The University Library has had an African American Studies bibliographer since 1969. From 1969 to 2008, the Afro-Americana Library operated as a separate bibliographic unit with responsibilities for collection development, reference, and bibliographic services. During spring 2008 the bibliographer initiated a proposal to move the Afro-American Library into the History, Philosophy & Newspaper Library (HPNL) because the services and programs of the units overlapped in significant ways and users would benefit from closer collaboration and co-location. The major affinities between the two units included clienteles served, instructional sessions provided, and materials acquired. Key primary source collections in African American history are held on microfilm in the HPNL film stacks. A key element of the proposal was retaining the autonomy of the Afro-American bibliographic unit within this new configuration. The Library Executive Committee approved a name change reflective of the continued autonomy and new configuration, renaming it the African American Research Center (AARC).
The University Library contains approximately 100,000 volumes identified as African American Studies materials. Most of the volumes, which are available for circulation, are located in the Main Library book stacks. Others are found throughout the University’s various departmental libraries. The Library system contains thousands of other items relating to African Americans and Africans in the Diaspora, including books, journals, newspapers, documents, microforms, videocassettes, and non-print media. Areas of the world emphasized in the collection include North America, the Caribbean and Central America, and South America.
For reference purposes, the AARC maintains a collection of approximately 1000 books and the Pan-African CD-ROM Workstation. These materials include encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes, bibliographies, collection catalogs, biographical directories, literary guides, and other useful works. Subjects covered include history, biography, women, literature, music, art, religion, education, politics, and the performing arts.
The African American Research Center needs private funds to permanently endow student assistant wages to support acquisitions, collection maintenance, and teaching of the 3-credit course AFRO 102: Researching the African American Experience. The course has been offered by the Department of African American Studies since the late 1980s. The course is unique among our peer institutions and to African American Studies programs generally. Gifts of $1,500-$3,000 would help with special purchases, including digital collections of primary sources and African American newspapers.