Skip to main content

Collection Development Policy

African Studies


African Studies
Ellen Bryan
April 2010


Brief overview of the collection

·      History: While acquisition of materials on and from sub-Saharan Africa is selective, the humanities and social sciences selectors have built a reasonable research collection.  They have also attended to specific needs over time, responding to researchers with interests in colonization, social change in modern Africa, topics in anthropology in Southern Africa and West Africa, etc.  No effort has been made to duplicate the rich collection held by the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University.

·      Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized: The collection includes basic material in anthropology, art, cinema, demography, economics, education, history, human development, linguistics, literature, music, political science, philosophy, and religion.  Special attention is paid to topics in anthropology, cinema studies, history, human rights, and South African literature.  Current science material is left to science selectors, but some material on AIDS is acquired.

 Description of academic program: The University of Chicago does not grant degrees in African Studies.  Students must be admitted to one of the regular departments or programs.  The BA program in African and African-American Studies and the Comparative Race Studies Program are currently under review.  The Committee on African and African American Studies coordinates University of Chicago graduate studies programs and the management of workshops and conferences.  The African Studies Workshop has active members in the fields of anthropology, history, human development, literatures, political science, religious studies, and history of culture.

·         Audience/Purpose: The chief purpose of the collection is to support course work and research on sub-Saharan Africa for faculty and students in the humanities and social sciences.

Collecting guidelines

·         Levels of selection (comprehensive, research, instructional support, basic information; for a description of these levels, see the general policy statement):   Selection is typically at the level of instructional support.  The collection is sufficiently rich in material published in Western languages to support research in topics in anthropology and history.

 ·Type of materials included & excluded: The collection includes scholarly monographs & journals, conference publications, literary works, and reference works (encyclopedias, bibliographies, and handbooks.)  Selectors for anthropology and linguistics acquire some dictionaries and grammars to support study in African languages.  The following types of materials are usually excluded: text books, language learning materials, popular literature and religious materials, translations into a language other than English, anthologies of previously published material, and unrevised dissertations.

 ·  Physical formats included & excluded: Monographs, an increasing number of videos (DVDs preferred), and serials (frequently online) are acquired.  The Library subscribes to a number of electronic resources.  In addition to relevant journals and indexing/abstracting services in more general online collections, these include: partial access to Sabinet Online (journals from South Africa), AllAfrica (news articles from African media, governments & various organizations), Aluka (growing collection of primary source material), Africa-Wide Information, literary works from Alexander Street Press, and some reference works (Encyclopedia of Africa, African Studies Companion Online, etc.).

 ·         Publication dates collected: Current, for the most part.

 ·         Language: Mostly English; some Western European languages (especially French).  As a rule material in the native languages of Africa has been excluded, however a recent four-year grant has permitted the acquisition of a number of items in Swahili and other local languages.

 ·         Geographical range: Emphasis is on materials published in North America and Western Europe.  Some material published in sub-Saharan Africa (especially South Africa, but also from Kenya, Zimbabwe, and other countries) is acquired.

 ·         Chronological span: Pre-history to the present time.  The Anthropology Bibliographer selects pre-colonial material.


Related University of Chicago collections

Other bibliographers select material to support research for North Africa, the Ancient Near East, and the Diaspora.  The D’Angelo Law Library collection includes material on South Africa and anglophone Africa, francophone Africa, comparative law, international law and international relations.

Cooperative arrangements and related collections

We are members of the Center for Research Libraries and of CAMP, CRL’s Cooperative Africana Microform Project.  The resources of the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies are available to us through an agreement with Northwestern University Library for reciprocal borrowing and reference privileges.


Ellen Bryan's picture
Ellen Bryan
Dissertation Office, JRL 100B
The University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago IL 60637
Subjects:African Studies