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Collection Development Policy

Major Objectives:

  • To select, acquire, organize, and maintain resource materials in support of the Africana Studies and Research Center academic program
  • To provide bibliographic access to these resources and to those of other Cornell University Library units, and to African, African American, and Caribbean Studies material where ever available through use of printed resources and computerized online retrieval services
  • To provide informational and reference services to assist library users in finding information and in using resources
  • To provide adequate facilities for research and study.

Collecting Levels:

Collections of the Africana Library shall be adequate to support the course work of Africana Studies and Research Center advanced undergraduate and master’s degree programs, or sustained independent study. The collections will include a wide range of basic monographs both current and retrospective, complete collections of the works of important writers, some highly selective research materials to complement and supplement, but not supplant, the research collections of the University Library, a selection of representative journals, and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographical apparatus pertaining to Africana Studies.

Collecting Areas:

Collecting areas of the Africana Library will include materials written by or about peoples of African descent with emphasis on the subject areas of history, literature, politics, economics, sociology, psychology, cultural anthropology and folklore, religion, education, international relations and Third World political economy. In order of importance, the regional emphases of the collection will be first, on materials pertaining to peoples of African descent in the Americas (particularly the United States); second, on Africa; and third on the Caribbean archipelago (including Belize, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana), with primary emphasis on the Anglophone countries and English language titles for the remainder.

Types and Forms of Material Collected:


Generally one copy of a title will be purchased, although in a limited number of instances two or more copies might be acquired. Examples of the latter case are: books about such major personalities as W.E.B. Du Bois or supplementary reserve readings for large classes. The formula to be followed in case of the reserve readings is one copy of a book for every fifteen students in a particular course. Preference will be given to paperback editions rather than hardback editions. Hardback will be acquired only if the paperback edition is unavailable, or if the title was published only in hardback. The criteria for including a title in the collection will be as follows:

  • Recognized classics in all fields of African, African American and African Caribbean Studies, both historical and modern, comprising as a minimum the collected works of all standard authors as determined by faculty recommendations, mention in critical works, or inclusion in recognized bibliographies in the above mentioned fields.
  • Scholarly merit, including: currency, comprehensiveness and quality of treatment, clarity of presentation, convenience of the arrangement of the material, availability and quality of notes and bibliography, as well as, in general, those books showing evidence of being standard works in their fields, by a standard author in that field, or by a standard publisher in that field. The latter may include large commercial presses, university presses, small publishers, and associations or research organizations.
  • The Africana Library will try to review for purchase at least one copy of every title included in reserve lists which it does not yet own.
  • Serious consideration will be given to any other individual recommendations by faculty, students, or staff for titles about the Black experience falling outside the categories normally collected by the Africana Library.


It is well beyond the capacity of the Africana Library to maintain a comprehensive collection of periodicals in its areas of coverage. It will therefore limit itself to a comparatively small number of titles which are either of fundamental importance or are not being received by any other Cornell library. Most of these will be in English. In most cases a current subscription is maintained and in some cases limited runs. The library will not attempt to complete back runs by purchase in hard copy, but might do so in microform. Back runs in hard copy that are received as gifts might be retained as space permits. Generally only titles covered by one or more indexing service held by the Africana Library will be retained.

Monographic Series

The Africana Library subscribes to a small number of annuals and monographic series. Most of these are reference materials.


A small number of current newspapers will be collected. With few exceptions, new back issues will be kept for two years; after which time they will be selectively clipped for the Library’s ciippings file. The library will retain back files of newspapers on microform.

Reference Books

Reference books such as handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, directories, periodical indexes and abstracting services, subject and personal bibliography, and catalogs of major collections in fields the Library collects in will be acquired as needed. The Africana Library aims for self sufficiency in carrying out its mission to be a bibliographic center capable of identifying and locating resources and information pertinent to the areas it collects in.

Government Documents

The Africana Library will not acquire systematically the publications of any government or international organization. However, individual titles will be acquired as needed and appropriate.

Association Publications

Current proceedings, papers and reports of major associations or research organizations pertaining to peoples of African descent will be acquired selectively as needed and appropriate.


The Library will acquire selective dissertations to provide resource materials in collecting areas for which commercial publication is sparse, and as requested by individual faculty and graduate students.

Manuscript Collections

Manuscript collections on microform for the Civil Rights and Black Power phases of the contemporary African American social movement will be acquired by the Library as funding permits. In addition, paper copy of original primary sources of this era will be actively pursued in collaboration with the faculty of the Africana Studies and Research Center.

Science and Technology

Except for geographical and topical atlases or maps, and monographs dealing with the broader social, political and economic ramifications of science and technology, the Library will not collect in this area.

Music and Art

The Africana Library will collect minimally in these areas as such material is properly within the collecting scope of Cornell’s Fine Arts and Music libraries. Only a small collection of important monographs, reference works and periodicals will be established here.


The primary area of emphasis regarding legal materials for the Africana Library will be in the area of civil and human rights.

Foreign Language Materials

The Africana Library will collect some monographs in support of Swahili language courses offered by the Africana Studies and Research Center. However, its will normally limit its collection activities to English language titles.


To maintain the collection on the highest possible level of quality and suitability, the collection will be weeded on an ongoing basis. Criteria for withdrawing a volume are as follows:

  • its contents no longer meet the selection criteria
    availability of other and better titles on the subject in the Africana Library
  • its circulation record in the past 5 or 10 years reflects infrequent demand
  • duplicate copies of the title are available elsewhere in the University Library, or
  • the number of copies in the Africana Library exceeds perceived need.


In general, it is the policy of the Africana Library to purchase replacements for volumes discovered to be missing. Most volumes are missing because they were either stolen or properly checked out but not returned. In either case there is clear evidence of demand and these volumes should therefore be maintained in the collection. Missing books are not replaced automatically, but a decision to replace is made on a title by title basis.