The Penn Library's Africa-related collection development program is forward- looking through necessity. Its retrospective collection appears to have had an uneven growth, with strong, almost unitary emphases in anthropology, folklore, history, and languages. This lopsided picture is the result of a presumably well-intentioned donation in September 1948 to Northwestern University's nascent African collection of more than 1,000 volumes -- "almost a ton and a half in all" -- of newspapers, government publications (including legislative proceedings from twelve countries), and social sciences periodicals published in Africa. While this gift formed the nucleus of the Northwesterns Herskovits Library, the largest sub-saharan African collection in the world, the Penn Library attempted unsuccessfully to create a comparable North African collection.
The retrospective collection has a strong West African and East African focus. Only major older works in Central African history, ethnography, and linguistics are present. No Afrikaans and few older publications on South Africa beyond apartheid can be found.
The Penn Library's African studies collection has grown considerably during the past half decade. The 1993 North American Title Count described 11,504 titles held in African history and non-western/non-Arabic African languages and literature, with an additional 5,047 uncounted titles acquired before 1968. In an August 1999 shelf count, the Penn Library holds an estimated 24,421 titles in these subjects: the collection increased 48 percent in six years. Overall, the present African collection comprises an estimated 35,100 volumes.
Penn Library Africa-related holdings are shared among the Van Pelt Library (general topics, social sciences and humanities: 82-percent) and the University Museum Library (anthropology and archaeology: 14-percent), with other departmental libraries -- Fisher Fine Arts, Lippincott (business), Biomedical -- collecting in special areas. Present African collection strengths are in history and ethnography (58-percent), demography and social and economic conditions (11-percent), languages (9-percent) and literature (5-percent), and political science and government (3-percent). All major African studies periodicals are represented in complete runs.
Yvette Scheven, emeritus African Studies Bibliographer at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, performed an external review of the African collection in 1993. Several areas of weakness were identified -- francophone African literature, non-western/non-Arabic African languages and literature, primary resource materials, and periodicals from Africa -- all of which have largely been remedied, mostly through the use of Title VI funds awarded to the Penn Library. French-language African literature holdings have grown to be on par with English-language literature holdings, with approximately 936 titles in each area. Non-western/non-Arabic African language and literature holdings have grown more than 200-percent since 1993, to 2,566 volumes. The 470-title microform Bascom Yoruba Collection complements a growing collection of grammars, dictionaries, and texts in African languages, supplemented by the dozens of grammars, dictionaries, primers and readers, and other curricular material for uncommonly taught African languages reproduced in the Penn Library's ERIC Document microfiche collection.
Major primary research collections, on microform or in print, concerning Africa include the complete Human Relations Area Files and campuswide online access to eHRAF, historic records of the Organization of African Unity, 19th- and 20th-century British parliamentary papers, state papers, confidential papers, and Public Record Office files on African colonial affairs and the slave trade, Sierra Leonian missionary periodicals relating to health practices, and pre-World War II African censuses and post-World War II North African censuses. During 1998, the Penn Library made a major purchase of South African literature and political monographs from the Mayibuye Centre. The Penn Library's membership in the Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP) provides Penn students and faculty with request-based access to additional expensive or scarce microform newspapers, periodicals, and primary collections.
Progress continues to be made slowly in one area identified by Ms Scheven. African Studies allocations pay for 25 serial subscriptions and standing orders, almost entirely for periodicals published in Africa. Although many more Africa-related serials are acquired through other subject-specific funds, future plans are to expand Africa-published periodical holdings for the collections strengths. As reliable delivery from Africa is the most critical issue in serials management, discussions are in progress with the Library of Congress, Nairobi Field Office, to participate in their acquisitions program.
Van Pelt Library is a full United Nations depository and acquires the Readex UN microfiche collection. While the depository program provides timely access to core UN materials, the Readex set is most effective at coverage of the Economic Commission for Africa and other ancillary bodies. Van Pelt Library receives all English-language UNESCO monographs and acquires World Bank publications through approval plans. Lippincott Library maintains standing orders for several FAO publication series and receives all GATT/WTO and OECD publications. The Penn Library is a U.S. federal depository library, particularly strong in Congressional, State, and Commerce documents.
Electronic media materials are a recent addition to the collection. Franklin searches in September 1999 identify approximately 611 African music sound recordings, held in the Ormandy Listening Center, and 99 Africa-related videorecordings. The transfer of the School of Arts and Sciences's video collection in 1999 and 2000 will likely bring additional videos. Africa Data Sampler GIS database was added to the collection in 1999, as was a CD-ROM collection of Mayibuye Centre apartheid-related texts and images.
Future development will maintain an elevated level of acquisitions in francophone publications and non-western/non-Arabic African languages. New areas for development will be public health, international and non- governmental organization publications, and materials relating to the social, political, and economic conditions of southern Africa.
Bibliographic access to the collection is provided through Franklin, the Penn Library's online catalog. The Van Pelt Library Card Catalog is still needed for locating some pre-1968 materials.
Journal literature bibliography for African studies is well-served. Van Pelt Reference holds the principal print-format indexes and abstracts: Accessions List: Eastern and Southern Africa (Library of Congress, Nairobi), Africa Bibliography, Africa Contemporary Record, Africa South of the Sahara: Index to Periodical Literature, 1900-1970 with supplements through 1977, African Book Publishing Record, African Studies Abstracts, Current Bibliography on African Affairs, Guide to the Sources of the History of the Nations, Series B: Africa, and International African Bibliography.
The interdisciplinary nature of Penn's African studies program may require readers to use a large number of subject-specific online bibliographic and fulltext databases. Among the licensed databases offered are AIDSline, Anthropological Literature, CAB Abstracts, DataStream, FRANCIS, Historical Abstracts, Index to World Legal Periodicals, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, ISI Web of Science, LEXIS-NEXIS Academic Universe, LLBA, Medline, MLA International Bibliography, PAIS, ProQuest Dissertations Online, and World News Connection (and FBIS microfiche). Free online bibliographic resources are also used: African Index Medicus, African Studies Centre (Leiden) online catalog, Africana Conference Paper Index, Anthropological Index, Center for Research Libraries/CAMP online catalog, Population Index, and Quarterly Index to Periodical Literature, Eastern and Southern Africa (Library of Congress, Nairobi).
The Penn Library Web offers a page of links to important news, bibliographic, and governmental internet resources and a page of links to Africa-related electronic journals, both licensed and free. The narrow focus of web publishing is a result of the enormous scale and quality of the African Studies Center's Africa Studies WWW site, which is prominently linked from the Penn Library Web pages.
A digital library collection combining digitized photographic images from Hall's 1930s Sherbro Island expedition and interpretive documentation prepared by Dr. Sandra Barnes is currently being processed as a collaborative effort by the University Museum Archives, the Penn Library's Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image and the Penn African Studies Center, and funded through the Centers Title VI grant.