?“. For this service you have to file an application for the digitisation for your project.


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  • What are digitised copies?

    In the context of SIS Maps, digitisations are high-resolution scans of maps (digitised copies) which are produced for your project.

  • What can be digitised?

    It is possible to digitise analogue maps from the extensive holdings of the Map Department (ca. 1.2 million cartographic representations from all over the world) or project-related new acquisitions.

  • The digitised copies are provided in which data formats?

    The high-quality scans are saved as raster data in .tif or .jpg format (mostly 400 dpi resolution and distortion-free).

  • What are the costs for the digitisation of maps and atlases?

    The digitisation is free of charge provided that SIS Maps supports your project.

  • Who will own the digitised copies (scans)? Is it permitted to share them with third parties?

    The digitised items are meant to be the basis for your research project.
    Third-party use of the digitised copies, which are provided free of charge, is prohibited.
    Please also observe the Guidelines of the SIS Cartography and Geodata (SIS Maps), in german only. Richtlinien des Fachinformationsdienstes Kartographie und Geobasisdaten (FID Karten).

  • What can I do with the digitised copies and what is not allowed?

    The digitised copies can be used for your research purposes without any restrictions or limitations. They can also be edited in any form.
    You are prohibited to share the digitised copies with third parties. If you are planning a publication you need permission to publish. You may have to observe copyright restrictions. If you have questions, please contact us.

  • How can I obtain permission for the publication of digitised copies?

    Apply for permission to publish via email and indicate the following:

    • Place of publication
    • Publisher
    • Future title
    • Number of copies
  • What would I have to observe in case of a publication?

    Please observe the following citation method. In addition to proper bibliographic information in your bibliography, it is necessary to indicate the origin of the illustration, including the corresponding shelfmark  (e.g. Kartenabteilung der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Kart. C 400). Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

  • How do I order the digitisation of cartographic materials?

    In general, you can always contact us via phone or email. We look forward to giving you advice and support!

    Note the following steps for a successful digitisation:

    1. Please complete the form for obtaining support from SIS Maps. (If this has not already been done.)
    2. As soon as your application has been accepted (subject to the Guidelines of SIS Maps), you will obtain a project ID.
    3. Please complete the application form for digitisation and use the assigned project ID. Do not hesitate to contact us when filling in the form, we would be happy to give you professional advice.
    4.  In case of questions concerning your order or when we have information on the availability of the requested data, we will contact you via phone or email.
    5. The data will be provided as described under „How do I obtain the digital copies?“
  • How long will it take until I obtain the digital copies?

    Please note that processing normally takes 1-2 weeks.

  • How do I obtain the digitised copies?

    Data are provided on a FTP-Server of SIS Maps. You will receive an email with a link to the download. We are happy to inform you about further possibilities to obtain the requested data, e.g., DVD, USB Stick, and hard disk.

Geodata Services

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  • What are geodata?

    Geodata are digital data on objects, infrastructures, and landscape forms of the surface of the Earth, in relation to physical space. The data consist of geometric and technical data including their topological storage.

    One can differentiate two types of data:

    • Geodata (topographic data)
    • Geodata (thematic data)
  • What are topographic geodata?

    Topographic geodata describe the form and location of administrative, technical or natural boundaries and objects on the surface of the earth (topography). This includes, e.g., administrative boundaries, infrastructure, plots of land, and buildings as well as location and height coordinates. They fulfill a general standard, are not gathered for a specific purpose, but are collected and provided as a basis for manifold applications. Primarily, our services help you find your desired geodata.

  • Are historical geodata also provided?

    Historical geodata are digitally collected data that are no longer up to date. For example, they may play an important role in monitoring natural phenomena and are therefore increasingly provided in geoportals. As part of our services, we search for the providers of such data if they are available.

    The Map Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin holds ca. 1.2 million cartographic representations created in the period from the beginning of the 16th century to the present day. If our mainly analogue maps are of interest to you, for example because you need them as a basis for historical geodata, please contact us. After the successful registration of your project in SIS Maps we provide them free of charge. If the required maps are not part of our holdings, please use the form acquisition suggestion.

    If you need a digital version (scan), please inform us via the form application for digitisation.

    If vector data are required, it will be decided on a case-to-case basis how to proceed. Please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to give you advice and support!

  • From which regions can I request geodata ?

    You may request geodata from all over the world.

  • In which data formats are geodata provided?

    Geodata providers manage data formats in different ways.

    • Usual vector geodata formats are e.g.: .shp +.shx +.dbf, .gdb, .mdb, .mxd, .gml, .gpx, .kml + .kmz, .geojson, NAS
    • Usual raster geodata formats are e.g.: .tiff, .geotiff, .jpeg, .ecw, .grid, .MrSID
  • How much does the geodata cost?

    An important part of geodata can be obtained free of charge. Please also have a look at GeoZG.

    If the requested geodata are charged by the provider, the client has to pay the costs. The services of the SIS Maps such as consultation and assistance in finding geodata providers are free.

  • How can I order geodata?

    In general, you can always contact us by telephone or email if you are interested in the services of SIS Maps. We look forward to giving you advice and support!

    We recommend the following steps:

    1. Please complete this form for obtaining support from SIS Maps. (If this has not already been done.)
    2. As soon as your application has been accepted (subject to the Guidelines of SIS Maps), you will obtain a project ID.
    3. Please complete the application form for geodata and use the assigned project ID. Do not hesitate to contact us when filling in the form, we are happy to give you professional advice.
    4. If we have questions concerning your order or when we have information on the availability of the requested data, we will contact you via phone or email.
    5. The data will be provided as described under „How do I obtain the data?“
    6. If costs are involved, you will receive an invoice from the geodata provider.
  • How long does it take to obtain the geodata?

    We do our best to keep to the time period specified in the form. However, the delivery period may have to be extended for various reasons if, for example, the request is more complex or the geodata is difficult to obtain. This can be the case with data which are stored outside of Europe. Our service is to inform you as soon as possible.

  • Who guarantees the data quality?

    Our service also includes consultation on the desired data quality with regard to your specific research question. As soon as the data are available, we will (if requested) do a test check on the data for their quality according to the usual parameters (e.g. completeness, logical consistency, accuracy) and inform you about the result.
    If during the negotiations, there are any discrepancies regarding the expected data quality we can contact the provider and if necessary, arrange for possible modifications.

  • How do I get the geodata?

    You will obtain the data directly from the provider and in the format provided by them. We will inform you about the availability of the data.

  • How do I pay the costs for the geodata?

    When you order geodata you will receive an invoice from the provider.

  • What can I do when I do not receive the requested geodata from the provider?

    During the negotiation period, we will support you as far as possible in solving data provision problems.

  • Who will own the geodata after the end of the project?

    Through the purchase of the geodata and the related license terms of the provider, the data become your property.
    Information on the conditions of use are part of the purchase agreement between the client and the geodata provider.
    If you have acquired the geodata by using funds of third parties, please observe the conditions of the third parties.

Bibliographia Cartographica

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  • What is the Bibliographia Cartographica (BC)?

    The BC is a directory of academic literature relating to the subject areas of cartography, history of cartography, and geoinformation. It also includes related subjects such as geodesy and geography as well as other disciplines provided that they cover cartographic topics. This bibliography is a service of the Map Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Since 2007 the database has been online and offers search tools in English and German.

  • Which publications are listed in the BC online database?

    The BC online database contains international academic cartographic literature which has been published after 1988. Currently it contains:

    • ca. 32,000 scholarly articles from journals, series, and collections of essays (books containing articles from various authors on a specific subject)
    • ca. 5,600 monographs (single publications on a specific subject)
    • other publications (e.g. conference papers, official publications, dissertations, etc.)

    Around 2,000 publications are added every year.
    Literature published before 1989 can be found in the print editions of the BC.

  • What is not listed in the BC?

    The BC does not list cartographic materials such as maps, globes, and atlases.
    In general, it does not include popular scientific (pop-science) publications, company publications, and treatises where cartography is only used for illustration purposes.  

  • How do I find literature in languages other than German?

    All publication titles are recorded in their original language and also translated into English. German and French titles have not been translated. It has been decided not to translate Spanish titles. Therefore you are able to use English search terms in the bibliography.

  • How can I search in the BC online database?

    The database offers three ways of searching:

    • Using Simple Search you can search with one or more terms in all data fields. Words entered are automatically combined with “AND“ which reduces the number of search results. Using the truncation symbol * it is possible to expand the search. Accordingly, the search term Cart* brings search results with the terms, 'Cartography', 'cartographic', 'cartogram', etc.
    • Using Advanced Search you can select special categories (title, person, subject heading, etc.) and enter one or more search terms. It is also possible to select a specific format (e.g. electronic) and type of the publication (monograph, journal, etc).The number of search results can be expanded by using the operator 'OR', whereas the operator 'NOT' excludes the search results which contain the search terms entered in the related field.
    • The Systematic Search allows you to select a relevant subject group from the classifications listed (e.g. Atlas cartography, school atlases).
  • Can I read the publications online?

    The BC is increasingly providing direct access to the texts.
    When using Advanced Search, select “only electronic media” to get search results either with the link “Online“ or “Open access“. These links may lead you to accessible full texts.

  • How can I access the researched publications when I cannot view them directly online?

    In regard to licensed specialist cartographic literature, which are in the holdings of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, you will obtain the shelfmark. As a registered library user you can access these publications.
    Regarding all other publications the database provides the relevant bibliographic data
    In case of questions you may contact us via email.

  • Can I add something to the BC?

    You may suggest specialist cartographic titles for inclusion in the BC. For this purpose please use this form or send the information via email.