SCOLMA AGM, June 2022 – Chair’s Report

29 June 2022

Chair’s Report

During the past year SCOLMA has continued to operate online, making great use of Zoom and Teams for committee meetings, seminars and now for our AGM for the third year in a row. We had hoped to meet in person today for the AGM and for the 2022 conference which was being planned as a hybrid event from SOAS. Unfortunately there was little response to our Call for Papers and the decision was taken to postpone until 2023 when we hope that travel restrictions will have eased in more parts of the world. We think that the theme, ‘Africa and the Environment: Documenting and Archiving a Changing Climate’, is a topical and important one which should elicit more papers. The committee will be considering how to encourage more participation in 2023 and we look forward to meeting in person then.

2021 conference
SCOLMA’s 2021 conference took place online on 14 June, having been postponed from 2020. The theme was ‘Publishing, Collecting and Accessing African-language Materials’ and speakers in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, the Netherlands, the US and the UK presented papers.

The keynote speaker was Munyao Kilolo of the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation and Jalada Africa who described projects supporting original writing and translation into African languages and the question of how to reach speakers of these languages. Other speakers addressed the acquisition of Somali language books, African language material in the British Library and SOAS collections, the success of a Yoruba newspaper first published in 1996, the Bible Society Collection which contains 1000 translations of the Bible into African languages and the archive of a comic book artist who used the urban language of Kinshasa.

The conference was SCOLMA’s first to be held entirely online and we were indebted to Jenni Skinner and Charles Fonge for their expertise in producing it on MS Teams Live. It enabled speakers to participate from outside the UK, attracted a widespread audience and gave committee members the opportunity to learn new skills.

African Research and Documentation/Africa Bibliography, Research and Documentation
Following the agreement at the General Meeting in April 2021 to merge African Research and Documentation with Africa Bibliography a great deal of work has gone into realising the merger and we are on course to publish the first issue of the new journal, Africa Bibliography, Research and Documentation, later this year. The new editorial committee, with strong SCOLMA representation, has met regularly and the first issue will contain a number of papers from the 2021 SCOLMA conference on African language publishing and collecting. The entire back run of ARD from 1973 has been digitised and will be available on the ABRD website with free access to SCOLMA members. I would like to thank the editorial committee and colleagues at Cambridge University Press, and particularly Stephanie Kitchen of the IAI and our editor Terry Barringer for all their work in getting the new journal underway. We plan to hold a launch event in the autumn and will send out information about that in due course.

Our hard-working editor, Terry Barringer, has also been occupied with the final issues of ARD as numbers 139 and 140 have been published in the last year. We record our thanks to our printers, Simmons Printers in Chelmsford, who have printed ARD since issue 126 in 2014 and have always provided an excellent service.

Committee meetings and seminars
SCOLMA has held two committee meetings on Zoom since the last AGM, on 8 November 2021 and on 1 March 2022. On 1 March our Programme Secretary Dan Gilfoyle organised an online seminar with Vincent Hiribarren speaking from the Institut Français de Recheche en Afrique (Nigeria) about the IFRA-Nigeria project to digitise the Naija Archives. The seminar was most informative and there was good attendance as there has been for today’s seminar on the aftermath of the Jagger Library fire. I am grateful to our two speakers and to Marion Wallace for the organisation and for chairing today’s seminar.

Web Site and Communications
Our web manager, Jenni Skinner, has been reviewing the content and layout of our website and we are most grateful for her technical expertise and the assistance provided by Charles Fonge with the website and the organisation of our online events. We continue to tweet regularly and now have 643 followers on Twitter (@Scolma), a slight increase on a year ago. We encourage anyone interested in SCOLMA’s activities to subscribe to our Jisc mailing list, LIS-SCOLMA, where we publicise news and events.

European Librarians in African Studies (ELIAS)
We continue to maintain our links with European colleagues through ELIAS. The 15th ELIAS Annual Meeting took place at Sciences Po Bordeaux on 24th June 2022. The event was hybrid and Dawn Wright attended via Zoom. The event was recorded and the session will be uploaded to the ELIAS website – eliasnet [licensed for non-commercial use only] / FrontPage ( At the Business Meeting the current members of the Working Group were re-elected for a further year. A series of logos for ELIAS had been created and participants voted on the version they preferred which will be used on the website. The next meeting will coincide with the ECAS Conference to be held in Cologne, 31 May – 3 June 2023.

African Studies Association (UK)
I attended the ASAUK Council meetings in September, December and May and the AGM in October to represent SCOLMA and we are very grateful for the input of Stephanie Kitchen as ASAUK representative at our committee meetings. In the last year Stephanie and I have been involved in proposing the establishment of an ASAUK Library and Archives award, for which research libraries and archives in Africa will be able to apply to fund sustainable projects which can be difficult to finance.

The SCOLMA committee has continued to work as a strong team during difficult times and I would like to thank all members for their commitment and support. I would particularly like to thank Pat Hewitt, our efficient Treasurer, for managing the changes necessitated by the journal merger and our move to individual membership only, and Sarah Rhodes for her hard work as Secretary.

We have been sorry to lose Ivana Frlan as an observer at our meetings and hope to find another representative from the University of Birmingham library and archives.

We are also sorry to say farewell to Dan Gilfoyle, The National Archives’ representative on the committee for many years and in recent times our Programme Secretary. We thank him for all his work and wish him well for retirement. We are very pleased that Liz Haines will join from TNA and I am most grateful to Marion Wallace for offering to succeed Dan as Programme Secretary.

Lucy McCann, Chair

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