National Drama Library

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The National Drama Library (NDL) is a special lending library intended to serve the needs of the theatre community for material and detailed information in the field.


The growth of amateur and schools theatre in the 1930s and particularly the founding of FATSSA, led to a strong awareness of the need for access to playtexts and books on theatre. In 1933 the public library was founded in Bloemfontein and in 1938 the Chairperson of FATSSA, P.P.B. Breytenbach, asked that the Bloemfontein library’s limited selection of plays become FATSSA’s official library, to supply its members with sets of theatre texts for performance purposes s well as other material. The Department of Education, Arts and Science later introduced an adult education grant which was used to expand the dramatic literature sections in all four provinces’ libraries.

A national library

In 1953 the Board of Bloemfontein Public Library decided that the Drama Section would in future have the official designation of National Drama Library and from 1970 the service was subsidised by the state and moved to a separate location of its own. In 1973 the Bloemfontein Municipality took over the management of the the NDL directly.

Holdings and services

The library contains the largest and most comprehensive selection of plays in the southern hemisphere and this includes specific information relating to plays, playwrights and all aspects of play production. By 1985 the NDL housed approximately 60 000 books which were easily accessible and by 2000 ***. The principle from the start has been that full sets are bought of each play (i.e. one for each character, pluus a director's and stage manager's copy.) These sets are then lent to member Organisations for the time required to do the production. To promote local theatre, the NDL's policy dictates that it buys sets of copies of all published South African plays. Plays from abroad are ordered through catalogues and more than 200 sets and individual texts are annually added to the library. Theatre magazines are also purchased. In 1987?, after a meeting between the representatives of a variety of archival and management organisations (including ATKV, CESAT, NDL and DALRO) to discuss the dilemmas of distribution and access to new work, the NDL also began collecting unpublished manuscripts of plays.


Annotated catalogues on the holdings were published from time to time (e.g. 1967, 1975 and 198*). By 2005 the NDL had begun to place its catalogue on the web. (Website: bi-annual newsletter is also distributed.


Maxine Arvan, in Temple Hauptfleisch 1985

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