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SOAS Library: What Makes It Special

Barbara Spina
with contributions from subject librarians, past and present*
April 2010

 

Summary

I.  At a time of financial uncertainty and economic downturn, this paper presents a case for the unique quality and value of SOAS Library, including its Archives and Special Collections, within the context of area studies in the UK.

II.  The paper offers a broad overview of the history and background of the Library’s collections, noting particularly language scope, support for existing research and new trends in scholarship, and commenting on the Collection Development Policy currently under review.

III.  The paper then focuses on each of the regional collections relating to Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Coverage of these does not follow a standard format but highlights themes or particular elements of significance, reflecting the diversity and individuality of the collections through both historical development and support for current teaching and research.

IV.  The two long-standing subject collections, Art & Archaeology and Law, are then considered.  Art & Archaeology material has always been collected and maintained by a specialist subject librarian, with support from colleagues for collecting publications in the languages of the regions. Law, however, while located as a discrete collection, was until very recently the responsibility of the subject librarians for the regions with reliance on the Senate House Library and that of the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) for the discipline itself.

V. – VII.  The Archives and Special Collections is a constituent part of the Library collections which provides immense added value. The paper summarises the types and content of the archival and manuscript resources of SOAS, including recent electronic developments.

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*My thanks to the following colleagues for their contributions:  Peter Colvin, Jotika Khur-Yearn, Fujiko Kobayashi, Nicholas Martland, Peter Salinger, Sue Small, Sarah Spells, Farzana Whitfield, Yoshiko Yasumura