Library policy | Library profile and target groupsUser satisfaction and feedback | Evaluation report 2011-2016

Library policy

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.

Library profile and target groups

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%).

User satisfaction

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.

User feedback
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 asclibrary@ascleiden.nl

Evaluation report 2011-2016

The African Studies Centre Leiden was evaluated by an external review committee in 2017. A site visit was held in April 2017, during which committee members spoke to the ASCL management, research staff, library staff, support staff and PhD students. The committee also spoke to a group of selected societal partners of the ASCL. In preparation of the review, the ASCL staff provided a Self Evaluation Report.
The Review Committee was appointed by the Board of Leiden University. The members were:

- Professor Paul Nugent, Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh, Scotland (Chair)
- Professor Michael Bollig, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of
Cologne, Germany
- Iina Soiri M.A., Director Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden
- Dr. Dzodzi Tsikata, Director, Institute of African Studies, Associate Professor, ISSER University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana
- Dr. Marion Wallace, Lead Curator, African Collections at the British Library, London, England
Linda Johnson MBA was appointed as secretary to the Review Committee, on behalf of EADI, the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes in Bonn.