Contact Information
  • Librarian: Marion Frank-Wilson
  • Location: Herman B Wells Library E660
  • Phone: (812) 855-1481
Libraries & Subjects
last updated: 3/12/2010

African Studies Collection Description

General Purpose

The Librarian for African Studies is responsible for building and maintaining a collection of materials produced about Africa and in Africa in all media that will support the present and future undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral educational needs of Indiana University students and research needs of African Studies faculty, and contribute to cooperative national projects of the Africana Librarians Council (ALC), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP), and Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). To accomplish this the Librarian for African Studies selects print, microform, audiovisual, and electronic materials for the research collections of the Bloomington campus and provides electronic/digital access to the collection by maintaining a web site and by digitizing appropriate materials (e.g., "Digital Somali Library", "Nuer Field Notes Project", etc.). Materials are selected comprehensively for the Main Library's Research, Reference, and Media collections, the Government Information Department, the Fine Arts Library, the Geography & Map collection, and as appropriate for other collections including the Business/SPEA, Education, and Geology libraries.


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, and 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 and 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.


Materials are collected in all major west European languages and in the official languages of African states except for Arabic. The Librarian for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies collects Arabic material published in North Africa. 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 are used in research at Indiana University:

Twi (Akan)

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.

The continent of Africa (except Egypt which is covered by the Librarian for Middle Eastern and Islamic 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 emphasized given 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, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. 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.

Government Publications

Due to financial constraints and inadequate staffing, there is less focus on government publications than is ideal for a research-level collection.

An attempt is made to acquire census reports, development plans, yearbooks, and other compendia of general or statistical information, and the government handbooks, constitutions, and guides to archives and publications for all Sub-Saharan African states. Materials 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. Current emphasis on building more in-depth collections is on the same countries listed under geographic coverage above. Few materials on the arts are published by African governments. Those which are acquired are shelved in the 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 the 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, and 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 at the New York Public Library and Library of Congress.

Maps and Atlases

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 collection. National atlases are acquired for the Main Library Research Collection.


Subscriptions are held for approximately twenty African newspapers from the major regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Priority is given to newspapers for which Indiana University Library has national collection responsibility and which are used for research and read regularly by persons affiliated with the African Studies Program. A list of other African newspapers which have online open access is provided on the African Studies website.


Subscriptions are held for serials of research value for all disciplines for which materials are collected in-depth, including publications from Africa and those issued by scholarly organizations and trade publishers outside Africa. Because of Serials Department policies regarding irregularly and infrequently published serials, the Librarian for African Studies also must acquire serials from vendors and on exchange which are not on subscription in the Serials Department (e.g., African telephone books). The African Studies curriculum, research interests of faculty, collection responsibilities for CAMP (Cooperative Africana Microform Project), and cooperative programs for the Africana Librarians Council, ARL, and CIC will be taken into consideration in placing other subscriptions.


Ephemera are acquired selectively by gift, exchange, and purchase which complement materials acquired and cataloged for the Indiana University Library. Emphasis is given to materials of scholarly value which are not cataloged under current Indiana University Library policies, especially to sample serials and newsletters and other irregular publications of social and political organizations that are active in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sample periodicals will be kept for ten years, then given to another library that needs them or added to the pamphlet collection if no major library holds them. Reprints will be collected (in the Pamphlet collection) only from periodicals not held at Indiana University, except for articles by Indiana University faculty. Recent catalogs of African universities from countries in which Indiana University faculty and students do research will be collected if available free of charge. Unpublished conference papers will be collected if available free of charge.


US theses are ordered only upon request by a faculty member or graduate student. Foreign doctoral dissertations are acquired by the Center for Research Libraries, and CAMP acquires some foreign MA theses. These may be borrowed on interlibrary loan. Currently, Indiana University is exploring the possibility of acquiring theses from African universities with which it has exchange ties as part of a Title VI African Cooperative project.

Cooperative Projects

Indiana University belongs to the Africana Librarians Council (ALC) of the African Studies Association and CAMP (Cooperative Africana Microform Project) of CRL (Center for Research Libraries). It cooperates in acquiring Africana for nationwide use as a member of these groups and will continue to participate in cooperative projects of ALC and CAMP which benefit Africanist scholars at Indiana University and throughout the United States. Indiana University also will cooperate in any ARL or CIC projects that are relevant for African Studies.

Materials Excluded

Afro-American materials are acquired by the bibliographer for Afro-American Studies. The Librarian for African Studies acquires Afro-American materials if they relate to diaspora studies or in those cases where the bibliographer for Afro-American Studies does not acquire relevant materials needed at Indiana University.

Materials on the Third World are acquired only in those instances where the subject bibliographers do not acquire relevant materials. The Librarian for African Studies makes recommendations for the acquisition of Third World and inter-area materials to the Global Studies bibliographer and to the Collection Development Committee for purchase on the general fund.

Children's books about Africa in European and African languages are acquired only if they are written by a creative writer or scholar whose complete works are collected, or include primary material relevant for the Research Collection. The Librarian for African Studies will recommend children's books about Africa for purchase by the Education bibliographer. Gifts of children's books will be given to the Education and Campus View (family housing) libraries as appropriate.

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 comprehensively.

Criteria for Placing Materials in the Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF)

Materials will be placed in the Auxiliary Library Facility, as needed, according to the following criteria and in consultation with the faculty of each discipline: older serials; serials which have ceased publication; serials which have been cancelled which are indexed in a periodicals index available at Indiana University 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.

last updated: 3/12/2010