Brief Overview of the Collection

A National Research Library

In 2011 SOAS Library was designated by HEFCE as one of only five National Research Libraries in the UK , and as such receives direct funding to support UK higher education research in Asian, African and Middle Eastern studies.


Approx. 1.3 million printed volumes with the majority of the collections available on open shelves for SOAS students, staff and visitors to consult. Some lesser-used stock is stored off-site and is retrievable on request.

Collections include:
  • 7 regional collections (Africa; Ancient Near East, Semitics and Judaica; China and Inner Asia; Middle East, Central
  • Asia and Islamica; Japan and Korea; South Asia; and South-East Asia).
  • 2 discipline-based research collections (Arts and Multi-Media, including Archaeology; and Law).
  • An extensive non-regional Humanities and Social Sciences collection to support teaching.
  • A growing collection of electronic resources
    100+ research databases
    40,000+ electronic journals
    100,000+ ebooks
  • An extensive collection of archives, manuscripts and rare books relating to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and beyond.
  • A developing Digital Library - making the Library’s valuable works more widely available to users around the globe.


Supporting teaching and research

In its role as research library for the School and as UK National Research Library for Asian, African and Middle Eastern studies, the Library’s policy is to develop the research collections, building on existing strengths and developing new ones.

The Library continues to collect materials in the languages of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and European-language materials relating to those regions, however, increasingly collections on more global concepts such as migration and diaspora, gender, food studies, film and media, financial management, and international politics and diplomacy are being developed, to support the broadening teaching and research interests of the School.

Multiple copies of key course readings are acquired to support taught course students along with an extensive collection of e-books, e-journals and research databases .


Library collections are supported by robust access and inter-lending agreements with other research libraries.

Developing facilities & services

The 2010/11 session saw Phase One of a Library Transformation Project - a major refurbishment that resulted in a bright, welcoming and more accessible space with new language laboratories, group study rooms, an IT suite and other facilities. Further funding is sought to transform the upper floors of the Library.