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About the African Studies Library

The African Studies Library (ASL), founded in 1953 as the departmental library of the African Studies Center and now a department of Mugar Memorial Library, supports Boston University’s undergraduate, graduate and faculty research on Africa and serves as a resource for the broader community’s African interests, nationally and internationally.

The collection is interdisciplinary, with major strengths in the social sciences and broad representation of the humanities and sciences.

The staff of ASL provides reference and research service and access to current periodicals from and about Africa, African newspapers, maps, African documents and government publications, and books on African history (the classification DT). The rest of the 200,000 volumes dealing with Africa are shelved within their subject classifications throughout Mugar Memorial Library and its branches.

Read on to learn more about what we collect.


The ASL collects materials primarily in the official languages of the African nations:

  • English
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • Arabic (selectively, mainly upon request)

Materials in indigenous languages are collected selectively, mainly to support language instruction and linguistic or other specialized research. African languages offered at Boston University include: Amharic, Arabic, Igbo, Mandinka, Swahili, Xhosa and Zulu. Works in other languages are collected by specific request or for research value.

Geographic areas

  • African nations—primarily sub-Saharan, although North Africa is also represented; special emphasis placed on primary sources (government pubs, newspapers, scholarly works, creative writing)
  • Selective collecting from non-African nations
    • recent African immigration, especially to the United States and Europe
    • vestiges of African languages, religions and culture in the New World, including Yoruba communities in Cuba and Brazil
    • Shango Cults
    • Africanisms in American English
    • studies by African anthropologists of North American communities of African descent, such as the Gullah and the Black Nova Scotians

Time periods

  • ASL acquisitions emphasize current publications. Historical publications are acquired selectively.
  • ASL collects materials dealing with the entire history of Africa from first human populations to the present day.
  • Certain periods in selected geographic areas are excluded because they are covered by other subject funds, e.g., ancient Egypt and Roman North Africa.

Types of materials


  • Books; periodicals; proceedings; reference materials; atlases; and government publications, including those of African nations and their states or provinces, African regional organizations, and international organizations.

Collected Selectively:

  • Dissertations and theses on African topics, whether done in the U.S. or abroad; maps; and electronic resources.

Not Collected:

  • Audio-visual materials, except for tapes and CDs included with print works; children’s books, except for works in African languages; and textbooks.

Learn more about our Collection Development Policy and the Call Number ranges we collect.