Don Africana Library Home Page


Don Map 2

The Don collection offers the very latest information on all aspects of Africa South of the Sahara. Relatively “new” publications are also valuable.  Staff make a point of asking visiting authors to sign their books (and have always done so). This makes many books interesting as collectors’ items of the future.

More and more frequently the library is being used by overseas researchers either in person, by letter, or by e-mail. The holdings are reflected on a CD-Rom published by National Inquiry Services Centre (NISC) which has helped to make the library better known.

However, the Don Africana is first and foremost part of eThekwini Municipal Reference Service and therefore most of the patrons are residents of the Municipality. Heavy use is made of the extensive legal and government collection and the long runs of periodicals.  Customers also ask for back copies of newspapers which are on microfilm.

The library caters for a wide range of interests - not only historical. 

The rare collection, primarily by means of displays and exhibitions, is used to inform and educate the public about the rich heritage of Africa.

The library is accessible to all adult members of the public for information and education.  The Don contains a working collection of great scope to meet the information needs of the general public - from the entrepreneur wanting to write a business plan to a voter wishing to read all the party manifestos.

It is a closed access library, a measure which is used primarily to safeguard the collection.  However, this also results in each patron consulting personally with the staff who are able to assist in maximising the benefits of the collection.


This library was named after David Don who was born in Scotland in 1840.  He followed a banking career in Edinburgh and then in Bombay before settling in Natal 1881. He and his wife lived in the Maze on South Ridge Road (now Marist Brothers School).  Here he set up a library for his collection of books, pamphlets, newspapers, maps and manuscripts.

After he died in 1906, the contents of the house were sold at auction but not his Africana collection.  This was loaned to Durban Public Library in 1909.  Later, in 1916, his wife and son donated the entire collection to the library.  Its value defies arithmetic, especially those works dating back to the early 16th century.  

These 4 000 items now form the nucleus of the Don Africana Library but, of course, the collection has grown enormously.  There are now over 50 000 catalogued items and many journals, microfilms and government documents which have yet to be recorded on the computer catalogue.

Enquiries should be directed to the following:

Personal - 10th floor Liberty Towers, West Street, Durban.
Postal - PO Box 917, Durban, 4000
Tel -  031-3320586
Fax -  031-3374700