The ASCL’s mission, which was formulated in 1947, stated that the ASCL should ‘promote a better understanding and insight into historical, current and future societal developments in Sub-Saharan Africa’. The library also has a solid basis within the ASCL’s strategic goals as set out in its 2004-2008 Policy Plan:
- Primary strategic goals: The ASCL strives to be a top international scientific institute that: … (ii) collects and makes available knowledge and information about Africa for scientific research and academic purposes through the provision of a library, information and documentation department.
- Secondary strategic goals: Through its research and the dissemination of knowledge the ASCL aims: … (ii) to further the debate between researchers, policy-makers and development practitioners, journalists, the business world and the general public, and also to promote an understanding of African societies in these groups through the provision of library, information and documentation services.
The library is one of the pillars of the African Studies Centre Leiden and helps to promote the dissemination of knowledge and the understanding of African societies in the wider public sphere.
The ASCL library advocates open access, in both its digital and physical library. The paper library uses open stacks, while the digital library uses repositories, electronic journals and links to information.
The ASCL’s Library, Documentation and Information Department is a research library and fulfils a national task by meeting the information needs of scholars and students affiliated to universities and research schools in the Netherlands. The library is also open to the general public and aims to facilitate the spread of knowledge and understanding of African societies and cultures among a wider audience.
The ASCL library’s target groups include:
- researchers and academics working on and in Africa
- students and lecturers in the field of African studies
- anyone interested in Africa from journalists, policy makers, diplomats and NGO staff to businessmen, tourists, artists and lovers of Africa
The user-group distribution shows that students are by far the largest group among the library’s registered visitors (about 70%).
The library has a prominent place amongst African studies libraries in the world. Visitors to the library, researchers at international conferences and fellow librarians repeatedly stress the unique features of the ASCL library:
- The digital library is accessible via its online catalogue and the bibliographic databases in AfricaBib and the web service Connecting-Africa, all of which give access to full text online information.
- The journal article abstracts, which are made by subject specialists, are useful for searching the catalogue. As a spin-off product, the online quarterly abstracting journal is a valuable signaling tool for researchers and has a proven track record.
- The ASCL’s collection is extensive and caters to a wide variety of research needs, from historical primary sources and rare books to modern African literature, scientific publications and African films. A major part of the library collection is freely accessible (open shelves) and library users can select items from the shelves themselves. The library is open to the general public and anyone can purchase a library card.
- The personal service provided by the friendly service-desk staff has been mentioned in numerous forewords to publications by researchers who have used the library.
Feedback from ASCL library users is very important to the library staff. Users are encouraged to fill in their comments and suggestions in the visitors’ book or to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
The ASCL Library was evaluated in 2011 by an external committee as part of an overall evaluation of the African Studies Centre Leiden. The library expert appointed to this committee was Barbara Spina, Head of Teaching and Research Support at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (UK). The committee looked at Quality, Productivity, Relevance and Vitality & Feasibility and concluded that the ASCL Library was "excellent" in all four areas. Read the ASC Self-Evaluation Report 2004-2010 and the ASC Evaluation Report.
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