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History of Indiana University’s Somali Collection

The Indiana University Libraries have a major collection of materials on Somalia and in the Somali language. This collection has been developed over the years as part of the African Studies Collection, which ranks among the top tier of such collections in the United States; and it was enhanced by a substantial gift of materials from the personal library of Bogumil Andrzejewski, materials deposited by the Somali Studies International Association since 1980, and materials acquired with support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant.

Since the early 1990s, made urgent by the political crisis in Somalia which resulted in the destruction of materials in the country’s major libraries, Indiana University has made an effort to preserve a significant part of its Somali collection, especially materials in the Somali language, so that this aspect of Somalia’s cultural heritage can be preserved and made available to Somalia, once more peaceful conditions permit the rebuilding of library collections. Preservation efforts have included the microfilming of books and serials, the digital scanning of posters and some print materials, and the acquisition of Somali serials held on microfilm by other libraries in the U.S.A. Another outcome of these preservation efforts was the development of a finding aid which provided an easy overview of IU’s Somali materials. In the mid-1990s, these preservation activities were supported primarily by a U.S. Department of Education Title IIC Grant, as well as through CAMP (Cooperative Africana Microform Project) microfilm projects.

In 2004, another grant from the U.S. Department of Education Title VI Program allowed us to digitize 146 books which had been microfilmed for preservation under the earlier grant. These books form the core of the Digital Somali Library (2006) which has been launched in 2006. In addition to the books, the DSL includes an up-dated version of the earlier finding aid, now in electronic format and keyword-searchable, as well as an image database of Somali posters and other websites of interest. Plans to digitize other Somali materials from the collection are under-way.