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What you may not know about the biggest library in Cape Town

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What you may not know about the biggest library in Cape Town

The things you can do at Cape Town’s Central Library extend beyond the borrowing of books and include a wealth of services and events.

These days, libraries can seem like antiquated relics of a bygone era. However, this is not at all the case for some of South Africa’s most popular public libraries which have managed to keep up with the times.

There are 101 libraries (and one satellite library) located in and around Cape Town. And while most of us would likely pass by these institutions without so much as a second thought, it turns out that they have way more to offer than just a collection of old books.

All about the Cape Town Central Library

The Cape Town Central Library is Cape Town’s biggest library, which welcomes thousands of book-hungry visitors weekly. This library reportedly houses around 1.5 million titles across multiple different languages (including 11 of South Africa’s official languages).

However, this library covers much more than reference texts and New York Times Best Sellers. Besides the wealth of knowledge contained within its traditional library books, the Cape Town Central Library also offers an array of more modern information formats, including DVDs, CDs, videos, newspapers, magazines, audio books and encyclopedias which span just about every genre imaginable.

And if you ever find yourself near Cape Town’s inner city – you may just want to pop your head into this impressive, three-story building, as there is certainly always a lot happening behind its former-Drill Hall façade.

Details for the Cape Town Central Library

Some of the most important details to keep in mind if you want to stop by the Cape Town Central Library include:

Detail Description
  • Old Drill Hall, 1 Parade St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000
Operating hours
  • Mondays to Thursdays from 09:00 to 18:00
  • Fridays from 09:00 to 17:00
  • Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00
Contact details
  • Call: 021 444 0983 or 021 444 0209 or 021 444 0212
  • Email:
Social media handles The Cape Town Central Library is active on

The services that Cape Town Central Library offers

A 2019 study by Western Cape government revealed that only about 3 million people throughout South Africa (excluding the North West) had memberships to public libraries. However, maintaining a public library membership can afford you many benefits at the Cape Town Central Library.

Besides its three floors of reference books, autobiographies, local history books, sci-fi books, Western books, law books, young adult books, foreign fiction books and countless other books contained within the Cape Town Central Library’s walls, it also has study spaces, conference rooms, free internet access and access to computers, spaces to host seminars or video conferences, a bookshop, spaces to mingle and discuss and it even has special orientation tours.

The Cape Town Central Library now even offers a select few titles in an mp3/Playaway format, which allows patrons to listen to audiobooks at the click of a button by simply connecting their own earphones to the device. And the library often hosts special talks, events and networking mixers which are usually free to attend.

Cape Town Central Library activities to keep the kids entertained

The Cape Town Central Library truly has something for everyone, including even the youngest patrons who walk (or crawl) through its doors.

The Cape Town Central Library offers a variety of children’s titles to choose from. But the library also has a bunch of special activities to keep the little ones entertained.

This includes a special reading program, storytelling activities to foster confidence, craft activities to keep your young ones entertained and holiday programs for when they are stuck at home. The library also has a crèche, which comes in handy when you need to read or research quietly on your own.

Cape Town Central Library’s focus on the arts

While libraries are traditionally categorized as quiet and conservative places that can come across as quite boring and stuffy to the more outgoing and flamboyant people among us, the Cape Town Central Library actually has a deep connection to the vibrant worlds of arts and culture.

The Cape Town Central Library is one of only two public art libraries in all of South Africa. And thanks to the $2 million grant that the library received from the Carnegie Corporation in 2008 and all of the other contributions since then, the library also boasts an impressive arts collection as well as an entire music selection (which both feature work from various local artists).

The library also often hosts artsy social events with live music, singing and dancing, which is a far cry from the “shhhhhh!”-management style of the libraries of yesteryear.