>Globe & Mail (Toronto) article forwarded by Marcel Fortin of
>University of Toronto.
If anyone is interested in the reaction from the mapping community in
Canada to this plan I can send material off-list.
>Ottawa plots making maps without paper
>Plan to produce them on Internet leaves retailers,
>librarians feeling lost
>By DAWN WALTON
>Tuesday, October 4, 2005 Posted at 5:59 AM EDT
>From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
>CALGARY - One of the first projects the fledging
>Canadian government undertook after Confederation --
>printing and storing topographic maps of the country --
>may become the victim of cost-cutting, a possibility
>that has prompted howls of outrage from map librarians
>The government isn't preparing to get out of the
>cartography business entirely, but it plans to put its
>topographic map data on the Internet where companies
>and individuals would be able to access the
>information, either free or for a fee, and then print
>it or pay a professional printer to do it.
>"We're really at risk of losing a real national
>treasure," warns Brad Green, president of World of Maps
>Inc., in Ottawa.
>"I hope it's not an irreversible decision. Some people
>will accept this is the digital age and they will roll
>over," he said.
>But not Mr. Green. He is spearheading a letter-writing
>campaign to persuade the bureaucrats to change their
>minds about topographic maps. (Nautical maps, produced
>by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, are not
>affected by the change.)
>Is the digital revolution making old-fashioned paper
>maps obsolete or is this just another Luddite-style
>worry among the kind of folk who also think computers
>are preventing children from learning how to print?
>John Dawson, acting director of Natural Resources
>Canada's Centre for Topographic Information, figures
>that people are upset about the proposal because it is
>the latest in a series of changes to the map-making
>business that depart from the philosophy of the
>original craftsmen who treated cartography and map
>reading as an art.
>But Mr. Dawson says the change is also about the bottom
>line. "Is there a better way to do this business? We
>know there is a better way."
>About 1.5 million maps are now in storage.
>But Ottawa plans to close the map warehouse, which
>costs $191,000 a year, in January, 2007, when the lease
>expires. The government is trying to find a way to
>better use that money and the warehouse space, Mr.
>Dawson said. Ottawa is also trying to figure out what
>it will do with all those maps.
>It may also get out of the business of printing
>topographic maps. To make printing economical, there is
>a press run of at least 1,000 copies of each map sheet.
>The government can also print small orders by "plotting
>The Natural Resources Department is supposed to
>maintain the business on a break-even basis. But now it
>wants to reallocate its funding to focus on data
>collection and update its maps as they are placed on
>the Internet, Mr. Dawson said.
>He said topographic distribution has been sliding over
>the past few years as people have moved to digital
>files or sought out more up-to-date maps. In the fiscal
>year that ended March 31, 2003, Canada distributed
>about 330,000 topographic maps. Over the next year,
>that dropped to 261,000 and in the most recent year,
>only 2,008 maps left the warehouse, he said. Some
>people worry that without a warehouse of ready-made
>maps, emergency services would not be able to react
>quickly to natural disasters such as ice storms, floods
>and earthquakes. But Mr. Dawson said Ottawa could
>quickly plot and print maps in times of disaster.
>Others say paper maps are valuable tools to teach
>students about Canada's cartographic and geographic
>Mr. Green's World of Maps store is one of the country's
>11 regional distribution centres, which sell
>government-produced maps to the public and retailers.
>He worries that if those maps go digital, the private
>sector will be left to produce poor-quality maps at
>unregulated prices. Government maps sell at a suggested
>retail price of $11.45.
>Donna Nelson, co-owner of Gem Trek Publishing in
>Cochrane, Alta., just west of Calgary, understands the
>issues of cost. Her company designs topographic maps of
>popular recreational areas in Alberta and British
>Columbia, but it contracts out the printing, at press
>runs of about 3,000, to keep the business financially
>There's no reason, she said, that another commercial
>printer would not step in if Ottawa changed the way it
>delivers map information. "Historically, their role is
>to make the data available to the public," Ms. Nelson
>said, "but not necessarily in the printed form."
>A similar proposal by the U.S. government in 1990 to
>stop producing paper maps was met with "gasps of horror
>and stunned silence" from map librarians at a meeting
>in Washington, according to April Carlucci, who was
>then assistant chief of the map division at the New
>York Public Library.
>When the U.S. government maps arrived in digital
>format, she recalled, librarians didn't know what to do
>with them and didn't have the equipment to display them.
>Now, 15 years later, U.S. officials have started
>consulting map librarians about what they need in terms
>of government maps. The first response at a recent
>meeting ("I like paper!") received a round of applause,
>according to Ms. Carlucci, now cataloguing manager and
>curator of modern maps with the British Library.
>That, she said, was a "development of major importance"
>in the bid to see the return of U.S. government paper maps.
>GIS and Map Librarian, University of Toronto
>130 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1A5
>ph. 416.978.1958 fax 416.946.0522