World Libraries, Vol. 4, No. 1, Fall 1993
The SCOLMA Directory of Libraries and Special Collections on Africa in the United Kingdom and Europe. Compiled and edited by Tom French. Fifth ed. London: Hans Zell, 1993. viii, 355 p. ISBN 0905450–89–2. $75.00.
One of Africa’s handicaps in the struggle for development is the difficulty of carrying out research in African libraries. Able, interested scholars often find themselves without access to files of journals, to important monographs, even to official documents of their own countries. Ph.D. students and other writers in the learned disciplines require photocopies and book loans from Europe and North America, where the principal resources about Africa are gathered. Cooperation by the librarians of those collections outside Africa has been strong, although nothing can take the place of indigenous research facilities. To make the best of the situation, the African scholar needs to have detailed information on Africana collections in other countries, and on the means of access to their holdings. This SCOLMA volume, an expansion of the 1983 edition, is extremely helpful for that purpose.
The directory describes 400 collections in 25 nations, including those of recent establishment like Croatia and the Czech Republic. About half the book deals with British libraries. Information given is of the usual directory type: name of librarian, hours of opening, requirements for access, collection size, photocopy facilities, availability for external users, and description of the special holdings. For example the Durham Religious Education Resource Center, in Durham, England, has a collection of materials on Lesotho, and lends to external users upon payment of postage. A major resource for library education in Africa is found at the Information and Library Studies Library, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth; the collection includes files of 60 current journals and about 1,500 monographs, and the library makes interlibrary loans to external users. Many lesser known libraries across Europe are described; for example, the Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology in Leiden, Netherlands, will provide interlibrary loans from its materials (collected since 1851) on West Africa, South Africa, and Madagascar. The book’s index will lead the reader to collections on specific topics (libraries, life sciences, liturgy, migration, mining, missions ...) and on particular nations. Names of institutions are also indexed.
It must be added that the access situation is not always favorable. More than half the libraries will serve only their own clients. Of course this is useful information, negative though it may be, since it saves the time of the scholar who might otherwise apply for assistance to a library that does not serve outsiders.
This guide is a valuable partner to the other important directories published by Hans Zell, i.e., Guide to Federal Archives Relating to Africa (1977); Guide to Non–Federal Archives and Manuscripts in the United States Relating to Africa (1989); International Guide to African Studies Research (1987); and African Studies Companion (1989).
Guy A. Marco is Editor of Third World Libraries.
© 1993 Guy A. Marco.
Marco, Guy A., “Review of SCOLMA Directory of Libraries and Special Collections on Africa in the United Kingdom and Europe, compiled and edited by Tom French,” Third World Libraries, Volume 4, Number 1 (Fall 1993).
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