The genesis of Birmingham Central Library’s Black History Collection was created back in the late 1990s. It was formed as a response to the call for a designated and identifiable collection of materials which could be found in one centralised location in the Central Library.

The collection’s governing principles were to reflect the multi-ethnic composition of the surrounding conurbation and to accommodate the needs of a wide range of users, ranging from those wanting to further their awareness of Black and Asian histories to those studying concepts such as racism and slavery through to readers attempting to develop their awareness of key historical figures such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi.

The mandate of the Black History Collection has been subject to several interpretations over the space of its lifetime partly as a response to the organic development of Black and Asian social awareness which has been implicit in the additions to the collection’s book stock profile over time. During its infancy, staff attempted to pull together existing texts stored throughout the Central Library which contributed to the foundations of the collection. Substantial funding was found during the course of the last decade to refresh and extend on the collection holdings and this had been a driving force behind an acquisitions policy which has attempted to promote and preserve the original collection stock by engaging in a dialogue between these and new additions to the collection.

In March 2013, a new criteria for the capture and retention of materials in the Black History Collection was created in line with the move to the Library of Birmingham. Primary attention was given to the concept of history and how this weaves its way through the contents of the collection. Therefore, the collection intends to focus in on a record and commentary of the life and development of a people associated and engaged with the various forms of Black and Asian histories.

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