Books, knowledge and much, much more

24 January 2019

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has one of the largest libraries in the southern hemisphere with an enormous repository of electronic and print books, journals and audiovisual materials stored on 53 km of shelf space. We asked the librarians to tell us more.

What is UCT Libraries?

It’s the collective name for the university’s main library – formally known as the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library – and the seven branch libraries: the Bolus Herbarium Library, Brand van Zyl Law Library, Built Environment Library, Health Sciences Library, Hiddingh Hall Library, Institute of Child Health Library and Music Library.

What makes UCT Libraries so amazing?

You mean in addition to 85 000 plus books and pamphlets on African studies alone, 72 000 plus e-journal titles, 28 500 plus print journal titles, 1 600 manuscript collections, more than a million African audio-visual items, 190 high-quality electronic databases, and 100 plus open datasets? UCT Libraries also give you access to group study rooms to help you slay your essays and assignments. And don’t forget the 24/7 study areas at the main library, Impilo Junction (in the Health Sciences Library) and in the Law Library. There’s also a Library Learning Lounge in the Engineering Mall.

How do you find items and access information?

You don’t even have to be in a library to begin your search – you can find resources from your phone, tablet or computer. Simply go to the library website ( and click on Primo, a search tool that makes finding books, ebooks, videos, articles and digital media quick and easy. Sign in for more functionality like renewing books, saving records and exporting citations.

How do you borrow from the libraries?

Just take your student card to the loans desk together with the items you want to borrow and the staff will issue them to you. In the main library, you can also make use of the self-checkout machine.

How do you renew loans?

Online via Primo; at the self-checkout by scanning your student card; by phoning the Loans Desk on 021 650 3118/20; or by taking the book and your student card to the loans desk. But you won’t be able to renew a loan if another library user has requested the item.

What if an item is already out on loan?

You can place a request for it on Primo. The book will be recalled from the person who has it and will be reserved for you. The library will email you when the item is available.

Can you return items when the libraries are closed?

Yes! There is an after-hours returns hatch at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the main  entrance of the main library. Branch libraries have their own after-hours return hatches.

Where do I go for other questions?

Call 021 650 3703/4, email or visit

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