Library Building

Construction of Library Building

The Institute of Ethiopian Studies Library, which is Addis Ababa Universitys principal research library, as well as the world’s premier centre of information and documentation relating to Ethiopia, is in dire need of more space and facilities. The nucleus of the present Library collection was established as early as 1951, and today constitutes the largest and most comprehensive collection on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa in the world. The collection has been built up by the dedicated and energetic support of the University Administration, the librarians, and many well-wishers, scholars and others, as testified in numerous books and theses, whose authors have benefited from the Library’s resources over the last half-century.

The Library is currently housed in the historic Gannata Le’ul (Prince’s Paradise) Palace, the former residence of Emperor Haile Sellassie, who presented it to the University in 1961.

The Library collections, exclusively focusing on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa,now comprise almost 100,000 books, 1,800 M.A. and Ph.D. theses, over 9,000 senior student essays, 1,340 periodical titles, close on 3,000 Geez, Amharic and Arabic manuscripts, nearly 400 Ge’ez magico-medical scrolls, over 14,000 archival items, 290 photographic albums, 38,000 individual photographs, over 10,000 reels of microfilm, 120 boxes of microfiche, and almost 1,000 slides, beside numerous maps and other materials.

This now over-crowded Library has long outgrown the facilities of the former Palace, both in space and weight. As a result, the collection, which is priceless, though valued for insurance purposes at only US$ 5,000,000, is now threatening the building’s structure and safety,

Another problem resulting from the growth of the collections is that the original card catalogues, which were adequate for a small collection, have become increasingly inadequate. For several years there has been an urgent need to overhaul and computerise the library system. Moreover most of the materials in Ethiopian languages, as well as the photographic collection, await cataloguing.

The former Palace building also houses the internationally famous IES Ethnological Museum and Gallery of Traditional Ethiopian Art, which includes, inter alia, by far the largest collection of Ethiopian icons in existence. The Museum has been developed over forty years by the enthusiastic efforts of the University Administration, the Museum curators, and the Society of Friends of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (SOFIES). The latter continues to this day to be the principal means through which acquisitions for the collection are made.

The Museum and Art Gallery, for which the Palace building is eminently suited, is also in dire need of additional space to display and better preserve its large collection, and to accommodate further planned growth, for the benefit of scholars, members of the general public, school and university students, and tourists, who visit it from all Ethiopian regions, as well as all corners of the globe.

It has become necessary to construct a fully computerised new Library building to house the entire IES Library and its ancillary services. The new building will be adjacent to the old Palace and architecturally in sympathy with it. The style of the former Palace will thus be reflected in the new building, and the ambience of the setting and the landscape will be preserved. A small bridge, needed for reasons of security as well as convenience during the heavy rainy season, will join the old building to the new, the interior of which will be designed to conform to the latest standards of modern library design.

The present space in the Palace building occupied by the Library will then be allocated to the Museum, a purpose for which, as all observers testify, it is ideally suited.

It is intended that the new building should accommodate the expected growth in library stock, staff and readership for up to a further thirty-five to forty years, during which period the University is expected to undergo considerable expansion, particularly in its graduate programme. The construction and equipment cost of the new Library building is expected to amount to about US$4.1 million.

Interested parties are invited to join hands with the IES, and its Society of Friends, in supporting this worthwhile project, which will be of lasting value to the country and people of Ethiopia, as well as to visiting scholars, and through computerisation, to scholarship in the world at large.

Professor Baye Yimam

(Diretor, Institute of Ethiopian Studies)

Professor Richar Pankhurst