The AfricaBib project was started in 1974 by Davis Bullwinkle with the gathering of bibliographic information for the Africana Periodical Literature Index. He continued this work, extending the coverage, for more than 30 years, until his retirement as director of the Institute for Economic Advancement Research Library within the Institute for Economic Advancement on the campus of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, in Little Rock, Arkansas, in March 2008, when the African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) in Leiden, The Netherlands, agreed to host the website and continue the AfricaBib service.
Davis holds undergraduate degrees in history and anthropology from California State University-Chico in Chico, California, specializing in African Studies in both. He also holds a Masters degree in Library Science from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas.
He has been a professional librarian for twenty-five years and an Africana researcher for thirty and has published Africana bibliographic periodical articles on drought in Africa, nomadism and pastoralism in Africa, as well as an article on women and their role in African society.
In 1974, he began an Africana periodical indexing project that today is the Africana Periodical Literature bibliographic database.
In 1989 Greenwood Press published his three-volume bibliographic work on women in Africa during the International Women's Decade:
- African Women; A General Bibliography, 1976-1985,
- Women of Northern, Western, and Central Africa: A Bibliography, 1976-1985, and
- Women of Eastern and Southern Africa: A Bibliography, 1976-1985.
The African Women bibliographic database is the comprehensive continuation of that project.
No project the size of AfricaBib, taking over 30 years to bring together, can be accomplished alone. The founder, Davis Bullwinkle, worked together with many people who helped bring his project to reality.
In the words of Davis: "The first real technical problems were created when the computer age came upon us and I decided that I needed to input all the citations that I had collected for eleven years into a computer database. In 1985 I shared my ideas about building a database with a friend named Vicky Tynan and over the next year or so Vicky wrote the first bibliographic software program for my computer. At the time there were few if any programs that could handle a project as large as this. Vicky's son Dillon, a computer wiz in his own right, followed up as my computer guru and was indispensible in helping me solve all of my computer problems on my first computer over the next few years. Both of these individuals gave freely of their time and never charged me a dime. While it was a learning experience for them, it was a priceless relationship for one who knew nothing of computer technology in 1985. For their help I will be forever grateful."
Davis continues: "Until 1993, the Tynan bibliographic database was used, but my computer and new technology forced me to adopt a new software program and it was with the help of a colleague named Vaughan Wingfield that I was able to convert what was now two databases from a PC environment to a Macintosh environment. The exporting and rebuilding took Vaughan almost six weeks."
From that time Microsoft's Foxpro was used as the database software. While initially the bibliographic databases were being used to produce either a book or a CD-ROM product, with the creation of the Internet, the possibility of disseminating the information around the world, 24 hours a day, became the goal. For that to become reality, Davis had to solve many new problems. With the help of computer consultant John Swillum and web page designer Kim Morton, he was able to put the databases on the Internet. The Africa map was created in the GIS lab of the State Data Center, at the Institute for Economic Advancement, University of Arkansas-Little Rock, together with Tal Dodson and Jack Jackson. The website was housed on an NT server within the Institute for Economic Advancement.
"For her dedicated work on this project" Davis expressed thanks to his wife, Judy, a fellow librarian. "Yearly she has accompanied me to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and worked alongside me collecting information. It is a long and tedious period and her help has made that process easier and quicker". And for their help and for allowing him to use their collections, a final word of thanks to the staff and librarians at Northwestern University, the Library of Congress, University of Texas-Austin, University of Kansas, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of California-Berkeley, Stanford University, California State University-Chico, Boston College, and the University of Memphis.