Library user? Win a £20 Heffers voucher!

If you are a user of the African Studies Library, please consider taking less than 3 minutes of your time to complete our summer survey.

We are always happy to hear comments and suggestions (good or bad!) from our users that can help us improve our services and collections.

The survey will close on Wednesday 20th June.

Complete the survey by clicking on the link, or the image below: 

It’s feedback time!


If you leave your Cambridge University email address at the end of the survey you will be in with a chance of winning a £20 Heffers voucher!

A winner will be picked at random on Wednesday 20th June

We look forward to receiving your feedback!

The results are in!




The summer survey has drawn to a close, and we are incredibly happy with the constructive feedback that we have received.

I will be analysing the results shortly, and a further post will be created addressing the issues that our users have raised.

A huge thanks to all of you who took part, your opinions and ideas are invaluable!


The Adventure Doesn’t Stop Now.

I have been volunteering in the Centre of African Studies Library since November 2016. Today, this incredible experience comes to an end and I wanted to share with you what it felt like to be part of this great journey.

When I first started, last November, everything seemed brilliant. Today, I still have the same feeling and, while I am trying to do my retrospection, I am looking all around me, trying to remember all the details that have kept me happy for months. It can be a chair scraping the floor, the sound of a keyboard, or a book being moved. It’s raining and we can hear the wind – and I will miss all of that. I was happy to volunteer a few hours every week ; it was not a lot, it was not a huge amount of time, but it felt like home every time I went into the Library, and it will still feel like home even after I leave.

During these few months, I met Dr. Audrey Richards whilst I went through her pamphlet donations, and her own research papers. I met her a second time when Dr. Ray Abrahams came to talk about her, as a friend. And this experience was revealing about what you can learn, the two very different ways to get to know someone ; with her written works, I felt close to the professional, the anthropologist who will never be forgotten. By talking with Dr. Abrahams, I felt I was discovering the human being behind these interesting thoughts.

I am currently working on documents about race relations in South Africa, and I had to organise the documents into different boxes by subject area to find my way back to some kind of understanding. In this case, I found out a lot about politics, struggling people fighting for their rights, and social balance.  The feeling you get when you deal with political statements and documents such as these is powerful ; you know that these documents went through other hands. Fighting hands, revolutionary hands, and idealist hands. Sadly, I will not be able to finish my work – but I hope these feelings will be shared by the one who will complete this collection.

Even if leaving the Centre of African Studies Library makes me deeply melancholic, I am raring to start my Internship in Schlumberger Center of Research, because I am sure to earn useful skills that will lead me where I want, and need, to be.

I am so grateful for everything I know, everything I’ve learnt and discovered, and for the brilliant people I had the pleasure to meet. I am lucky to have been guided by someone exceptional, who gave me the taste of a profession and who, in many ways and with a fine honesty, made me stronger and ready to build my career path. Also, I believe that volunteering has been the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had : so go outside, give a helping hand because you might discover many attributes about yourself you didn’t even know were there in the first place.

This experience is over, but the adventure doesn’t stop now.

What about you ?

Ophélia Labardacq

Ophelia B&W july 2017

African Studies Library user? Give us your feedback!

It has been an absolute pleasure working with you this year, and to those of you not leaving us just yet, I look forward to seeing you over the break, or indeed in October.

Here at the African Studies Library, we are constantly looking at ways to improve our service, facilities, and collections.  This can mean in the Library, or via online services such as our LibGuide, website, blog or Twitter feed.

If you would like the chance to win a £20 Amazon gift voucher, please click the link below and give us your honest feedback!  The winner will be announced on 28th July:

Goodbye & good luck!

Main desk 3

Super-Impressive! My first Cambridge Libraries Conference

This is an extremely belated account of the fantastic day I had at the Cambridge Libraries 2017 Conference, the theme of which was “Are you a Library Superhero?”. As a newcomer to the world of library work and information science, this was an excellent opportunity to learn more about a field in which I plan to forge a career in.



With all of the nervous excitement of a newbie, I met with Jenni, Victoria and David from CfAS in the crowded meeting hall (and availed myself of some of the freebies on display) before settling down for a worthy introduction to the conference and the first keynote address, presented by Dr. Jeremy Knox. This was an interesting and informative presentation into emerging digital technologies and the challenges and opportunities they might present in higher education (and the provision thereof). Concepts of “openness” and automation were explored via the advantages and pitfalls of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and “teacherbots”, and the session culminated in an amusing Q & A when somebody respectfully pointed out that the nature of Dr. Knox’ topic meant that he didn’t really need to have physically attended the conference!

My first chosen parallel session was the “Tracker Project”, a very lively presentation given by members of the FutureLib Innovation Programme. This was definitely one of my favourite presentations, partly for a very entertaining delivery but also because this provided me with my first moment of clarity into the sheer breadth of things library staff have to consider when delivering their services to students, and was a fascinating insight into the search behaviours of students, and their perception of class marks, library layouts and also of their own confidence in their ability to navigate the library successfully. The simple but always brilliant solutions proposed to assist students in their navigation also provided food for thought.

My second parallel session was presented by Bridget Warrington, the Managing Conservator of the Cambridge Colleges’ Conservation Consortium. I had signed up for this session as I wanted to learn more about this area; the specialised and scientific approaches to conservation and preservation were most impressive, ranging from environmental monitoring to conservation and storage assessment surveys, not to mention the fascinating work of the repairs of the items themselves.

Bridget presented some standout projects they had handled, including the blindfold and an eye-glass that had belonged to Terry Waite during his captivity in Beirut, but the highlight for me as a biologist was the letters from Charles Darwin, complete with minute and beautifully drawn sketches of insects scattered around the text- was there anything that man couldn’t do?

The final keynote speech was delivered by Emma Coonan, who will almost certainly need no introduction to anybody likely to be reading this. What to say, at this late stage of writing that has not already been said? Judging by the enthusiastically positive reactions of seasoned conference attendees, future keynote speakers will have a lot to live up to- or perhaps they could just get Emma to speak every year…

The day closed with several lightning speeches. In some respects this was the most interesting part of the day for me, and not just because I was due to get onstage! Presented by Jenni Skinner, Victoria and I spoke a little about our volunteering at the African Studies library, a rather nervous two minutes for yours truly!


Not nervous at all, honest! Source: 

The other lightning talks gave a swift but broad outline of the realities of modern library life. We saw how some people end up- through accident or design- specialising in particular areas, such as Moodle; or the sterling efforts of library staff to continue to provide quality service under a range of difficult conditions- and in the case of the Medical Library’s “Vanishing training room” to innovate their methods and actually increase their output. The sheer scale of skills required by some library staff was memorably summed up by the following slide:



The real value for me of these talks and others was the insight they gave into working in library environments- the challenges, the setbacks, the rewards and the great humour and intelligence of staff from all of these different libraries. It was also, as a newcomer to the field, reassuring to hear that so many people did not necessarily consider themselves experts in their respective fields, and that they were very often teaching themselves entirely new concepts and practices in order to provide the best possible services; and to hear that people I would consider to be settled and confident in their roles, often have moments of self-doubt and reflection- I heard the words “imposter syndrome” more than once- perhaps the spirit of earlier presentations about success and failure facilitated such honest, enjoyable and encouraging discussions.

On every level, this conference was a fantastic introduction to Cambridge Libraries and the amazing people within them; I hope to attend next year with more knowledge and experience under my belt. Well done everybody!

John Hennessy – volunteer at African Studies Library, part-time library assistant at SPS Library