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Niven Library - FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology Library Guide: Finding Books

The library supports a number of themes - African ornithology, conservation biology, Antarctic and sub-antarctic biology, specifically birds.

Niven Library Books

The Niven Library contains a collection of approximately 6,000 books, specialising in African ornithology.  Many of the ornithology books belong to the archival collection of the South African Ornithological Society, now BirdLife South Africa.  All the books donated to the Niven Library are part of the Percy FitzPatrick Memorial Trust, initiated by Dr Cecily Niven, the founder and benefactor of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute. Donor's names are reflected against each book entry in the catalogue and each book carries a donor book plate.

To search for books in the library use the Niven Library OPAC.  Books may be borrowed from the library by staff and students of the Animal Demography Unit, the Percy FitzPatrick Institute and the Zoology Department for a period of 4 weeks.

BirdLife South African members may visit and use the Niven Library as a reference library or request information by email from the librarian.

John Cooper Antarctic Collection

The Niven Library is indebted to John Cooper who was the South African Ornithological Society’s Honorary Librarian from 1973 to 1992. It is largely due to John that the Niven Library contains an important Antarctic, Sub-Antarctic and Polar collection of books, theses, journals, newsletters (see browse lists at the bottom of this box) and maps.

John was a Senior Research Officer at the FitzPatrick Institute, conducting and managing research primarily on seabirds in South Africa, in the sub-Antarctic and on the Antarctic Continent from 1973 to 1996, when he left the campus for a two-year stint as a Ministerial Advisor to the late Professor Kader Asmal, then Government Minister for Water Affairs.  During the 1980s and 1990s he was also the FitzPatrick Institute’s Antarctic Officer within the South African National Antarctic Programme.

He founded  the African Seabird Group in 1976 and initiated a new scientific journal, The Cormorant (Marine Ornithology since 1990) which he managed until 2005, eventually standing down as an Editor in 2009.  By this time the journal had become an international journal of seabird science and conservation, published by the Pacific Seabird Group on behalf of the African, Australasian, Dutch, Japanese and UK Seabird Groups.

He also initiated and coordinated the Seabird Conservation Programme of BirdLife International (1997-2001) while based at UCT’s Animal Demography Unit.

John’s most important contribution has been to the conservation of the Prince Edward Islands and other southern islands. He has authored a suite of conservation publications over several decades, and contributed to the proposal for a large Marine Protected Area around the Prince Edward Islands. He regularly serves as Environmental Officer on voyages to Gough Island on behalf of the Government of Tristan da Cunha, of which he has been an honorary Conservation Officer since 1990

His other important contribution has been as a mentor to young seabird researchers, many of whom now occupy senior academic positions around the World, including Prof. Phil Hockey, Assoc. Prof. Peter Ryan and Drs Nigel Adams, Chris Brown, Susan Jackson, Ross Wanless and Rory Wilson.

He currently serves on the Management Committee of the Prince Edward Islands Special Nature Reserve (South Africa) and on the Tristan Biodiversity Advisory Group (T-BAG). He is also the honorary Information Officer for the inter-governmental Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), researching and writing daily news releases for ACAP Latest News.

Having retired from the University of Cape Town in January 2007, he now holds a research associateship in the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology in the Faculty of Science at Stellenbosch University where he contributes to  research into the human history of the Prince Edward and Gough Islands.

Ornithology Books at UCT Libraries

UCT Library has a small collection of ornithology books, many of which duplicate those in the Niven Library.  There are however titles that are not held by the Niven Library, so it is worth consulting this collection if you are unable to find the book you require in the Niven Library - it may be held by UCT Libraries.

There is also the Danowski Antarctic Collection housed in the Special Collections Library which complements the Niven Library Antarctic Collection.

Search the UCT Libraries catalogue Primo to locate books that are not held by the Niven Library

How to find a book in the UCT Libraries' Catalogue/ renew items/ request items

Books on the shelves are arranged in subject order according to the Dewey Decimal System. You will need to check the library catalogue (PRIMO) to find the shelf number of the book you are looking for.

For more details on how to use the Library Catalogue go to Research help> How to Videos

Sometimes you will find prefixes in front of the shelf numbers. These prefixes will tell you in which part of the library the book can be found. The Book Location Chart will help you find the physical locations of books in UCT Libraries.

Click here for tutorials on:

What to do if a book is not available at UCT Libraries

If you cannot find a book at UCT Libraries first search SACat(SABINET) to find out whether the book is available at any other Southern African libraries.  

SACat (SABINET) is the joint catalogue of all major libraries in Southern Africa. The database gives details of books, journals and audiovisual material held in each library.

Once you have found that the book is available at another library in Southern Africa, you can request it via UCT Libraries Interlibrary Loans Department. The request can be done online once you have registered with the Interlibrary Loans Department. Alternatively, you can visit the Department in the library and make the request in person. You will then be notified by e-mail when the book arrives in the library.

Find out more about the Interlibrary Loans service.