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Changing traditions and new challenges at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Turfan, Barbara (2001) 'Changing traditions and new challenges at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.' Documenting and researching southern Africa: aspects and perspectives; essays in honour of Carl Schlettwein, edited by Dag Henrichsen and Giorgio Meischer . pp. 23-33.

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Abstract

The School of Oriental and African Studies and its Library date back to the First World War, but it was not until 1960 that a distinct Africa Division, with its own specialist librarian, was created to match the various Oriental Divisions. Since then, the School has changed dramatically in nature and scope; and the Library, with its supporting role, has adjusted to fit. Most obvious, but core, changes have related to student numbers, leading to radically different teaching and learning methods, and to the range and type of courses offered. In addition, in recent years, SOAS Library has faced many new challenges. Librarians' basic professional skills of cataloguing and classification, and now acquisition, are ones that we are relearning, on-line. The rapid development of the internet in terms both of international databases of primary and secondary source material and of remote library resources, has created what are, to many librarians worldwide, still uncharted oceans of information. More efficient and effective publishing industries in a number of African countries have created greater awareness of what material is available - if not always greater success in acquiring it. Networks of dedicated information specialists, north and south, on both sides of the Atlantic, have striven to use modern tools and ease of communications to enable both knowledge of and access to documentation in a range of subjects and regions. Not least, massive political, social and economic upheavals in African countries from Ethiopia to South Africa, Rwanda to Sierra Leone, have had their repurcussions throughout the information world as universities and libraries close and open, archival collections long in exile relocate to countries suddenly made safe for them, publishing industries (both state- and private-sector) cease to function and then revive ... Here in the UK, as in Europe, as in America, co-operation is the name of the game - by librarians and information specialists, by libraries and their parent institutions, by publishers and booksellers, increasingly with government encouragement to pool resources and share access. Little wonder, then, in the face of all that is happening around us, that we are learning to feel our way along a myriad different routes to a faster, better, more aware and responsive service for an ever-expanding, discerning and demanding higher education community. It is in this context that my paper will set SOAS Library and the brave new world it seeks to explore and interpret for its students and other scholars.

Item Type: Articles
Additional Information: Paper presented at a Symposium in May 2000 in honour of Carl Schlettwein, founder and for many years director of the Basler Afrika Bibliographien in Switzerland, on his 75th birthday
Keywords: Libraries, Africa, SOAS, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Higher education, Information science, Research, African studies, Internet, World Wide Web, WWW, Archives, SCOLMA
SOAS Departments & Centres: Services and Administration > Library and Information Services
ISSN: 3905141760
Depositing User: Mrs Barbara Spina
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2004
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/35

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