UCT Library

UCT Library

UCT Library,
The University of Cape Town (into which is incorporated the South African College) celebrated 175 years of its existence in 2004. The University Libraries, whose collections constitute a rich storehouse of information and research resources, celebrate their centenary in 2005 … 1905 being the year in which the S.A. College set about establishing an organised library on its premises in Orange Street, Cape Town.
The seed for the Libraries was first planted in 1829 when the founders of the South African College expressed their determination to establish a library for the use of students and begged the public to donate books and money to this end. In succeeding years the citizens of Cape Town were generous, and none more so than the brilliant practising attorney and later professor of law, Caspar Hendrik van Zyl, who made his extensive library of legal texts available to the law students he taught. Equally generous was Sir George Grey, who, on vacating the governorship of the Cape, presented the College with an outstanding collection of classical works. Books, purchased and donated, were scattered wide in the College’s teaching departments and in the student residence, College House, and were therefore not always available for those who needed to consult them. Professors and students alike clamoured for the establishment of a College library. What was needed was not only a physical home for the books, but also their systematic arrangement.
Professor W. S. Logeman of the Department of Modern Languages planted the sapling of the title of this brief history. In 1905 Professor Logeman was appointed Honorary Librarian, a post which he retained until 1920. He took steps to bring all the books accumulated in College departments together into one place … initially the old Zoology Lecture Room … where he arranged them systematically and catalogued them. Carefully nurtured by a dedicated altruist, the library began to grow and flourish, despite the rigours of the post-South African War economic depression in the Cape Colony.
Thanks to the generosity of Capetonians and the foresight of the Royal Society of South Africa (formerly the South African Philosophical Society), which chose to have its sets of scientific journals housed in the College, the growth was dramatic. When the library received its first regular source of income, thanks to a gift from R.S. Stuttaford, it became possible to appoint a full-time salaried library assistant (Mr S. Harvey).
In 1911 the Library’s growing collection was given a home of its own. In that year, funded by the bequest of Dr W. Hiddingh, the gracefully imposing Hiddingh Hall was built and its ground floor became the home of the College Library. Now, 94 years later, Hiddingh Hall Library is one of UCT Libraries’ branch libraries, housing the art and drama collections.
One only has to read through the College Librarian’s reports to the Registrar to realise that many of the problems faced then remain the same today. These include the need for more seating space for students and shelving space for bookstock, the difficulties of getting issued items returned, and the tendency of students to use the Library as a social venue. In his report of 1914, Professor Logeman noted the need to separate “special books and records” from the general stock. Thus was conceived the idea of what was to become UCT Libraries’ current Special Collections Information Services Division.
In 1916 the South African College was to embark on a major transformation. Following Cecil John Rhodes death in 1902, his former associates, Wernher and Beit, provided 500,000 for the creation of a university for the whole of South Africa, on condition that it would be residential in character, open to English- and Afrikaans-speakers alike, and be launched by 1916 at the latest. Considerable obstacles intervened, but finally, following negotiations with the colleges in the other provinces, the University of Cape Town (in which is incorporated the South African College) came into being. The University of Cape Town Act (which came into force in 1918) was passed by the Union Parliament in 1916.A site for the new university was selected on the Groote Schuur Estate and the university buildings were planned by architect J.M. Solomon, protégé of the great Sir Herbert Baker. The library, now the University Library, continued to develop in every sense.
In 1918 an additional staff member – a library attendant – was appointed. In 1920 Professor Logeman retired from his honorary position, his place being taken by our first full-time University Librarian, the Rev. G.F. Parker. In the same year the University Council introduced an annual grant to the Library of 300, which was increased to 1,360 in 1925.
The library was also the recipient of many gifts and bequests from the mercantile princes and other dignitaries of Cape Town. A new issue system was introduced, replacing the original double entry ledger system. The stock was catalogued according to the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules and classified according to the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme, with a shelf mark being written on the spines of books, making retrieval infinitely easier. The systematic binding of library materials was also introduced.
The young tree was beginning to develop branches. Medical books had long, and rather unsatisfactorily, been housed in premises in Orange Street, but with the erection of the Wernher and Beit Laboratories in Observatory and the establishment of what is now the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Library’s collection of medical books and journals were able to be moved, in 1928, into three rooms on the top floor of the Pathology Block. Mr Harvey was put in charge of this facility, and when he retired in 1931, his place was filled in a part-time capacity by Gertrude Elliott (later Glickman), who was ultimately to serve as Medical Librarian until 1970 … an example of professionalism and devotion to duty for all who knew her.
The Groote Schuur campus was also growing, and as soon as residences and some buildings were completed it was deemed necessary to have some of the Library’s books moved from Hiddingh Hall to the new campus. The Senate Room in the new Arts Block became the home for the bulk of the general library stock, the balance remaining in the Hiddingh Hall Library.
In the early 1930s the imposing Jameson Memorial Hall, (still fondly known to the UCT community as “Jammie”) was built in the centre of the Groote Schuur campus, its construction being partially funded by public donation. The J.W. Jagger Library Building was built to the south of it, and the books stored in the Arts Block were moved across to a new permanent home which became the nucleus of the University of Cape Town Libraries. In its name the J.W. Jagger Library honoured one if the University’s earliest benefactors, a former Minister of Railways, member and sometime chairperson of the University Council, who over the course of 30 years had donated over 100,000 to the University, most of it going to the Library
The Library’s growth accelerated during the 1930s as further donations flooded in. Periodical literature was increasingly in demand by academic staff and students, especially in the science, engineering, and medical departments. This inevitably led to an increasing need for more funds as the expense of keeping pace with periodical literature easily outstripped the cost of monographs. Space for users had also to be provided and seminar rooms for modern, classical, and African languages were established in the J.W.Jagger Library for staff and senior students, providing an ideal working and research environment for these users.
An embryonic reserved book section was established in order to give larger numbers of students access to books needed for their class work – an absolute necessity during the later war years when academic materials were in painfully short supply. This was to blossom into our current Short Loans facility, now found in the Main Library and in all the branches.
The magnificent collection of botanical books bequeathed to the College by Harry Bolus in 1911 (together with his herbarium) were catalogued by the library staff, as was the Royal Society of South Africa Collection.
The University Library was increasingly becoming a major player in the academic life of the larger institution. The University Librarian, for example, began to address new students on the holdings of the library and its branches, and a pamphlet on “How to use the University Library” was first compiled in 1933 – the germ of our current web site.
As the Libraries’ collections grew, there was an increasing demand for professionally trained staff. The University authorities heeded the call for this when, in 1938, what was to become the School of Librarianship was established within the J.W. Jagger building. Training was conducted by Douglas Varley, Librarian of the South African Public Library (now the Cape Town campus of the National Library of South Africa), and senior University Library staff, including the recently appointed sub-librarian, Rene Ferdinand Malan Immelman. The links between the School and the University Library were formally severed in the 1970s with the appointment of Professor J.G. (Deon) Kesting as School Director, although co-operation between what is now the Department of Information and Library Studies and the University Libraries continues.
The appointment of Mr R.F.M. Immelman as University Librarian in 1940 following the retirement of Rev. Parker heralded a new era in the history of the University Libraries. New staff were appointed, stock was reorganized and greatly increased by further donations, among them the magnificent Van Zyl Collection of Legal Antiquarian Materials which is now housed in our Law Library. This donation necessitated the addition of a wing to the Hiddingh Hall Library. The collection later moved into what was named the Brand van Zyl Law Library in the Ritchie Building on the Orange Street Campus in 1962. Other changes of perhaps a more mundane nature, but nevertheless of importance to staff, included the acquisition of an adding machine … a tiny forerunner of the technological revolution that was to transform the Libraries in later years.
The need for more space for books and readers continued to grow and it became clear that a dedicated library for medical materials and readers was desperately needed. Plans for a medical library were drawn up, but construction was delayed by World War II and other considerations. Patience prevailed however, and 1954 saw the official opening of the new Medical Library which was located next to the Medical School. The same library, after considerable adjustments and additions, is now our world-class Health Sciences Library. Upgrading of the Jagger building also became necessary around this time: a passenger lift was installed, two half floors were added, and the circulation desk was re-modelled.

The tree that represents the University Libraries was growing beautifully, with more branches radiating from its trunk. One such was the Music Library established in 1943, when the music holdings of the South African College of Music and the University Libraries were amalgamated. The library was initially housed in the dining-room of Strubenholme, the family home of the Struben family inRosebank. Before long this proved to be wholly inadequate for the needs of a growing stock, so additional rooms were added. Later, in the 1970s, the new College of Music and its Library was constructed just below Strubenholme, the Library being named the W.H. Bell Music Library after ‘Daddy’ Bell, a much loved Professor of Music and generous donor of music manuscripts and materials.
In the 1950s our tree put out more branches. The Centlivres Building was constructed on University Avenue to accommodate the University’s growing number of architectural students, and architectural library materials, gathered together from various scattered collections of books, periodicals, pamphlets, and plans, were moved into a section of the building to form the Architectural Library which opened in 1953. This is our present Built Environment Library. In the same year the Special Collections Department was established – Professor Logeman’s idea, expressed in 1914, had become a reality.
A new Education Building was constructed opposite the Centlivres Building at the south end of University Avenue. In this another branch library was opened — the Carleton Harrison Education Library. All of these changes and additions improved the organization and holdings of the Library.
Mr Immelman was determined that the University Library would be in the mainstream of universal academic endeavour, and something of which its larger institution would be proud. He catered to not only the needs of the undergraduate student, but also the postgraduate student, researcher, and academic. Very much aware of the fact that this library at the tip of southern Africa could not compete with academic libraries of Britain, Europe, and North America, he nevertheless decided to build up its holdings by judicious selection and by approaching potential donors. Thanks to his efforts the library was to receive some magnificent collections such as the Kipling Collection, the Alice in Wonderland Collection, the Modern English Poetry Collection, and many others, including a collection of Hebrew texts which were later to form part of our Jewish Studies Library. Some of these collections were incorporated into the Rare Books & Special Collections Department which over the years has gathered together materials that celebrate and record man’s intellectual and cultural development and achievements.
For Mr Immelman, who was a much-respected local historian, collecting African and southern African material was a particular focus. He set about acquiring (generally by donation) manuscript materials such as the C. Louis Leipoldt Collection and the Bleek & Lloyd Collection of Bushman Materials – two of the many gems in our Manuscripts & Archives Department. This Department’s holdings were further greatly augmented by materials pertaining to the history and development of the South African College and the University.
Many Africana materials of great value were acquired, and these formed the basis of our African Studies Library’s holdings. It was thanks to Immelman’s initial efforts that Harry Oppenheimer recognized the worth of the Africana collection at UCT and generously donated funds for the establishment of the University’s Centre for African Studies and the African Studies Library. ASL is today a world-renowned research resource, with extensive holdings of monographs, periodicals, ephemera, pamphlets, videos, sound recordings, maps, conference papers, and newspapers, and is staffed by highly trained librarians whose assistance is sought by Africanists from all over the world.
Similarly, Immelman organised the collection of government materials into a sub-department, the Government Publications Department, which has developed into one of the finest collections of official publications pertaining to Africa in the country.
Mr Immelman (later to be awarded an honorary doctorate for his services to the University) retired from the University Library in 1970, leaving behind him a great research resource of which he and the University could be very proud. His place was taken by Miss L.E.Taylor who had been his deputy for many years, as well as Assistant Director of the School of Librarianship. During the next 3 decades the Library was to change considerably.
By now the Library had outgrown its accommodation and action was needed to remedy the situation. A notice issued by the Library Committee in 1972 stated the position very baldly: “The present overcrowded, noisy, and inadequate library facilities in the J.W Jagger Library are so notorious as to need no description”.
There followed a flurry of new building developments. The main reading room was remodelled to accommodate an increased Short Loans Collection and more seating space. An additional floor was added to the building, enabling the technical services departments to move into new spacious quarters. Special Collections (as it was then known) was provided with a vastly improved working area and reading room. Every available space within or adjacent to the Jagger Building was exploited to create additional space for staff, users, and stock. These, however, were merely stop-gap interventions, as staff and students numbers had increased dramatically in the decades following the war.
There was no doubt that the library had to expand dramatically, but no doubt, too, that it could not be moved from its central location on the Upper Campus. The creative minds of Miss Taylor and Julian Elliott, director of the newly- formed University Planning Unit, mulled over the problem and ultimately proposed a linear library in which the library’s administrative and main services would be centralized and a spine of library space running parallel to University Avenue would make it possible to place the bookstock in close proximity to the appropriate teaching departments.
Miss Taylor retired in 1974, secure in the knowledge that the additions and alterations were proceeding smoothly. Her successor was Mrs Jean Laurenson, during whose tenure a new Deputy Librarian, Mr Barry Watts, was appointed. Mr Watts drove the building process forward, making changes to the original conception when necessary.
The creation of the Linear Library was accomplished by the provision of library space in the Menzies Engineering Building and the Robert Leslie Commerce Building to the south of Jagger Library. The library components of these buildings, known as the Menzies and Leslie Extensions respectively, were linked to each other and the Jagger building by a series of enclosed bridges. The Science and Engineering Library, which had for many years been inadequately housed on the University Avenue level of Jagger, moved to new quarters in the Menzies Extension, while the library stock relevant to the Commerce Faculty was housed in the Leslie Extension. Additional Library entrances were created in the Menzies and Leslie Extensions, each with their own circulation desks where materials from those areas could be borrowed and returned. The issue system had not yet been computerised.
Another development in the 1970s was the completion of the P. D. Hahn Building, into which the Law Faculty, the Law Library, and the School of Librarianship were moved from their original premises on the Orange Street Campus … squeezed out by the increasing needs of other University departments and facilities. Librarianship and law students jostled for seating space in their new but already overcrowded library, until the Department of Librarianship and its bookstock moved into the Leslie Commerce Building.
Further changes were necessitated as student and staff numbers grew and stock was increased by donation and purchase. The Medical Library, that largest branch of the steadily-growing tree, developed a specialist branch of its own. In 1974 the Institute of Child Health Library was established to cater for the needs of the paediatric specialists based at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Rondebosch.
Following Mrs Laurenson’s untimely death, Mr A.S.C. Hooper was appointed University Librarian in 1980, and he too was faced with the ever-present need for more accommodation for library stock, staff, and users.
Despite the enormous improvements made to the Libraries’ buildings, problems remained, not least because of the rigidity that the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme imposed on the layout of stock in the Library. The library had spread into an extension of its annexe behind Jameson Hall, this area being used, inter alia, for the Manuscripts & Archives Department and also for the rare books and special collections which had been separated from the African Studies holdings. The Science & Engineering Library had also started to outgrow its quarters in the Menzies Extension. In the early 1980s, the Immelman Building was built behind Jameson Hall, and linked to the Jagger Building, thus forming the northern component of the Linear Library. This attractive structure with its high arched roof and huge windows became the new home of the Science & Engineering Library.
During Mr Hooper’s tenure, the Bindery and the recently-formed Preservation Unit moved into premises on the Orange Street Campus, and an off-campus store was acquired in Observatory where older, less-used materials could be housed, thereby freeing some space for newer bookstock. While the library was being re-configured many moves took place, some of them temporary, but as the mid-eighties approached, changes to the main library on the Upper Campus were completed. These included the creation of a second entrance on an upper level, the erection of a new staircase linking the old Jagger Reading Room to the totally new circulation area which became the central hub of the library on Level 5, and the establishment of a Current Periodicals Reading Room in the Menzies Extension. Special Collections found a home for itself on the lowest level of Leslie Commerce Building where it was joined by the Jewish Studies Library. The latter had been created in 1981 when a large collection of Jewish Studies books and journals were bought by the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research. Finally, the African Studies Library moved into the Engineering Mall level of the Leslie Commerce Building.
Although jackhammers and the cacophony of builders’ operations were silent in the Main Library from the mid-1980s, improvements and developments to UCT Libraries generally continued, despite the pressure put on funds for periodical subscriptions and book purchases by the rapidly weakening South African economy. Collection Development policies were put in place in all user departments and branches. Faculty Library Committees were set up and library staff gained some control of book selection that had previously been solely in the hands of academics. Some librarians became ex officio members of faculty boards, the first of these being Sheila Katcher, Medical Librarian from 1971-1997. The University Librarian had been a member of the University’s Senate for some decades.
The Middle Campus development in the 1980s and the subsequent move of the Faculty of Education to a new building there, had a domino effect. Thanks to generous funding, the former Education Building on the Upper Campus was refurbished to accommodate the Law Faculty and its Brand van Zyl Law Library. The building was renamed the Wilfred and Jules Kramer Faculty of Law Building.
The Centre for African Studies, adjacent to the Leslie Commerce Building was completed in 1989, as was the Kaplan Centre. The Libraries’ Manuscripts & Archives Department moved into its new quarters in the Centre for African Studies, and the Jewish Studies Library into its home in the Kaplan Centre.The early 1990s saw a major development in library practice in the Western Cape. Financial constraints meant that it was not possible for every library to contain all the materials required by its users, and although interlibrary loan agreements were in place both nationally and internationally, it became obvious that greater co-operation between tertiary education institutions was essential. The Law Faculty had initiated contact with its counterparts at the University of the Western Cape and the University of Stellenbosch, so there was a close connection between the Brand van Zyl Law Library and the law librarians in those other universities. Through the hard work of dedicated individuals, the Western Cape libraries gradually moved towards a cooperative model, and in 1992 the Cape Library Co-operative (CALICO) was established. CALICO consisted of libraries of the five tertiary institutions of the Western Cape, viz: the Universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and the Western Cape, and the Cape and Peninsula Technikons.
During this period there were huge advances made in library administration and technology. Facilities, commonplace or outdated now, were the major innovations of that period … the adding machine acquired so many years ago being just one in a long line of improvements. But electric typewriters, photocopiers (at 2c a page when introduced in the 1960s), audio-visual viewers, and microfiche readers were soon to be overshadowed by the technological revolution which the introduction of computers brought to the library world.
The first computerised issue system, fondly known as OSCAR, was introduced in the early 1980s following the enormous task of bar-coding the Libraries’ circulating stock and inputting the bibliographic details of every book. This system was followed by BORIS (Borrowers’ Information System) which went live in 1990 and comprised an issue system integrated with the Libraries’ first OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue) … another achievement involving a huge data-capture and -transfer project. In 1982 the Library acquired its first personal computer which was installed on the 6th Level of the Jagger building, and here librarians undertook the Libraries’ first online literature searches for patrons using international online databases made available from American and European information vendors such as Dialog and Datastar.
Advances in library practice and library technology were proceeding so rapidly that it was soon realized that both library users and library staff needed in-house training in new technologies. The Libraries had begun to introduce electronic databases on CD-ROM in place of printed abstracts and indexes, enabling users to carry out their own online literature searching, but special facilities were needed to teach these new techniques. A fully-equipped training room, named “Ulwazi”, was established in the Menzies Extension, adjacent to the Current Periodicals Reading Room.The BORIS issuing system was soon to become overburdened as increasing numbers of users and transactions, growing stock, and increased traffic put severe strain on the system. Furthermore, BORIS was not Y2K compliant … so the purchase of new library software became imperative. In 1998 UCT Libraries, in partnership with the other CALICO libraries, and with the help of a generous donation from the Mellon Foundation, purchased the ALEPH 500 integrated library system, following a lengthy investigation of library software packages. The implementation of the new system was a slow, painstaking process involving data migration, customisation, and exhaustive testing, but in November 1999, ALEPH (Automated Library Expandable Program) went live at UCT … a considerable achievement for the Libraries’ IT department. ALEPH 500 included a web-based OPAC, accessible to users from anywhere in the world, as well as circulation, cataloguing, and serials management modules, and it enabled users to search not only their own Libraries’ catalogue, but also those of the other CALICO institutions. They were also able to interact with the system via personal login, to place electronic hold requests, renew books, and view their loans history.

Following Mr Hooper’s early retirement in the mid-1990s, Margaret Richards, Head of the Special Collections and Africana Division, became caretaker Director of the University Libraries.
Following a consultative process Ms Joan Rapp was appointed Library Director, taking up her appointment in July 1998. The new Director breathed new life into the development of the Libraries, not only spearheading major renovations and the reorganisation of the Libraries’ buildings, but also introducing organisational changes to improve the Libraries’ effectiveness and streamline their procedures. Her energy, hard work, and determination, together with her considerable experience in libraries in the United States, have been focused on her main goal: that of transforming UCT Libraries into a technologically-sophisticated facility, offering a wealth of electronic and print resources as well as a high level of professional service to its users.
One of the first things Ms Rapp was to tackle was the renovation of the Libraries as part of the Upper Campus Project. It had become apparent throughout the 1990s that our tree’s trunk was desperately in need of surgical work. Academic departments situated near to the Linear Library were jockeying for the space that the Library occupied. Despite computerisation of the circulation function, the Linear Library’s multiple entrances proved to be too costly in terms of staff and equipment, and had to be closed down.
Plans for the redesign of the central Upper Campus were under way. The Linear Library had to be replaced by a more compact, practical arrangement. Additional space had to be found for the upgrading of core facilities such as improved accommodation for student services, a new food court, and a centre for post-graduate research. A newly built state-of-the art library complex was to be the centrepiece of the Upper Campus development. Funds were raised, the most generous donor for the changes and additions to the library being the then University Chancellor, Mr. Harry Oppenheimer.
The outcome of all these developments is the magnificent tree that is the University Libraries of today. The Linear Library has metamorphosed into a horseshoe-shaped structure embracing Jameson Hall, the omphalos of the Upper Campus, and linking the Jagger Building to its mirror-image on the north side of the Hall, the Otto Beit/Students’ Union Building, where the new entrance to the University Library is now situated.
Some of the far-flung departments such as Rare Books & Special Collections, the African Studies Library, and the Government Publications Department are now accommodated within the main library’s ‘envelope’. When the Law Faculty moved down to the Middle Campus, the Brand van Zyl Law Library went with it, and the Faculty (now School) of Education moved back to its former home at the south end of University Avenue, to be re-furbished and re-designed as the Graduate School of Humanities. The Education Library’s stock was absorbed into the main library sequence.
The new central complex of the University Libraries was re-named the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library, honouring its most generous benefactor, at an opening ceremony in October 2001. Behind our new Library’s traditional exterior, which harmonizes with the architecture of the Campus as planned in the 1920s, can be found a modern technologically and aesthetically sophisticated interior. Contained within it are the parts that constitute a great university library: specialist reference services, efficient technical and user services departments, as well as training and research facilities.
Ms Rapp orchestrated the organisation of the main library’s stock and reference service into subject specialist areas, with books and recent journals shelved in three broad subject groups – Commerce, Humanities, and Science & Engineering – in close proximity to reference desks devoted to those subjects. Reference Librarians became subject specialists responsible for reference work, information fluency training, and the selection and ordering of books in their subject areas. Thanks to Ms Rapp, the Libraries had gained control of the materials budget used for purchasing books, journals, and electronic resources. She appointed a Collection Development Manager to monitor the purchasing of library stock and oversee the growth and development of the Libraries’ book and journal collections. An Electronic Resources Librarian was appointed to deal with the Libraries’ rapidly growing collections of electronic databases and journals and the intricacies of their licensing contracts.
Science & Engineering Reference Desk Library users can now access over 22,500 electronic journal titles both on- and off-Campus, and a rich array of carefully selected web-based databases have replaced the old printed indexes and abstracts, providing students and researchers with precise and powerful web-based platforms for searching the literature in their fields.
The Knowledge Commons
With the advent of so many electronic resources and the increase of web-based learning systems, Ms Rapp recognised the need for a computer laboratory within the Library where students could make use of word processing and spreadsheet applications in conjunction with the Libraries’ databases, e-books, and e-journals, and with the expert help of trained library staff close at hand. A computer lab with a difference, the Knowledge Commons (modelled on those of the Universities of Southern California and Eastern Michigan), was included in the new library complex. The KC proved so popular with students that it has had to be enlarged twice within the four years of its existence, and now offers 96 state-of-the-art computer workstations, 8 fully equipped group study rooms, an audio-visual viewing room, a large training room with 20 laptop computers for trainees, as well as laser printers, photocopiers, a scanner, a print reference collection, and the expert assistance of professional librarians aided by a team of specially trained student “navigators”.

Generations of library staff at all levels have watered and fed, pruned and cared for our tree. Past staff have left behind a rich heritage and warm memories of the part they played in creating the sense of colleagueship and camaraderie so necessary for the smooth running of a service-based organisation. Their often unsung contributions have been inspired by the altruistic generosity of our first `librarian’, and the efforts of his successors, and their colleagues, past and present, whose aim is (and was) to fulfil the UCT Libraries’ mission, that of providing information resources and services aligned to the needs of a first-class African research and teaching university in the twenty-first century.
Immelman, R. F. M. 1956. The Library of the University of Cape Town : historical development, 1829-1955. {Rondebosch, Cape: Photographic Dept., University of Cape Town Libraries, 1956}.
Jagger journal. 1980-1990. Rondebosch, South Africa: University of Cape Town Libraries.
Jaggerite. 1947-1963. Rondebosch, South Africa: University of Cape Town Libraries.
Phillips, Howard. 1993. The University of Cape Town, 1918-1948: the formative years; assisted by the research of H.M. Robertson. {Cape Town}: University of Cape Town in association with the University of Cape Town Press.
Taylor, Loree Elizabeth. 1974. The University library buildings, University of Cape Town. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Libraries, 1974.
Walker, Eric A. 1929. The South African College and the University of Cape Town: written for the University centenary celebrations, 1829-1929. Cape Town: The University.

Library Hours – Terms

The opening hours in the table below are observed during the academic terms and the short mid-term vacations. Vacation hours come into effect during the long mid-year and year-end vacations.
24 Hour study areas:  When the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library is closed, the Hlanganani 24/7 study area will be open.

Library/Section Mondays – Thursdays Fridays Saturdays
African Studies Collections 08h30 – 17h30 08h30 – 17h30 09h00 – 13h00
Bolus Herbarium 10h00 – 12h00 10h00 – 12h00 CLOSED
Built Environment 08h30 – 18h00 08h30 – 17h00 09h00 – 13h00
Chancellor Oppenheimer 08h00 – 22h00 08h00 – 18h00 09h00 – 17h00
Government Publications 08h00 – 17h00 08h00 – 17h00 CLOSED
Health Sciences 08h30 – 22h00 08h30 – 17h00 08h30 – 12h30
Hiddingh Hall 08h30 – 18h00 08h30 – 17h00 10h00 – 13h00
Inst. of Child Health 08h30 – 13h00; 14h00 – 17h00 08h30 – 13h00; 14h00 – 17h00 CLOSED
Interlibrary Loans 08h00 – 17h00 08h00 – 17h00 CLOSED
Knowledge Commons 08h00 – 22h00 08h00 – 18h00 09h00 – 17h00
Law 08h00 – 22h00 08h00 – 17h00 09h00 – 17h00
Library Learning Lounge 08h00 – 17h00 08h00 – 17h00 CLOSED
Loans Desk 08h00 – 22h00 08h00 – 18h00 09h00 – 17h00
Manuscripts & Archives 08h30 – 17h30 08h30 – 17h30 09h00 – 13h00
Music 08h30 – 17h00 08h30 – 17h00 09h00 – 12h00
Rare Books 08h30 – 17h30 08h30 – 17h30 09h00 – 13h00
Research Commons 08h30 – 19h00 09h00 – 18h00 09h00 – 13h00
Short Loans Centre 08h00 – 22h00 08h00 – 18h00 09h00 – 17h00
Special Collections 08h30 – 17h30 08h30 – 17h30 09h00 – 13h00



To be an excellent library in a new time and space that forms a strategically strong research, teaching and learning support environment within UCT and brings in newness purposefully around a compelling and exciting common work purpose which is firmly grounded in a transformed, non-racial, inclusive and collegial workplace.


The mission of UCT Libraries is to provide the best academic information services in support of UCT’s institutional goals and strategies.


The purpose of the UCT Libraries is to support the university’s strategic goal of becoming a distinguished institution by providing the means for discovery, pursuit and creation of new knowledge:


• in providing access to collections and services that directly support the academic and research priorities of the university;
• ensuring that the Libraries are adequately providing core services to faculty and students;
• positioning the Libraries to provide new services supporting the emerging teaching, learning and research needs of the university community and its various constituents;
• continuously assessing services to identify those no longer valued by users or that have become redundant or obsolete.


Enable research success
•Investigate, design and implement innovative support services for research success including interdisciplinarity and internationalisation;
•Lead, support and grow services that enhance the visibility, accessibility anddiscoverability of UCT’s research; and
•Provide support services to facilitate measuring research excellence.
Support excellence in teaching and learning
•Investigate, design and implement innovative services and activities that help critical thinking flourish;
•Design programmes and activities to support access to digital teaching and learning content;
•Investigate, design and implement services and facilities in support of undergraduate students; and
•Assess impact of the Libraries’ services and facilities on under- and postgraduate success.
Develop strong partnerships
•Develop strategies to enhance the visibility and sharing of unique UCT collections;
•Explore, engage and establish partnerships with key university departments and other stakeholders;
•Explore, engage and implement regional and national collaboration, including professional bodies; and
•Explore and engage international collaboration.

Library Quality Survey

LibQUAL+ is a suite of services that libraries use to solicit, track, understand, and act upon users’ opinions of service quality. These services are offered to the library community by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The program’s centrepiece is a rigorously tested web-based survey bundled with training that helps libraries assess and improve library services, change organisational culture, and market the library.

Library Rules


The library rules may be revised by Council from time to time

Who may or may not use UCT Libraries

L1.1 Authorised library users include UCT staff, students, members of Council, others with specific university affiliation, and subscribers.
For a current list of categories of library patrons and their privileges, please see UCT Libraries’ web page at
Electronic resources may be used ONLY by current UCT staff and currently registered UCT students.


L1.2 The Research Commons in the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library is for the use of UCT master’s and doctoral students and academic staff.

Research Commons

L1.3 Academic staff and postgraduates from CALICO institutions are allowed to use some UCT Libraries on presentation of the required letter of introduction.

CALICO staff and


L1.4 Undergraduates from CALICO institutions are allowed to use some UCT Libraries during specified periods of the academic terms but may not borrow material nor become library subscribers. (See website for specific rules).



L1.5 Undergraduates from other tertiary institutions, students from private educational institutions, and students from distance learning educational institutions are not allowed to use UCT Libraries, nor are they allowed to become library subscribers.


from other


L1.6 School learners may not use UCT Libraries.

school learners

L1.7 Animals, with the exception of guide dogs, are not allowed in UCT Libraries.


L1.8 Access to UCT Libraries is controlled. UCT staff and currently registered students enter by swiping their staff/student cards at the electronically controlled entrance gates. All other individuals must check in with the staff member at the reception desk; proper identification is always required. Library users must produce a valid card on request in any library location.

controlled access

L1.9 Any user attempting to enter UCT Libraries with ID other his or her own, or any UCT user who lends his or her card to another person, may have their library privileges withdrawn.

fraudulent access

Conduct within UCT Libraries

L2.1 A person shall not make noise, cause a disturbance, make or take cell phone calls, hold public meetings or demonstrations, within UCT Libraries, or behave in such a manner that would interfere with or impact negatively on study and research activities of library users.


L2.2 Food may not be consumed in UCT Libraries. Drinks are permitted only in special library-approved spill-proof containers. Smoking is not permitted.


L2.3 All cell phones must be on silent mode. Making or taking cell phone calls in UCT Libraries is prohibited.

cell phones

L2.4 Any person infringing the rules of conduct may be required to leave the library and/or have library privileges suspended or withdrawn and/or face disciplinary proceedings.


Advertising in UCT Libraries

L3 No notices may be displayed or any items distributed within UCT Libraries without the prior approval of the Executive Director, UCT Libraries .

Filming in UCT Libraries

L4 No filming or photography is allowed within UCT Libraries without the prior approval of the Executive Director, UCT Libraries.  

Use of electronic resources and equipment

L5.1 Electronic resources may be used ONLY by current UCT staff and currently registered UCT students.  
L5.2 PCs, scanners, AV viewing and all other electronic equipment are for academic use ONLY.  

Rules for borrowing 


L6.1 A person shall not remove a book or any other material from the University UCT Libraries other than in terms of the rules and procedures set by UCT Libraries. The Executive Director, UCT Libraries has the authority to shorten periods of loan.  
L6.2 A borrower will be held responsible for all material taken out in his or her name, and may not lend such material to other people. Borrower privileges are not transferable. Lost staff or student cards must be reported immediately to UCT Libraries. Borrowers are also responsible for updating their contact details at UCT Libraries, and outdated contact details will not be a basis on which to dispute fines or fees owing.

responsibility of borrower

L6.3 A pattern of abuse of library privileges by a borrower may result in the withdrawal of library privileges, a reduction in the number of items which may be borrowed, and/or disciplinary action.


L6.4 The number of items that may be borrowed is different for different categories of Library users. Please enquire at the loans desks or refer to UCT Libraries’ web page at http://www.lib.uct.ac.za/lib/borrowing-information/

number of items

L6.5 Loan periods may vary in each of UCT Libraries’ branches and according to the type of material.

loan periods

L6.6. Bound periodicals may be borrowed ONLY by UCT staff, registered postgraduate students, and retired UCT staff. No one may borrow unbound periodicals.


L6.7 Certain collections and items are restricted to reference use only.

reference materials

L6.8 Interlibrary loan services are available to student and staff currently registered at UCT and retired staff of UCT.

interlibrary loans


L7.1 A member of staff who wishes to borrow books or other items from UCT Libraries must produce a University staff identification card valid for the current year.

staff card

L7.2 In general books may be borrowed for a period not exceeding three months. Provided that no other user has reserved the book, the loan period may be extended once, by letter, telephone, email or via the internet.

loan period

Retired UCT Staff

NOTE:  This section does not apply to emeritus professors who enjoy the same library privileges as professors.

L8.1 A retired UCT staff member who wishes to borrow books or other items from UCT Libraries must produce a University Retired Staff card, complete the required forms at the Loans Desk, and then obtain a Library Subscriber Card from:

Access Control Administration
Robert Leslie Social Science Building,

before registration can be completed at the Loans Desk.

Retired Staff card and Library Subscriber card

L8.2 Registration on the Library system is for the current year and membership will be updated annually by the Library for as long as the retired staff member continues to use the library.

renewal of membership

L8.3 In general, books may be borrowed for a period not exceeding five weeks. Provided that no other user has reserved the book, the loan period may be extended twice, by letter, telephone, email or via the internet, provided the book is not overdue. Thereafter the book must be returned to the open shelves before re-issue. The loan period for books in heavy demand may be reduced to three days, and any item may be recalled after seven days at the discretion of the Executive Director, UCT Libraries. Bound periodicals may be borrowed for three days only and are not renewable.

loan period

 recalling books


L9.1 A student who wishes to borrow material shall produce his or her university registration card for the current year.

registration card

L9.2 An undergraduate student may borrow a book for a period not exceeding seven days. A postgraduate student may borrow a book for a period not exceeding five weeks.  UCT Libraries may, however, recall a book at any time and may reduce the loan period of books in demand. Provided that no other user has reserved the book, the loan period may be extended three times, by letter, telephone, email or via the Internet, provided that the book is not overdue. Thereafter the book must be returned to the open shelves before re-issue. Postgraduate students may borrow bound periodicals for three days only. No renewals of periodicals are allowed.

loan period

 recalling books

 reduced loan period

L9.3 Appointment as a tutor or research assistant does not entitle students to staff borrowing privileges.

employed students

L9.4 A postgraduate student wishing to borrow items for a longer period over the June and December vacations must apply in advance to the librarian in charge of the relevant section.

vacation loans

L9.5 All students who have outstanding library debts of R100 and above immediately before June and December graduation will have them added to their student fees accounts.

debts added to fees accounts

Health Sciences Library

L10 Books on the open shelf may be borrowed for two weeks and can be renewed twice. Renewal of the loan is possible if the item has not been requested by another user. Books in high demand are available for 3 day loan and are not renewable. Short loan items may be borrowed for two hours at a time during the day. From 15h00 onwards, short loan items are issued for overnight loan and may then be removed from the Library. All overnight loans must be returned by 09h30 the following morning. An exception is made on Fridays, when short loan items may be retained until 09h30 on Monday.

loan period

WH Bell Music Library

L11 CDs and DVDs may be borrowed by staff and students of the SA College of Music or the School of Dance. Records, audiotapes and videotapes may be borrowed by staff of the SA College of Music or the School of Dance. In-house listening and viewing facilities are available to the staff and students of the SA College of Music and the School of Dance.

recorded music

Brand van Zyl Law Library

L12.1 Short loan materials may not leave the Brand van Zyl Law Library, except as specifically authorised by the Law Librarian.

loan period

L12.2 Reference materials, law reports, and periodicals may not be borrowed, with the exception of those on short loan. Certain short loan items may not be borrowed overnight.

loan restrictions

Short Loans

L13.1 Only UCT staff and students may borrow short loan items.

who may borrow

L13.2 Most items may be borrowed or taken out of the library for three hours at a time during the day. However, items marked “not for overnight loan” may NOT be removed from UCT Libraries. Some material may be in such heavy demand that the loan period is restricted to one hour. From 15h00 onwards, eligible items are issued for overnight loan.

loan period

L13.3 All overnight loan items must be returned to the desk from which they were loaned by 09h30 the following morning. An exception is made on Fridays, when items may be retained until 09h30 on the following Monday.

returning items

L13.4 Videos and DVDs in Short Loans are study aids for specific courses and may be borrowed only for this purpose.

videos and DVDs


L14.1 Any borrower who fails to return or renew items by the due date will incur a fine.  Fines are set by the Executive Director, UCT Libraries and vary according to the type of material.


L14.2 Any borrower who fails to return items to UCT Libraries or to any library with which UCT has a co-operative borrowing or access agreement, or who fails to pay fines or costs owing, may have borrowing privileges withdrawn or suspended by the Executive Director, UCT Libraries. A borrower who incurs a fine of R50.00 or more will automatically have borrowing privileges suspended until the debt is cleared.

failure to


L14.3 Any user losing or irreparably damaging a book or other item borrowed through or belonging to the UCT Libraries is liable for the replacement cost of the item plus the cost of processing the replacement.  Any user or borrower damaging an item which is repairable shall be liable for the cost of the repair.



L14.4 Mutilation of library books and other library materials is an offence. Mutilation includes underlining, through-lining in transparent colour, writing of comments in a book, removal of a page, pages or pictures, or any other damage. A user who has been found to have mutilated any library item will also be liable for the cost of replacing or repairing the damaged material.


L14.5 A user who fails to comply with the University and library policy or licensing agreements concerning the use of electronic resources or of computers may have library privileges curtailed or suspended by the Executive Director, UCT Libraries.

electronic resources and computers

L14.6 Any transgression of these rules may result in suspension or withdrawal of use and borrowing privileges or other penalties at the discretion of the Executive Director, UCT Libraries.


L14.7 Any breach of these rules by a student may be reported by UCT Libraries to the Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor’s Nominee, to be dealt with under the rules on disciplinary jurisdiction and procedures.


L14.8 Any breach of these rules by a staff member may be referred by UCT Libraries to the staff member’s line manager for disciplinary action.



UCT Libraries

UCT Libraries offer state-of-the-art technology, vast collections of reading and research material, and the specialised services of friendly, efficient and helpful staff.
The Chancellor Oppenheimer Library lies at the heart of Upper Campus. Its 8 branch libraries can be found close to the relevant faculties.
The libraries house more than 1.2 million print volumes.
The libraries website provides essential information about library hours and services, and acts as a portal to research material, including:

  • online reference works
  • bibliographic and full-text databases
  • 87 350 electronic journals
  • articles
  • eBooks
  • a growing institutional digital repository
  • Primo – a discovery and delivery tool for books.

This resource can be accessed both on and off campus.

Chancellor Oppenheimer Library

The Chancellor Oppenheimer Library meets the specific needs of UCT’s undergraduate and research-oriented communities.
The southern wing of the library complex – the Research Wing – is reserved for postgraduate students and academic staff, and provides a quiet, comfortable haven for study, research, and writing.
The Research Commons, on Level 6 of the Research Wing, caters for the information and workspace needs of academics as well as doctoral and masters students.
The Undergraduate Wing provides a variety of workspace options, including

  • study desks
  • computer workstations
  • comfortable couches
  • power and network points for laptops
  • group project areas
  • audio-visual viewing facilities.

The popular Knowledge Commons, with its high-end computing, printing, copying, and scanning facilities, is a one-stop-shop where undergraduates can research, write up, and print out their assignments and essays.

Branch libraries

The branch libraries are situated on the various UCT campuses, close to the academic departments they serve. They include:

  • the Health Sciences Library, opposite Groote Schuur Hospital
  • the Brand van Zyl Law Library, on Middle Campus
  • the WH Bell Music Library, adjacent to the South African College of Music
  • the Hiddingh Hall Library, near the Michaelis School of Fine Art.

Special Collections

Research materials can be found in all the libraries, but particularly in the Special Collections division. Located in the JW Jagger building, this building has been restored to its original historic condition.
The Special Collections division houses:

  • unique collections of rare books
  • original materials relating to African history
  • the papers of prominent public figures
  • historical maps and architectural drawings
  • extensive government publications from Africa and abroad
  • institutional archives
  • Africana collections that attract scholars from around the world.

Access to Special Collections is via the entrance to the JW Jagger Building on University Avenue.

Digitisation Unit

As part of the libraries’ recent building operations, a dedicated Digitisation Unit has been created in the Oppenheimer Institute Building. This institutional digital repository allows many of the library’s unique collections to be more easily available to researchers, and ensures their preservation.
For more detailed information, and access to the Libraries’ resources, visit the UCT Libraries website.

Library Contacts


General Enquiries:

UCT Libraries  Telephone:  +27 21 650-3703
University of Cape Town  Fax:  +27 21 650-2965
Private Bag X3  e-Mail:  Libraries@uct.ac.za
Rondebosch 7701  South Africa


Specific Contacts  Telephone

Accounts Office   

Finance Manager: Mignon van der Merwe

021 650 3099  
Acquisitions Department

Manager: Caroline Dean

021 650 3701  
Bolus Herbarium Library

Junior Librarian: Awot Gebregziabher

021 650 3774  
Built Environment Library

 Librarian:  Dianne Steele

021 650 5953
Circulation & Short Loans


021 650 3118/3134  
           Manager: Niel Mostert 021 650 3119
Commerce, CHED & Enterprise

Manager: Glynnis Johnson

021 650 5684  
Enquiries 021 650 3097
Acting Executive Director: Reggie Raju 021 650 3096
Acting Deputy Director (Research & Learning): Jill Claassen 021 650 5827
Deputy Director (Information Systems & Resources): Nikki Crowster 021 650 5857
Discovery Services
Manager: Heather Hodgson 021 650 3994
Digital Library Services
Manager: Niklas Zimmer 021 650 2957
Document Centre: Campus Copy & Print
General Enquiries 021 650  3134  
Government Publications Department


021 650 3177  

Senior Librarian: Laureen Rushby

021 650 4686
Health Sciences Library


021 406 6138  

Manager: Saskia Vonk

021 406 6359
Hiddingh Hall Library


021 650 7135  

 Branch Librarian:  Solvej Vorster

021 650 7139

Manager:  Alex D’Angelo

021 650 4475
Information Desk 021 650 3703/4  
Institute of Child Health Library


021 658 5353  
Interlibrary Loans


021 650 3113  

Librarian:  Rosie Watson (acting)

021 650 4118
Library Facilities

Senior Building Supervisor: Blythe Edwins

021 650 3129  
Brand van Zyl Law Library


021 650 2708/9  

Manager:  Sadiq Keraan

021 650 2671
Library and Information Studies Centre    


021 650 4546  

Head of Department: A/Professor Jaya Raju

021 650 3091  
Special Collections


021 650 4089
           Manager: Renate Meyer 021 650 4424  
Special Collections: Published Collections  

Manager: Mandy Noble

021 650 4089  
Reception 021 650 3870  
Research and Innovation

Librarian: Tamzyn Suliaman

021 650-4473  
Scholarly Communication & Research 

Manager: Jill Claassen

021 650 1263
Science & Engineering

Manager: Amina Adam

021 650-3871  
Subscriptions & e-Resources
             Subscriptions Librarian:  Shireen Davis-Evans 021 650 3132
Undergraduate Support 


021 650 4313

Librarian: Nuroo Davids

021 650 5305  
WH Bell Music Library


021 650 2624

Librarian: Brandon Adams

021 650 4294