Violette Flower

Written by Violette Flower

Modified & Updated: 02 Jun 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


The National Library of South Africa is an iconic institution that holds a significant place in the country’s literary and cultural landscape. With its rich collection of books, manuscripts, and historical documents, it serves as a valuable resource for researchers, scholars, and avid readers alike. This historic institution, founded in 1818, has grown to become the largest library in Africa.

However, there is more to the National Library of South Africa than meets the eye. In this article, we will delve into 10 fascinating facts that highlight the importance and uniqueness of this remarkable establishment. From its architectural marvels to its rare and valuable collections, prepare to be amazed by the wonders that await within these hallowed halls.

Key Takeaways:

  • The National Library of South Africa is a treasure trove of knowledge, with over nine million items including rare books and Africana materials. It offers digital resources and hosts cultural events, making it a vibrant hub for learning and exploration.
  • The library serves as a guardian of South Africa’s cultural heritage, providing specialized services for visually impaired individuals and preserving the country’s published materials. It continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of society, ensuring accessibility for all.
Table of Contents

The National Library of South Africa houses over nine million items.

The National Library of South Africa is a treasure trove of knowledge and information, boasting an impressive collection of over nine million books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other materials. It is the largest library in South Africa and serves as a repository for the nation’s cultural and intellectual heritage.

The library has a remarkable collection of rare and valuable books.

Among its vast collection, the National Library of South Africa houses numerous rare and valuable books. From ancient manuscripts to first editions of famous literary works, this library is a haven for bibliophiles and researchers alike. It provides a glimpse into the rich literary history of South Africa and beyond.

The library offers a wide range of services to the public.

The National Library of South Africa is not just a place for book enthusiasts. It offers a variety of services to the public, including access to online databases, research assistance, exhibitions, and educational programs. Visitors can explore the library’s digital resources or engage in workshops and lectures to enhance their knowledge and skills.

It serves as a legal deposit library.

The National Library of South Africa plays a crucial role in preserving the country’s published materials. As a legal deposit library, it has the right to receive a copy of every published work in South Africa. This ensures that important documents and publications are preserved for future generations.

The library houses a vast collection of Africana materials.

One of the distinctive features of the National Library of South Africa is its extensive Africana collection. It includes books, manuscripts, photographs, and recordings that focus on African history, culture, and literature. This collection is a valuable resource for researchers and individuals interested in exploring Africa’s rich heritage.

The library has a dedicated preservation department.

Preserving and safeguarding the library’s valuable collection is of utmost importance. The National Library of South Africa has a dedicated preservation department that employs various techniques and technologies to ensure the long-term preservation of materials. This includes digitization initiatives, conservation treatments, and climate-controlled storage facilities.

The library is home to the largest collection of South African newspapers.

If you want to delve into South Africa’s newspaper history, the National Library is the place to go. It houses the largest collection of South African newspapers, covering a wide range of topics and time periods. Researchers and historians can explore these newspapers to gain insights into the country’s social, political, and cultural developments.

It offers a range of digital resources and online exhibits.

The National Library of South Africa recognizes the importance of embracing the digital age. It provides access to online resources, including e-books, digital archives, and online exhibitions. This allows users to access valuable materials from anywhere in the world, expanding the reach and impact of the library’s collections.

The library hosts regular cultural events and exhibitions.

As a vibrant cultural hub, the National Library of South Africa hosts a wide array of events and exhibitions throughout the year. These events celebrate South Africa’s cultural diversity and showcase its artistic talents. From author talks to art exhibitions, there is always something exciting happening at the library.

The library offers specialized services for visually impaired individuals.

The National Library of South Africa is committed to providing access to information for all. It offers specialized services and resources for visually impaired individuals, including braille books, audio recordings, and adaptive technology. This ensures that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can benefit from the library’s rich collection.


In conclusion, the National Library of South Africa is a treasure trove of knowledge and history. With its vast collection of books, documents, and archives, it serves as a hub for researchers, academics, and book lovers alike. Not only does it house valuable literary works, but it also offers various services that cater to the needs of the public, such as exhibitions, online resources, and educational programs.Whether you’re a history buff, a literature enthusiast, or simply curious about the rich cultural heritage of South Africa, a visit to the National Library is a must. With its impressive collection, state-of-the-art facilities, and dedicated staff, it stands as a symbol of the country’s commitment to preserving its past and inspiring future generations.So, the next time you’re in South Africa, make sure to make a stop at the National Library and immerse yourself in the fascinating world of books and knowledge.


1. What is the National Library of South Africa’s mission?

The mission of the National Library of South Africa is to collect, preserve, and promote access to the nation’s documentary heritage, ensuring that it is preserved for current and future generations.

2. How old is the National Library of South Africa?

The National Library of South Africa was established in 1887, making it one of the oldest libraries in the country.

3. Can anyone visit the National Library?

Yes, the National Library is open to the public. However, there are certain restrictions and regulations in place, especially when accessing rare and valuable materials.

4. What kind of materials can be found at the National Library?

The National Library houses a wide range of materials, including books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, newspapers, and audiovisual materials, covering various subjects and languages.

5. Can I borrow books from the National Library?

No, the National Library does not offer lending services to individuals. However, it allows on-site access to its collections and provides various resources and services to assist researchers and scholars.

After exploring fascinating facts about South Africa's National Library, why not embark on a journey to discover more? Uncover intriguing details about South Africa, from its diverse culture to stunning landscapes. Delve into astonishing facts surrounding Australia's National Library, a treasure trove of knowledge. Finally, explore the captivating world of Tibet's Library of Works and Archives, where ancient wisdom awaits.

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