The University of the Witwatersrand Library plays a major role in Southern Africa both in the provision of information for study and research, and in the preservation of rare and beautiful materials which record the heritage of our country and its peoples. Always one of the highlights for visitors to the campus, the Library offers a "walk" through the history of information, from the beautiful collections of incunabula, early printed books and rare manuscripts to the astonishing resources of the Internet and the global information village.
The WITS Library has always been proud of its special collections, and although it has not been possible to add substantially to these in recent years, they remain among the best of their kind in South Africa. The Africana Collection, based on generous bequests and purchases of collectors Gubbins, Humphreys and Jeffreys, contains rare and exquisitely illustrated volumes on the flora, fauna and exploration of southern continent of Africa, including the work of travellers such as Burchell, Daniell, Le Vaillant and Barrow. The collections of paintings and rare antique maps of Africa never fail to delight and fascinate the visitor.
More recent but equally interesting is the material housed in the Historical and Literary Papers department. Much of it dealing with early days of trade unions, political trials, and organisations and people banned during the apartheid years, this collection depicts an intriguing and sometimes horrifying social history and contains documents and information entrusted to Wits and unavailable elsewhere. For researchers in the social sciences it is a paradise.
No library today can hope to provide from its own collections all the information required by its users, and this is especially so of a library serving a university of high repute, producing research and graduates acknowledged and respected internationally. Wits Library keeps abreast of the new technology, is linked by network to other libraries throughout the country, and via the Internet to information resources worldwide. Teaching students how to access and utilise electronic information is an important function of the Library, and the electronic classroom, the first of its kind in South African libraries, provides fascinating insight into modern information retrieval techniques.
There are two main libraries (Wartenweiler and Cullen), and fourteen branch libraries which make up the University of the Witwatersrand Library. Rare source materials, specialist collections, use of up-to-date technology, and a team of enthusiastic and dedicated staff all combine to form a library which serves the staff and students of the University, contributes towards the research needs of the country, and is one of the best academic libraries in southern Africa.