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 History of Addis Ababa University Libraries

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 Modern higher education in Ethiopia began with the founding of University College of Addis Ababa (UCAA) in 1950. In 1961, it was later renamed Haile Selassie I- University. Its name was changed again and eventually became the Addis Ababa University in 1975.

At the same time, the UCAA Library was set up to serve the then student population of 71 and 9 faculty members at the Arat kilo campus. Since then, the library has grown to its present state where it caters to a student population of about 40,000 and more than 3,000 staff spread across the university’s several campuses.

The Addis Ababa University Libraries play an important role in supporting the university mission of excellence through teaching and research by making information resources easily, timely and efficiently accessible to all university library users. For such purpose, building strong libraries for teaching and research is necessary for any academic institution.

The Addis Ababa University Libraries through its main branch libraries provides the vital core services by facilitating and improving the teaching and learning process of Addis Ababa University. As the “heart of the university”, the Addis Ababa University Libraries dutifully supports all students to tap the strength the knowledge they already possess.

In the past, Library service have been slowed down due to financial constraints as the budget cut of time has almost halted the acquisition of new books and subscription of serials also has been discontinued since the beginning of 1988.

In the main time, student enrollment surged several folds, which made the library collection further strained, affecting the quality of the library’s services. Meanwhile, the necessary library supplies and facilities such as tables and chairs, binding supplies even fluorescent lamps for the university libraries were difficult to acquire as such items were not locally available and there was shortage of foreign currency.

Since libraries are critical for education and self-help, it is unthinkable to have a good, solid education without the service of well-organized libraries. That is why establishing a library was among the priorities when founding any educational institution. In really “libraries exist to acquire, give access to and safeguard carriers of knowledge and information in all forms and to provide instructuion and assistance in the use of collections to which their user have access” (Crawford and Gorman, 1995: 3) and to be within their reach.

When the university college of Addis Ababa was brought into being, the task of organizing the library was entrusted to professor Stainislaw Chojnacki, a polish born, Canadian citizen. Chojnacki served the college library for 13 years until he moved to organize the institute of Ethiopian studies (IES) Museum. He later on organized the institute’s library. Presently, the IES Library is the center for research on Ethiopia in the country. It has a fine collection of materials in Ethiopian and foreign languages including manuscripts, scrolls and microfilms.

In 1962, Rita Pankhurst, a Romanian by birth, British citizen and graduate of oxford University joined Addis Ababa University Libraries after serving for six years at the National library of Ethiopia. The National Library of Ethiopia was founded in 1944 and later renamed as the national Archives and Library Agency by proclamation No. 179/1999. The National Archives and library Agency, in addition to its collection of books holds one of the oldest manuscripts and microfilms of ancient publications in the country. It is also the depository of print and non-print materials in the country, as any printer or publisher is required by law to deposit 3 copies of its printed products in the Agency.

Subsequently, Pankhurst assumed her responsibility in the University Library with a budget of Birr 70,000 and collection of library materials estimated to be about 35,000 volumes of books and some 220 journals accessible to the faculty, students and researchers.

Being the first university librarian, Pankhurst recognized the university library under a central administration; she played a key role in the development and expansion of the university library. Under her leadership, Ethiopians were sent abroad to study library science. In addition, reclassification and cataloguing project were undertaken with generous from Ford Foundation and US Government. The structure of the central Library System was put in place.

The John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Located at Sidist Kilo campus and which serves as the main library was built when Pankhurst was the university Librarian. This magnificent building was financed by USAID grants to the Ethiopian Government.

The John F. Kennedy Memorial Library opened in 1970. Presently, along with its branch libraries, the main John F. Kennedy Memorial Library is the hub of the University’s teaching, learning and research activities. The University having recognized this has clearly indicated this fact un its previous and present senate Legislation. Article 140 of the AAU’s Senate Legislation of June 2007, in its general provision on the University Library system affirms that “The University consist of a central Library and such senate constitute Libraries” (2007:240)

Over the years, the University Libraries strived to meet the needs of the University’s academic community in their search for information that would enhance teaching and research. This was also reiterate by Taye (1998),

“…the Addis Ababa University Library attempted to: (1) fulfil the objectives of the university in teaching and research, (2) develop a pattern of organizational structure which links the library to the university, (3) establish financial control and departmental functions in an attempt at providing efficient services to faculty and students, (4) achieve a degree of integration between the main University Library and its branches, (5) build library resources on Ethiopia which continues to be useful for teaching and research, within the theoretical and alien nature of the curriculum initiated at Addis Ababa University during its formative years.”(1988, iv)

The organization structure of the university Library System came into being with the creation of the university itself in 1961. The main tasks of the centeral authority were to coordinate by unifying the previously scattered libraries. These different libraries came under the main University Library; the nucleolus was the University College Library of Addis Ababa. Such undertaking was authorized by the faculty council in 1965; the statue of the University Library was approved in the same year.

The present organizational structure came into existence with the spirit and understanding of such background. The overall University Library System constitutes the core activities such as to facilitate the teaching, learning and research process and overall academic activities of the University.

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The mission of Addis Ababa University Libraries is to provide relevant information resources and modern services in support of the research, teaching, and learning needs of the University community for the creation of competent and highly qualified graduates for the country.


Addis Ababa University Libraries aspire to deliver outstanding library services that exceed expectations, promote our values in a constantly evolving higher education and information landscape, and differentiate us as a unique university library system for promoting academic and research excellence.

Library values

Addis Ababa University Libraries’ mission and vision stand on the pillars of the following values:

Service: The Libraries offer an environment that supports creativity, flexibility, and collaboration. By understanding that each user requires comfortable, welcoming and secure place for study, research, work, reflection and interaction, we, at the Libraries, commit ourselves to excellence.

Knowledge: Addis Ababa University Libraries are committed to:

Encouraging the process of learning and the life of the mind;

Celebrating truth seeking through discourse and investigation;

Anticipating and contributing to scholarly inquiry;

Promoting the Library both as a real and virtual extended classroom;

Embracing our role as collectors and custodians of the intellectual record.

Integrity: The Libraries:

Relate to each other with honesty and candor;

Adhere to the principles of fairness, justice and equality in their work;

Promote the highest standards of profession, including open and equitable access to information;

Demonstrate a strong work ethic, taking responsibility for their actions, keeping their word, and following through on their commitments.

Respect: The Libraries:

Treat everyone with equal consideration and courtesy;

Encourage differences in perspective, opinions and ideas;

Consider the needs of others;

Provide an environment that is inclusive and diverse.

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