The Nordic Africa Institute

About the collections

Overview of, and insights into NAI library's collections.


Books and reports. Some 80.000 titles on politics, economics, contemporary history, anthropology, literature and other social sciences.

Modern African fiction. Novels, poetry and plays mainly in English, French, Portuguese and Swedish.

Reference literature. Encyclopaedias, dictionaries, yearbooks, statistics and thematic handbooks.

Journals and newspapers. Approximately 210 current journals about Africa and development issues, and African daily newspapers.

Electronic journals and books. An extensive number of journals, newspapers and e-books.

Official documents. Official documents — governmental publications — from African states. Mainly constitutions, development plans, population censuses, as well as reports and statistics on economy, trade, health, environment, education, gender, migration and so on.

Films. A small collection of feature films and documentaries.

Pamphlet collection. A collection of uncatalogued documents, in the form of essays, articles, brochures etc., which has been systematically arranged.

Maps. A basic collection consisting of atlases, country and general maps, as well as topographic and thematic maps. More information about the map collection.

Libris External link, opens in new window.. We're a part of the national union catalogue together with many other libraries in Sweden. Libris is also used for interlibrary loans by libraries throughout the Nordic countries. External link, opens in new window.. We're included in the Danish catalogue as any other library, meaning users in Denmark can search our materials and place orders for interlibrary loans from us through the service. We then send the materials to the user's local library. External link, opens in new window.. This Icelandic search tool includes open access electronic materials we have selected for our library collection. External link, opens in new window.. Portal for simultaneous search in the collections of several African Studies libraries across Europe – and more.

Africa-Wide Information External link, opens in new window.. Subscription database on a broad range of aspects of Africa from the 19th century to the present.

Take action

Do you think we lack a title that should be in our collections? Let us know and we will consider acquiring it.

Tell us also if you'd like to borrow the title when it arrives.

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We do at times receive donations of materials that are then included in our collections, making them available for research.

Please contact us beforehand with questions of this kind.

More on specific parts of our collections

The Nordic Africa Institute’s map collection

The NAI map collection has been built up over a long period of time, since the institute’s inception in 1962. It grows gradually, in accordance with needs that emerge from the institute’s activities. The following is a presentation of the map collection's contents, a discussion about printed versus digital maps and, in conclusion, some tips on further reading and useful links.

The institute’s focus is unique. It is a research institute with the task of carrying out studies and inspiring researchers to concentrate on contemporary Africa. A great deal of interdisciplinary work exists within the field of the social sciences. Close cooperation between Nordic and African researchers contributes towards and stimulates vital debate within the sciences and also amongst the general public. It is, therefore, important that the Nordic Africa Institute owns and makes available a collection of maps and atlases.

The contents of the map collection

The Nordic Africa Institute library’s collection at present consists solely of printed maps. For electronic material, see the references below.

The maps are catalogued in the local library database AfricaLit, which refers to the places where the maps are stored. The keyword ‘Maps’ refers both to sheet maps and to map material in printed books.

Some atlases are stored on a shelf for folios, while others are housed with the literature on different countries.

The maps vary as far as quality and content are concerned. Age is not the only factor, which indicates a map’s quality.

Certain maps are stored flat in a cupboard, while others are folded and kept on bookshelves in boxes. Flat maps are contained in a 25-draw cupboard, where they are arranged according to geographical region, mainly by country.

Survey maps in the form of International Map of the World, with a scale of 1:1 000 000 are available for larger areas of the continent. Most of these, with some exceptions, are more that 50 years old.

Aerial maps of Africa can be found in a collection of white boxes. The scale is generally 1:500 000, although a few, which are being increased, are available with a scale of 1:1 000 000.

Some maps represent a variety of themes, agriculture, population, and more. These are understood to have a limited lifespan, although they could be of special interest for the purposes of historical research.

The collection contains road maps, some relatively new and others older.

The collection covers mainly eastern and southern Africa.

The map collection can be visited and studied during the library’s opening hours. Sheet maps as a rule are not available for loan.

Printed versus digital maps

It would be apt to consider the future, which is already partially with us, as far as the presentation of map material, printed versus digital maps, is concerned.

Modern maps are increasingly presented as computer files, which can be downloaded from the Internet through free or paid channels. On the one hand, this may reduce the need for purchasing printed maps. On the other hand, this provides an opportunity for manipulating and modifying Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to constitute a basis for advanced studies on territorial use, social relations, economic development opportunities, etc.

In many countries, however, maps may still be regarded as military secrets. Satellite pictures, which can be freely distributed, have made such views out-of-date. Google Earth ( External link, opens in new window.), for example, provides observers with large amounts of useful information. This free programme takes a few minutes to download from the Internet and provides quick information, the nature of which is of more than simple amusement value. Although this programme might seem commercial on superficial evaluation, it also provides serious information. The African maps especially are excellently complemented by the satellite views in Google Earth.

In future, a considerable number of maps will be presented digitally and in a format that can be used in digital map production. Map computer files in GIS in particular could be raw material for further cartographic work.

Reading and link tips

For those who wish to know more, there is a chapter on maps by Peter Kinlund in the book Studying Africa (the 2005 version) External link, opens in new window. published by the Nordic Africa Institute. It also mentions Internet resources. The book can be downloaded as a pdf from the publication database DiVA.

Links to maps on the Internet can be found via A Guide to Africa on the Internet.

More Internet resources can be found at the following web sites:

By Krister Lindé, 22 november 2006.
Translated by Linda Linnarsson, 11 february 2007.
Krister Lindé is a doctor of philosophy and former Senior Librarian at
Uppsala University’s Geo-library. He was in charge of the Nordic Africa Institute’s map project, 2004-2006.

Links and other details updated 22 April 2014 by Kalle Laajala.