African Studies Collection - Collections

The collection is maintained by the Africana Library. The Africana collections at the University of Illinois are among the finest in the world. The University Library has made a serious commitment to acquire Africa related materials since 1969. The collection covers all African countries and includes materials in more than 150 African languages. Priority countries for collecting include: Burkina Faso, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Priority languages are: Amharic, Arabic, Bambara, Hausa, Lingala, Swahili, Wolof, and Zulu. The collections are interdisciplinary, in all formats, and concentrated mainly in the humanities, social sciences, and agriculture. The Library has an extraordinary collection of primary source materials for Africana. We have identified approximately 100 printed sources and 85 microform collections (over 10,000 pieces) covering all areas of Africa. The collection also includes 120,000 pages of Arabic manuscripts and thousands of government documents.

Africana materials in European and African languages at the University of Illinois Libraries include more than 180,000 volumes (including 15,000 in Arabic, and 3,000 in Bamana, Hausa, Lingala, Swahili and Zulu), 2,800 journals, 46,000 maps, 10,000 microforms, 37 newspapers, and several CD-ROMs. Due to the decentralized nature of the library system, the collection is distributed by subject and format throughout the system, however the greatest part is in the Library’s general book stacks. Arabic materials are kept in the Asian Library.

Version Date: April, 2005




To support interdisciplinary teaching and research on Africa.  The Center for African Studies administers an interdisciplinary M.A program, graduate minor, and an undergraduate minor. Many doctoral students in various departments throughout the University also concentrate on African topics.

History of Collection:

Material on Africa has formed part of the collection since the library’s beginnings.  The Library’s collections of late 19th and early 20th century geographical journals dealing with Africa are outstanding.  A full-time Africana bibliographer was appointed in 1969, preceding by one year the appointment of the first director of the Center for African Studies.  The Center has received continuous federal funding as a National Resource Center from 1973 to 2010, and has provided generous support for the acquisitions of library material until 2010.

Estimate of Holdings:

220,000 volumes, (including 15,000 in Arabic and 3,000 in Bamana, Hausa, Lingala, Swahili and Zulu), and 2800 serials.  Other collections include 46,000 maps, 12,000 microforms, 800 films/videos/DVDs.

State, Regional and National Importance:

We have one of the best Africana collections in the U.S. Northwestern University Library has the most important Africana university collection in the country. Our collection is therefore second in importance to Northwestern within the state.  There are three more important Africana collections in the Midwest of approximately equal importance including those at Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Unit Responsible for Collecting:

International and Area Studies Library.

Location of Materials:

Most material is in the book stacks. The International and Area Studies Library (Room 321) has a collection of reference works and some of the most consulted general periodicals. There are also considerable Africana materials in the following libraries: Architecture and Art, Business and Economics, Education and Social Science, History, Philosophy and Newspaper, Map and Geography, Literatures and Languages, Music and Performing Arts, Rare Books and Special Collections, Undergraduate Library Media Center, and the University Archives.

Citations of Works Describing the Collection:

African Studies Information Resources Directory, compiled by Jean E. Meeh Gosebrink.  Los Angeles:  Crossroads Press, 1986.

Africana in the Library.  2003. (brochure)

“A Directory of Libraries with African Literature Collections,” in A New Reader’s Guide to African Literature, ed. by Hans M. Zell, et al.  London:  Heinemann, 1983. page 538.

Gray, Beverly, “Africana Library Resources,” in Ethnic Collections in Libraries, ed. by E. J. Josey and Marva L. DeLoach.  New York:  Neal-Schuman, 1983. page 266-267.

Zell, Hans M.  The African Studies Companion: A Guide to Information Sources.  4th rev. and expanded ed. Lochcarron, Scotland: Hans Zell, 2006. page 383, and online.



English, French and Arabic are the dominant languages of the collection.  We also have good collections in Amharic, Bambara, German, Hausa, Italian, Lingala, Portuguese, Swahili, Tigrinya, Wolof and Zulu. We have collected language learning materials, including literary works, in more than 150 African languages.

Chronological Guidelines:

No restriction.

Geographical Guidelines:

We collect for all African countries, but the concentration is on 13 priority countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We are also interested in publications which deal generally with the Third World and the Commonwealth.

Treatment of Subject:

Standard statement.

Types of Materials:

Standard statement.  We make a special effort to identify and procure research reports, monographs, serials and government publications not readily available from standard book trade sources.  We have one of the best African film/video/DVD collections in the United States.

Date of Publication:

Standard statement.

Place of Publication:

No restrictions.


The table below lists subject holdings rated on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the most extensive).

African Studies Collection
Africa-agricultural economics 3 3 3 AGRICULTURE/AFRICA/commerce
Africa-agriculture 3 3 3 AGRICULTURE/Africa
Africa-anthropology 3 3 3 ANTHROPOLOGY/AFRICA
Africa-architecture 2 2 3 ARCHITECTURE/Africa
Africa-art 3 3 3 ART/AFRICA
Africa-city planning 2 2 3 CITY PLANNING/Africa
Africa-communications 2 3 3 AFRICA/COMMUNICATIONS
Africa-economics 3 3 3 BUSINESS/AFRICA
Africa-education 3 3 3 EDUCATION/AFRICA
Africa-folklore 3 3 3 ANTHROPOLOGY/AFRICA
Africa-food/nutrition 2 3 3 HOME ECONOMICS/AFRICA
Africa-geography 3 3 3 GEOGRAPHY/AFRICA
Africa-history 3 3 4 AFRICA/History
Africa-labor and industrial relations 2 3 3 LABOR/AFRICA
Africa-languages and linguistics 3 3 4 LINGUISTICS/Africa
Africa-law 1 2 3 LAW/Africa
Africa-library and information science 2 3 4 LIBRARY SCIENCE/AFRICA
Africa-literature 3 3 3 AFRICA/ENGLISH
Comparative Literature
Africa-music 3 3 3 MUSIC/AFRICA
Africa-political science 3 3 3 AFRICA/POLITICAL SCIENCE
Africa-psychology 2 2 3 PSYCHOLOGY/Africa
Africa-public health 2 2 3 SOCIOLOGY/Africa
Africa-reference works 4 4 5 AFRICA/Reference
Africa-religion 2 2 3 ANTHROPOLOGY/AFRICA
Africa-sociology 3 3 3 SOCIOLOGY/AFRICA
Africa-women’s studies 3 3 4 AFRICA/WOMEN’S STUDIES


Revision Date: January 2012