In the 1980s and 1990s, university library budgets in Africa had been slashed, resulting in poorly stocked libraries, decaying infrastructure and the relationship between libraries and the service users largely broken.
In order to support their renewal and regeneration, work began to create the African Association of Universities' Ad Hoc Committee on Libraries and to strengthen the capacity of the two major professional associations in Africa—the Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Libraries (SCANUL-ECS) and the Standing Conference of African University Librarians Western Area (SCAULWA).
Work included: financial support and technical guidance; collection of research data; publication of reports, conference proceedings and newsletters; development and implementation of strategies, policies and action plans; knowledge exchange and networking via attendance at conferences and workshops; and writing and sharing of training materials.
- SCANUL-ECS meetings brought together university librarians from Eastern, Central and Southern Africa to share experience and expertise around sustainable funding, development of business plans, income generation, resource sharing and cooperation, and professional development.
- AAU Ad Hoc Committee on Libraries held conferences in 1999 and 2001 bringing together vice-chancellors, academicians and university librarians to develop work plans, and discuss topics such as resource sharing and the African University in the 21st century.
- Standing Conference of African University Libraries Western Area (SCAULWA) meetings brought together librarians to develop work plans and discuss university libraries in the 21st century, networking for resource sharing, library consortia, negotiating with publishers, advocacy for the development of ICTs, and training techniques.
- Research and publications shared learning from libraries in Africa around:
- Income generation: experiences from eight university libraries in Southern, Central and Eastern Africa
- Library funding: adequate financial support for African university libraries
- Directory of ICT in University Libraries in West Africa
- Directory of University Libraries and Librarians in West Africa
- Consortia: a feasibility study of their establishment within the university library sectors in Nigeria and Senegal
- User information literacy: case studies from university library programmes in the SCANUL-ECS region
- Consortium development: conference themes and commissioned research supported the libraries to understand: the rationale behind the formation of library consortia; types of consortia; the activities of existing and functioning consortia; management of existing consortia; policies, plans and areas of cooperation or agreements; consortia activities such areas as training, software acquisition; functions and challenges in service provision; opportunities for forming a consortium of consortia.