Skip to Main Content

Maps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Home

This guide provides research strategies, recommended resources, and help for finding and using maps and geographic information systems (GIS).

Research Help

Live Chat (available during Luria Library open hours):

Phone: 805-730-4444


Zoom: make an appointment

In Person: stop by the Library on the West Campus during open hours

Map/GIS Resources and Help From the Library

Access To Maps

The library's collection includes print maps from the U.S. Geological Survey, maps in print books and ebooks such as atlases, as well as maps available online through library databases. This guide also includes links to map, GIS resources, geospatial data, and mapping tools available online through other libraries, government agencies, or other organizations. Use the tabs above for search strategies and recommended resources.

Help From Librarians

Not finding what you need? Librarians are available by online chat, email, or Zoom appointment to help you find and use maps and GIS resources.

More Research and Writing Help

If you need more help with your research, contact a librarian by chat, phone, email, or in person, or explore the library's online tutorials.

For writing help, contact the Writing Center in the Cartwright Learning Resources Center (CLRC). The Writing Center offers one-on-one tutoring and a variety of helpful support materials.

About This Guide

Transit map of Santa Barbara

Image: Portion of a Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District System Map.


This guide is designed for students who need maps and/or geographic information systems (GIS) resources -- or help using them -- for courses in Geography, Geology, or any other discipline in which maps are used. Do you need a map of trade routes in the Middle Ages for a History class? A map of current political redistricting for a Politics class? A map of areas affected by drought for an Environmental Science class? Do you have a map, but are not sure how to read it? Do you need to create your own map? This guide can help you get started.

What counts as a map?

According to Merriam-Webster, a map is "a representation usually on a flat surface of the whole or a part of an area."

Reference Maps

Reference maps represent the physical features of a space, such as roads, rivers, mountains, cities, and borders.

Thematic Maps

Thematic maps communicate the relationship between a particular topic and an area of physical space, such as where particular languages are  spoken or crops are grown, or how the migration patterns of a particular species have changed over time.

What are geographic information systems?

Watch the video from Esri (the creators of ArcGIS software) for a brief explanation of geographic information systems.

SBCC Campus Maps

Santa Barbara Maps

Guide Creator

Profile Photo
Ellen Carey
Any of the SBCC librarians can help you! Use the online chat to reach a librarian right away during open hours.