Most of the earliest archives, reading and learning materials are found in the African libraries. Some of the ancient books and scrolls on the history of Africa and the world at large are found in the ancient library of Alexandria in Egypt.
However not among the top ten largest libraries in Africa, the library is a renowned seat of learning containing books dating back to the ancient world and the legendary city of Timbuktu in Mali which is famous for the trans-Saharan caravan trade. Inspired by the rich African cultural heritage and its historic background, the top 10 largest libraries in Africa are as follows:
10. Marais Library
Named after its benefactor CL Marais who gave it as a generous donation, it is the tenth largest library in Africa, built between 1900 and 1901. It is located on South Africa at Stellenbosch University and was the first library ever built in the multi-library campus. Its Neo-renaissance style and Neo-Classical styles give it a unique architectural design. The Marais Library was declared a national monument in 1982 and has since gone through remarkable expansion ever since to accommodate the growing university's collections.
9. MISR University for Science and Technology
Found in Egypt, the MISR University for Science and Technology Library is a world class library fitted with modern architectural designs. It hosts varieties of books in both printed and electronic formats. The collection of books range from languages, mass communication, information technology, medical and biological sciences, business, archaeology and engineering. It also offers training for students who major in information technology and library science.
8. Nnamdi Azikiwe Library
At position eight, it is the second largest library in Nigeria situated in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka campus. The library was named after Nnamdi Azikiwe who was the founder of the University of Nigeria in 1955. The University was officially opened in 1960 as the first independent and local university in the country. Today it is among the five elite universities in Nigeria. The library began only with 12,000 books and now has over 700,000 books. The books are also found in electronic format and with easy access through the library catalogue.
7. Port Elizabeth Main Library
Port Elizabeth Main Library is the second largest library in South Africa and is the only library that was built for the public that still serves its purpose as a public library. It was built during the colonial era in 1902 out of a Gothic design with a decorative and complex facade. It is located in Mandela Bay at the Market Square in the North Western part of the region with the statue of Queen Victoria watching over the Market Square. Plans to demolish it to construct a Provincial Administration block was never successful as it was later turned into historic monument, open to the public.
6. Covenant University Library
Also known as the Centre for Learning Resources, the Covenant University Library comes at number six in Africa and the second largest in West Africa. It is a three-storey building with glass-fitted windows and exits found in Nigeria. It is situated at the middle of Covenant University. Unlike other libraries which are open to the public, the Covenant Library is solely for the university students and for private use only.
5. Balme Library
At position five in Africa, Balme Library is the largest library in West Africa. It is located in Accra at the University of Accra and is the varsity's main library. It was named after the first principal of the University David Mowbray Balme. It is one of the oldest libraries in the country and acts as a landmark in Accra. It has a colonial design with its interior renovated to meet the increasing demand and has more than 100,000 books, 500 microfilms, tapes and CDs. It is designed to accommodate physically challenged people and is open to both students, staffs and the public.
4. Kenyatta University Post-Modern Library
At position four in Africa, the Kenyatta University Post Modern Library (PML) is the largest university in East and Central Africa. It is located in Kenya along Thika Superhighway at Kenyatta University main campus. The landmark library was built and opened under the excellent leadership of the former KU Vice-Chancellor Prof. Olive Mugenda. She is the current Director and CEO of Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital which is an upcoming elite medical center in East, West, North and Central Africa for the treatment of cancer and other medical conditions.
The Kenyatta University PML is open to students, alumni for free and other members of the public with registered membership cards. The five-storey building has spacious seating arrangements with comfortable compartments for individual study. It also has group discussion rooms ranging from the ground floor to fourth floor where people can discuss in low tones. The fifth floor has no group discussion rooms but a computer lab for electronic study.
The underground floor is entirely for those who wish to study in high tones and shouts as it is sound proof and cannot bother other readers in the upper floors. The library is endowed with both print and electronic manuals, manuscripts, books, scrolls, magazines, newspapers, all of which can be accessed through digital catalogues. It is also designed to accommodate the physical handicapped individuals, some of which are students at the world class university.
3. Six October University Library
It is the third largest library in Africa, considered the best public and academic library in Egypt. It is an intersectional library between culture and learning in support of academic research and the diverse curriculum of the university. It hosts a vast collection of print and electronic databases, both local and international. Six October University Library is a multipurpose library that serves both the university and the public. It also has children's story books and games as well as maps and magazines.
2. National Library of South Africa
As the name suggests, the National Library of South Africa is found in South Africa. It is an informational centre for excellence not only in Africa but also in the entire world. As the second largest library in Africa, the library is a fundamental resource and the country's documentary heritage. The digital and print manuscripts, reports, maps, foreign and local publications in the National Library of South Africa are open to everyone.
1. The Royal Library of Alexandria
Found in Egypt, the The Royal Library of Alexandria is also known as New Bibliotheca Alexandrina. It is a renovation of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. It is one of the most modern libraries in the world and the largest in Africa. The library is a storage and access site of both ancient and contemporary scrolls and books about the history of the world especially Egypt and Israel. It also houses records of the Egyptian political system like the pharaohs, Israelites and the architectural designs of pyramids distinct to Egypt as a country and as the original artworks.
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