library reading roomWelcome to the Niven Library, Africa's most comprehensive collection on Ornithology! The Niven Library is a reference library established, funded and managed by the FitzPatrick Institute. The collection is used primarily by staff and students of the FitzPatrick Institute, but is also open to all members of the University community, members of BirdLife South Africa, and members (including students) of other teaching and professional institutions.

The FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology was founded in 1959 to study the living birds of Africa by Mrs Cecily K Niven, daughter and only surviving child of Sir Percy FitzPatrick (1862-1931), a leading South African politician and entrepreneur. When the FitzPatrick Institute first opened its doors it immediately started to build a library, an essential tool for any scientific enterprise. In 1981 the Library was formally named the Niven Library in honour of Jack and Cecily Niven and their family, who have done so much for the Institute and its library.

The strength of the Niven Library is in its holdings on the birds of Africa south of the Sahara. Many other books and periodicals on birds are also held so that African birds can be studied in the context of worldwide knowledge. BirdLife SA has played a vital role in the development of the Niven Library collection through past exchange agreements with other important ornithological institutions. Africa Geographic sustained the exchange agreements between 2007-2012 by sending copies of Africa - Birds & Birding to participating exchange partners. From 2012 the exchange agreements has been fulfilled by BirdLife South Africa with their new title African BirdLife.

The FitzPatrick Institute has many other important research themes such as ecology, and conservation biology. With this in mind, the Niven Library obtains books and periodicals dealing with these important subjects to meet the needs of their research staff and students. The involvement of the FitzPatrick Institute in research at Marion Island, and also in the Southern Ocean generally, has made the Niven Library an important centre for Antarctic and sub-Antarctic biological literature. The Niven Library also holds the UCT Biological Sciences Department's library collection with holdings on general zoology, the animal kingdom and wildlife management, and the collections of the Animal Demography Unit and the South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING).