The JBH Research and Reference Division holds and provides access to books, serials and microforms containing information by and about people of African descent throughout the world, concentrating on the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. Geographically, the collection emphasizes the Americas, the Caribbean and, Sub- Saharan Africa.
The division acquires monographs and serials (newspapers, newsletters, periodicals) and microforms. English is the predominate language of the division's holdings supplemented by works in French, Portuguese, Spanish, German and other European languages including Russian. The division has works in over two hundred indigenous African languages and creole languages and dialects. Works in non-Roman scripts are not acquired except for Ethiopian language materials (Amharic and Ge'ez), bilingual texts, dictionaries and translations of African American literary classics in Asian languages such as Japanese and Chinese.
Geographically, the Schomburg Center acquires materials from areas with substantial populations of African origin including the African continent and surrounding islands and regions of the African diaspora. The diasporan emphasis is on the Western Hemisphere including the Caribbean, South America (notably Brazil), Central America, and North America. Resources are also collected on the major cities of Europe where large groups of immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa reside.
The division's holdings cover disciplines within the arts, humanities and social sciences as well as the presence and role of people of African descent in the natural and pure sciences. Works on the history of Harlem and Blacks in New York and the Northeast region are particularly strong.