Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA) - An institute dedicated to preserving memory and promoting historical knowledge in Africa and its adjacent islands

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What Is Happening At JHIA?

In the last twelve months, JHIA has received three major shipments of books—two from Oxford, UK, and one from Rome, Italy. Significant collections have also been obtained locally around Nairobi and across the border in Tanzania. When these books reach our premises, we first keep them in our storeroom, from where we access them for cataloguing.

booksinjhistoreroomBooks inside JHIA storeroom

It takes quite a process before the books are readied for consumption by avid readers. From the store, where they have been piled without much order, they are taken few by few and grouped into three major categories: those with CIP (Cataloguing In Publishing) number, those with the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and those with neither the CIP nor the ISBN.

The cataloguing process begins with the books with the CIP numbers. The numbers used for generating spine labels for the books; for example, BR 235.G75 1930. This number is stuck on the spine of the book as its identification mark. The information on the spine of the book is then entered in an accession register, which includes details such as an accession number, title, author, place and year of publication, publisher and edition, among others.

jeanfleuryszezikacatloguingbookJean Fleurys Zezika SJ, a Jesuit student, cataloguing books at JHIA

This information is then transferred to JHIA's online database. The accession number is used to generate a barcode, which is printed and stuck on the title page of the book. One using a barcode reader can thus retrieve all the information about the book without going back to the database or searching for the details in the book itself. The book is also stamped with the accession number and the official stamp of the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa for purposes of ownership and identification.

Books that have undergone this process are then grouped according to their classification; for example, those with BR 235.... on the spine are arranged together on the shelves in alphabetical order.

However, very few books contain the CIP numbers. Those which have only the ISBN undergo another process before they are put on the shelves. Thanks to the databases of various institutions that have completed this process before us, their CIP number can easily be obtained online using the ISBN. Once this has been done, the registration process flows as already explained.

The more difficult case is that of books which have neither the CIP number nor the ISBN. In our case, such books a quite many, since JHIA deliberately targets old publications on Africa for its special collection. Such old books were published before CIP number and ISBN had been devised. By using details such as author, title and subject, sometimes help is obtainable from the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC). In other times all the information has to be generated manually by JHIA staff.

philipopiyojhiaPhilip Opiyo, a JHIA staff, arranging books in JHIA Library

The cataloguing process is rigorous, but, once done, it makes it easy for anyone to search JHIA's online database and for the staff to retrieve books from the selves. JHIA's catalog is available online.

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