Kansas University's geography department seemed the natural place to put a map-making service aimed at serving faculty needs when it was launched in the mid-1970s.
A cartographer by profession, Barbara Shortridge helped launch the service, working as its first acting manager for a few months until a permanent director arrived in town.
Two years ago, she returned as the director herself. Shortridge also teaches an entry-level geography section and is undergraduate advising coordinator for the department.
As head of the Cartography Service, Shortridge said, she works to ensure clients are communicating the information they want to with their maps.
About half of those served come from the geography department; most of the rest come from a wide range of other academic departments on campus, including economics and geology.
Many want help with maps to be used in published research, she said. The service's focus is on faculty work, but campus organizations, other government agencies and even non-profit Kansas corporations can use the service, too.
Individual students are not eligible, she added, but they can seek advice on maps from the staff and use the facility themselves to make maps.
SHORTRIDGE said KU faculty learned of the facility by word of mouth or from information fliers she periodically sent to academic departments.
The only other place to get a map made on campus, she added, is at the Center for Research, Inc. (CRINC) on West Campus, which recently began offering a graphic arts service that includes map-making.
Describing the Cartography Service as a "tool" for faculty, Shortridge said she and her staff turn out black-and-white and color maps showing everything from roads and routes to continents and regional demographics. They also do a few graphs.
Two-thirds of the 47 maps done by the service last year were created from scratch in the service's small suite of rooms at 214 Lindley Hall. A display case in the hallway contains a sampling of the work.
The balance of last year's work was providing a portion of the production work on other maps.
"Some people bring in a computer-generated map and then we can blow it up or bring it down to suit publication formats," Shortridge explained.
In the process, she said, she and her staff are able to sharpen the computer image, which improves reproduction.
"QUALITY IS a factor," she said, noting one of the difficulties in cartography is "to get a lot of things in a small space."
Computers can be used in the creation of some maps, she said, but most of the work at the KU service is done by hand at a drafting table.
She cited as an example a map hand-drawn with topographic relief by former teaching assistant Dave Brower. The map was drawn for Peter Mancall, assistant professor of history, for inclusion in a book published by the Cornell University Press.
John Dunham, the service's current teaching assistant and a graduate student in physical geography, called that sort of work "a dying art."
Other staff, including undergraduate interns, have nearly completed several maps of 1865 immigrant populations to be published in the "Kansas History" quarterly with research by Shortridge's husband, James Shortridge, a KU professor of geography.
DUNHAM NOW is finishing the full-color KU on Wheels bus route map for fall. He said it required about 20 "flaps" for different combinations of colored screens, each of which must align precisely with the others.
Another current large-format project is a 42-by-42-inch road map for Franklin County, which is in the process of naming its numbered rural roads to facilitate use of the 911 emergency service.
Shortridge noted that most of the maps produced by the service were "small format so when we get something that's large format, it kind of throws us."
A "fun project" last year, she added, was a map for "19th Century Houses in Lawrence, Kansas," a new publication of the Helen Foresman Spencer Art Museum. It showed the street locations of historic homes included in the book.