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last updated: 4/19/2012

Collection Development Policies - African Studies

African Studies

  1. Introduction

    1. Purpose of the policy statement
      This statement explains the purpose and scope of the African Studies Collection. It describes areas and languages covered as well as the primary users of the collection, and it lists the most important selection tools.

    2. Audience (Include here prospective users/readers of this policy.)
      The intended audience is collection managers, other librarians and library staff. Another, more descriptive version of this document is on the African Collection's website and serves as a collection description for users.

    3. Description of institution/department and clientele
      IU's African Studies Program is ca. 45 years old and is among the top African Studies Programs in the U.S. As of 2005, 64 faculty members and 66 graduate students are affiliated with the Program. The focus of faculty and students affiliated with the Program is, with a few exceptions, on the humanities and social sciences.

    4. Brief overview of the collection
      1. History of the collection
        The IU Libraries have had an area studies librarian for African Studies since the late 1960s. The library collections reflect the faculty's and students' focus on the social sciences and humanities. With over 130.000 monograph volumes and more than 700 serial subscriptions, the African Studies Collection ranks among the top tier of such collections in the United States and possibly world-wide.

      2. Collection strengths and weaknesses
        The collections cover the whole range of humanities and social sciences for the field of African Studies. For a more detailed description, see iii. below.

      3. Subject areas emphasized or deemphasized

        The African Studies Program at Indiana University supports a wide spectrum of courses and research in the humanities and social sciences, with special emphasis on history, linguistics, anthropology, folklore and the arts. Particular emphasis is on research related to three thematic areas: 1) expressive culture; 2) political economy and 3) trans-nationalism. The library collections reflect this range of interests with emphasis on in-depth collections in such disciplines as history, anthropology, archaeology, folklore, ethnomusicology, the fine arts, literature, film, communication, culture, linguistics, economics, political science and government, ecology and conservation, and less comprehensively in religion, philosophy, geography, and education. Gender-related materials are acquired in all disciplines, as are materials relating to Islamic cultures.


        Textbooks and technical studies on law, the natural and applied sciences are not collected. However, general works and works with obvious interest for social and humanistic studies on law, botany, zoology, geology, agriculture, medicine, and the health sciences are purchased for the research collection or appropriate branch library.


        In the area of government publications, an attempt is made to acquire census reports, development plans, yearbooks and other compendia of general or statistical information, the government handbook, constitution, and guides to archives and publications for all Sub-Saharan African states. Serials that support research in economics, development, political science, government, and history are acquired as funding permits. Historically, priority for developing more in-depth collections has been given to Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Liberia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Gambia and Benin, although collections for these countries have been uneven over time. Few materials on the arts are published by African governments. Those which are acquired are shelved in the Research Collection of Fine Arts Library.


        In consultation with the International Documents Librarian, the publications of intergovernmental African organizations such as the African Development Bank, ECOWAS, OAU and UN Economic Commission for Africa are acquired. Since Indiana University has standing orders for publications of major international organizations such as the UN, UNESCO and World Bank, and is a US government depository, the Librarian for African Studies does not have to acquire publications on Africa from these organizations. Historically, some intergovernmental African organization publications, such as those for ECOWAS, have been shelved in the Research Collection. The publications of all new African intergovernmental organizations, such as SACDD, SADC, PTA, which are purchased on African Studies funds, are shelved in the Research Collection.


        The Librarian for African Studies makes recommendations to the Foreign Documents Librarian for publications about Africa from west European governments. Official gazettes are not acquired because the ARL Foreign Official Gazette Project makes them available through microfilming the New York Public Library and Library of Congress.

        Maps: an attempt is made to acquire maps and atlases produced by African governments, and travel maps that can be used for planning fieldwork. Maps are acquired for the Geography-Map Library. National atlases are acquired for the main Library Research Collection.

        Materials excluded:

        • African-American materials are acquired by the bibliographer for African-American Studies. For African Studies, only materials relating to diaspora studies are acquired.
        • Materials on the Third World are acquired only in those instances where the subject bibliographers do not acquire relevant materials.
        • Materials on economics and development which are acquired for the Business/SPEA Library are not duplicated in the Research Collection.
        • Cookbooks are not acquired. Fiction about Africa by non-African authors is acquired only if it has significant relevance for Africa. Northwestern University collects fiction about Africa by non-African authors

      4. Collection locations
        The collection spreads from A-Z among the LC call number ranges and is consequently located on all 11 floors of the Wells Library as well as in several campus libraries (Education, Music, Fine Arts, Geography/Map).
  2. Scope of Coverage
    1. Languages collected and excluded
      Materials are collected in all major west European languages and in the official languages of African states except for Arabic. The Librarian for African Studies collects only Arabic material published in Sub-Saharan Africa. Materials in Scandinavian languages and minor west European languages such as Flemish are not collected. Dictionaries and grammars are purchased for as many African languages as possible. Linguistic materials and vernacular texts are collected in depth for the following languages which are a national resource in the U.S., are national or widely used languages in Sub-Saharan Africa, and used in research at Indiana University:Afrikaans, Bambara, Chichewa, Chitumbuka, Fula, Hausa, Igbo, Kinywarwanda, Kirundi, Kpelle, Lingala, Ndebele, Sango, Shona, Somali, Sotho, Swahili, Tswana, Twi (Akan), Wolof, Xhosa, Yoruba, Zulu.

      Materials in Amharic are not a focus since Michigan State University maintains a comprehensive collection. Vernacular texts and linguistic materials will be collected selectively in other languages and in creole languages.

    2. Geographical areas covered and excluded
      The continent of Africa (except Egypt which is covered by the Librarian for Near East Studies and subject bibliographers) and the Indian Ocean and Atlantic islands are covered.

      Historically, primary emphasis has been on Sub-Saharan Africa although recently emphasis has also been placed on materials in English and French from or about North Africa. Research level collections including rare books, local imprints, major journals, political pamphlets and other ephemera, government publications, archival and manuscript materials on microform, audiovisual and electronic materials in addition to commercial and scholarly publications are acquired for anglophone, francophone, lusophone and hispanophone Africa.

      Historically, the major focus has been on West and West Central Africa. Publications from Benin and Gambia were given emphasis as Indiana University's responsibility for the Small Country Project of the Africana Librarians Council. Somalia is given emphasis since Indiana University is a depository of the International Somali Studies Association. Southern Africa has been a more recent focus of the collection. Because of the large volume of material published in South Africa, it is not possible to collect in great depth. Yale and Northwestern Universities collect comprehensively on South Africa. The current focus is on countries with which Indiana University has exchange programs and/or countries which are the focus of faculty and graduate student research: Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Burkina Faso, and South Africa. Other countries for which there is special emphasis are: Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola and Somalia.

      For the Indian Ocean and Atlantic islands, teaching level collections are acquired in all disciplines except for folklore and literature, for which research level collections are acquired.

    3. Chronological periods covered and excluded
      All chronological periods are included.

    4. Dates of publication of materials collected; current vs. retrospective coverage
      Emphasis is on current coverage. Retrospective materials are acquired if/when gaps are identified.

    5. Formats collected and excluded
      Most of the collection is in print format, but microform, audiovisual, and electronic formats are also collected.

  3. Collecting responsibility
    Collection Manager: Marion Frank-Wilson. I cooperate with the collection managers for History, Fine Arts, Folklore, and GIMSS.

  4. Related collections
    Fine Arts
    History
    GIMSS
    Music
    Business/SPEA
    FolkloreNear Eastern Studies

  5. Principal sources of supply and major selection tools
    Sources of Supply:
    • Blackwell and Harrasowitz approval plan mainly for publications from the U.S. and Europe.
    • Hogarth Representations approval plan for materials from Africa, except for South Africa.
    • Library of Congress Field Office in Nairobi (Kenya) for serials from Kenya.
    • Clarke's Bookshop (Cape Town, South Africa) and Thorold's (Johannesburg, South Africa) for materials from South Africa and Mozambique.
    Selection Tools:
    Book reviews
    Publishers' catalogs
    African Book Publishing Record
    International African Bibliography
    Books received list in African Affairs
    British National Bibliography
    Livres Hebdo
    Lists from the Africa Book Centre (London, UK)
    Catalogs from the African Books Collective

  6. Preservation
    1. Criteria for selection for preservation and/or mass deacidification
      Follow the physical criteria specified by the Preservation Department.
    2. High-priority areas of the collection for preservation review and treatment
      Materials that are used frequently, or materials that are fragile and rare or unique, e.g. parts of the Somali collection.
  7. Selection criteria for ALF

    Materials will be placed in ALF as needed, according to the following criteria and in consultation with the faculty: older serials, serials which have been cancelled, and which are indexed in a periodicals index available at IU or have a separately published index which can be shelved in the research collection; books at the secondary school level which are retained for their historical value; and books published before 1950 which are not used frequently.

  8. Digital projects
    1. Criteria for selection for digitization

    2. Priorities for collections to be digitized
      Materials that are unique and of interest to a wider audience than the IU constituents (e.g., the Somali collection, papers/field notes, etc.).

  9. Other resources and libraries
    Northwestern University
    Library of Congress
    Center for Research Libraries

  10. Consortial agreements
    The Librarian for African Studies contributes to cooperative projects of the Africana Librarians Council (ALC), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP), and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC).



African Studies Home Page

Revised April 2012


last updated: 4/19/2012