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SOAS Library

Brief Overview of the Collection

The Library’s collections have been regarded as the leading national library for Asian and African studies since the publication of the Hayter report in 1961 and additional funding is received from HEFCE to fund directly the specialist collecting and staff which has resulted in a collection beyond the usual capacity for an institution of the size of SOAS. The Library is unique in bringing together extensive regional Asian, Middle Eastern and African research collections in one building and almost entirely on open access. The collections have been primarily arranged according to their area studies focus. The stock is organised within seven regional collections (Africa, Ancient Near East, Semitics and Judaica; China and Inner Asia, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia and Tibet; Islamic Near and Middle East; Japan and Korea; South Asia; and Southeast Asia, including the Pacific Islands). There are also separate areas for Art and Archaeology, Law and general non-regional and inter-disciplinary material. The Library continues to be at the heart of the research community within SOAS, attracting scholars from all over the world.

The Library continues to collect heavily in the languages of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and European language research materials pertaining to Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Library is increasingly developing the collections on more global concepts such as migration and diaspora studies, gender studies, race and ethnic relations, film and media studies, comparative religion, development studies, terrorism and counter-terrorism and international politics and diplomacy.

The printed collections now number approximately 1.2 million volumes of which over 1 million items are on the online catalogue. On average, 10-15,000 items are added annually and SOAS complements this growth with robust access and interlending agreements with other research libraries. Currently the Library subscribes to over 3,000 print periodicals and electronic resources provision is growing rapidly with both subscriptions to electronic periodicals and databases.

There is a growing collection of material on cross-regional and inter-disciplinary subjects supporting the broadening teaching and research interests of the School. The Library has also been developing selectively its theoretical, general and non-regional collections to a greater degree than in the past. In order to assist students develop core skills (including writing, reading, research and presentation skills as well as library and information skills) the Library acquires material supporting these skills, including works on essay and thesis writing and study techniques.

As the research library for the School and as a UK National Research Library for studies in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the Library’s policy is to develop the research collections, building on existing strengths. It pays particular attention to those areas for which it has special responsibilities under cooperative arrangements, but remains alert to changes in area studies in UK higher education and how that impacts on library provision nationally.