African Collections Detail

Printed Holdings

Africana collections at the University of Kansas Libraries include approximately 80,000 printed volumes. The Libraries receive over 1,000 serial publications, the predominant majority of which are available electronically. The primary subject focus of collection development efforts have been the social sciences and humanities, with selected areas of the natural sciences also included. Historically, the collections have been developed at a strong study level, with primary focus on Africa south of the Sahara. Languages collected have included works published in English, French, and Portuguese, and in the African languages taught in the university curriculum, principally Amharic, African dialects of Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, and Wolof. Dictionaries, grammars, and literary works are also collected in those languages taught on a tutorial basis, including Chinyanja, Karamojong, Fanti, and Shona. With expanded interest in the Maghreb, the Libraries have included the collection of materials, including Arabic resources in non-language subject areas both from and about the region from Mauritania to Egypt and the Sudan.

Other Formats

In addition to the regular collection of printed holdings, the Africana collections include maps and atlases, U.S. federal and international documents, microforms, videocassettes and DVD’s, digital resources, and several special collections of note. The Thomas R. Smith Map Collection includes approximately 10,000 maps of Africa and has a thorough collection of national atlases. Map holdings include such worldwide sets as the Joint Operational Graphic maps at a scale of 1:250,000, as well as U.S. Army maps and publications of the British Ordnance Survey. Government documents of various U.S. federal agencies and international organizations also contain significant materials pertaining to Africa. As a long-standing regional depository of U.S. federal documents, the University Library’s collections include many thousands of items pertaining to Africa in print, microform, and electronic formats. The international documents collections include publications of the World Bank, the United Nations, UNESCO, OECD, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Community. The university libraries also maintain membership in the Cooperative Africana Materials Project (CAMP) at the Center for Research Libraries and draws extensively on its holdings for the support of research. Videographic resources are collected as needed for instruction in Africa-related courses.


Africana holdings are decentralized throughout the various library locations as appropriate by subject. The main collection, including all but the exceptions noted hereafter, is housed in Watson Library. Materials on African art are located in the Spencer Art and Architecture Library. Anschutz library holdings include all science-related materials, as well as human health, economics and business, maps, and printed government documents. Music-related holdings, including sound recordings, are in the Gorton Music Library. Videographic and audiographic resources are found primarily in the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center, although some are located in Watson Library and accessible in the online catalog. Special collections, including the Onitsha Market Literature collection and the Bishop Robert Mize papers, are located at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Special Collections and Digital Resources

The Onitsha market literature collection, held at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, consists of over 100 pamphlets from the 1950’s and 1960’s that were written by Nigerians who were negotiating the rapid changes of the post-colonial era that were characteristic of their time. The pamphlets were published by local presses in the lively market town of Onitsha, southeastern Nigeria, which was Africa’s largest outdoor market at that time. Twenty-one of the pamphlets in the collection, together with background text amplifying the historical and social context, are available in digital format at Onitsha Market Literature : from the bookstalls of a Nigerian market. The site includes a bibliography of the complete collection.

The papers of Bishop Robert Mize (1907-2000), who served as an Anglican missionary in South West Africa from 1960 to 1970, and later in Botswana from 1973-1976, are housed at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Bishop Mize, an Anglican pacifist who grew up in Ellsworth, KS, was deported from South West Africa in 1970 for his outspoken opposition to South Africa’s apartheid policies in SWA due to forcible removal of Africans from their homes. The collection consists of many valuable photographs of Namibians who became important political leaders and spokesmen in the Namibian independence movement, as well as correspondence, reports, news clippings, slides and tapes. The career of Bishop Mize as an activist who supported African causes is noted in the African Activist Archive Project, created by the African Studies Program of Michigan State University. A guide to the Bishop Robert Mize collection at the Spencer Research Library (RH MS 1045) is available. Plans are underway to digitize selected items from this collection, beginning with the photographs.

International Collections

Location & Hours

Watson Library, 5th Floor
1425 Jayhawk Blvd, Rm. 519
Lawrence, KS 66045

Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 5 p.m.