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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

Sources for African Language Materials from the Countries of Anglophone Africa

Alfred Kagan, African Studies Bibliographer, University of Illinois Library, USA


From the point of view of librarians outside of the African continent, it seems that there is a general lack of information on how to acquire materials in African languages. However librarians that collect heavily in Africana have some very well established mechanisms in collecting this material. Collecting Africana is unlike collecting most other materials because of the lack of well known high profile vendors and because of the low level of organization of much of the book trade in most of the countries of Africa. Many materials are only available by making direct contact with the publishers. Exchange agreements are also potentially very useful, but please be forewarned that libraries in rich countries will likely end up sending more than they receive. Those of us with adequate collection development budgets in hard currencies should not mind helping out African libraries that are suffering from the African "book famine."

In this paper I will note the standard current reference sources, blanket and approval plan dealers, bookshops and publishers, printed and online library catalogs, and two microform collections.

Current Reference Sources

The most complete current reference source for African language material is:

This publication recently won the Conover Porter award for the best African studies reference book of the past two years (awarded by the [U.S.] African Studies Association). In addition to thousands of publications in European languages, it includes a "selective list" of about 4000 publications in over 100 African languages.

2 similar volumes exist with a smaller scope:

African Books in Print is updated by another Hans Zell publication:

The African Book Publishing Record. Oxford : Hans Zell, v. 1 Jan. 1975 , quarterly.

The [U.S.] Library of Congress Nairobi Office has a very active program to collect and catalog materials. The Office publishes an excellent current awareness tool with cataloging records. Unfortunately these records are at minimal level cataloging:

17 of the largest African studies libraries in the U.S. contribute to a cooperatively produced list of original cataloging records for newly acquired Africana materials:

Other possible current sources are national bibliographies if they exist, and where they are reasonably current. The citations are listed below in alphabetical order by country. The most current issues that I could locate are indicated.

Blanket and Approval Plan Dealers

There are several standard blanket order / approval plan dealers for African imprints. The following dealers all supply books in African languages:

Covers 7 countries of East & Southern Africa: Botswana (statistics), Ethiopia (statistics, newspaper), Kenya (monographs, serials, newspapers, non print), Tanzania (newspapers), Uganda (newspapers), Zambia (statistics, newspaper), and Zimbabwe (monographs, serials, statistics). Bookshops and Publishers

The best dealers for South Africa and other Anglophone countries of Southern Africa are:

The former director of the Tanzanian Publishing House, Walter Bgoya, has recently established a new publishing house for books exclusively in Swahili:

I could find no current list of Africana bookshops, but there are several good listings within more comprehensive works that are getting rather old:

Printed Book and Audio Catalogs

There are several large book catalogs of extensive African language collections. They are listed below by currency. Only the Indiana University catalog is up to date.

For a catalog of oral literature in African languages, see:

Online Library Catalogs

The online catalogs of the largest Africana collections in the United States and the United Kingdom are available online through the Internet. It may be useful to do subject or keyword searches for African language materials. The catalogs are listed in alphabetical order with instructions. Note, for those with access to the World Wide Web through Mosaic or Netscape, all these catalogs can be accessed directly from the homepage of the University of Illinois Center for African Studies [URL: http://ux1.cso.uiuc.edu/~kagan/library.html].

Boston University
telnet address: library.bu.edu or
At the login prompt, type "library"
To exit, type "D" at the main menu

Cambridge University
telnet address: ipgate.cam.ac.uk or
At the login prompt, type "UL"
Follow terminal and accent mark prompts
To exit, type "END"

Indiana University
telnet address: iuis.ucs.indiana.edu or
Then type "3"
Then type "IUCAT"
To exit, type "STOP ," then "F," then "LOGOFF"

Northwestern University
tn3270 address: library.ucc.nwu.edu
At LUIS screen, type "NCAT"
To exit, type "STOP"

Oxford University
telnet address: library.ox.ac.uk or
When prompted for terminal type, enter "VT100"
Type "E" for introductory screen
To exit, type "E"

University of California (MELVYL)
telnet address: melvyl.ucop.edu or
When prompted for terminal type, enter "VT100"
Press RETURN when prompted
To exit, type "END"

University of Illinois (UIUC)
telnet address: illinet.aiss.uiuc.edu or
Begin the library connection. Type "B"
Type "1" for ILLINET
Type "3" for IOMENU
To exit a menu or session, type "X"

University of London (SOAS)
telnet address: sun.nsf.ac.uk or
At the login prompt, type "janet"
At the password prompt, press
When prompted for hostname, type "uk.ac.lon.soas.lib"
When prompted for USERNAME, type "LIBRARY"
Then select "1" for VT100 terminal type
To exit, type "EXIT"

Yale University
telnet or tn3270 address: ycc.yale.edu
At terminal prompt, type "VT100"
At ORBIS logo, press
To exit, type "STOP"

Microform Collections

The large African studies libraries in the U.S. have established the Cooperative Africana Microforms Project (CAMP) to acquire rare and unique serials and collections. Membership is open to all institutions, and special rates are available for African libraries. Many materials are in African languages. Members pay yearly dues and democratically decide what titles to purchase. CAMP also sometimes arranges to film collections that are otherwise unavailable. The collections are placed at the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago. The latest printed CAMP Catalog was issued in 1985 but there is now also online access through the Center for Research Libraries catalog.


With sufficient time, energy and a reasonable hard currency budget, it is quite possible to develop an African language collection appropriate to local needs.

Al Kagan
328 Library
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801, USA
tel. 217 333 6519
fax. 217 333 2214