Knysna Library, Memorial Square

Visit the Knysna Library

For a little town of less than 100,000 people, Knysna has a LOT of public libraries: eleven, to be exact. And that’s not surprising – because Knysna has always been a muse and inspiration for writers and artists alike.

Libraries, of course, exist mainly to serve the needs of local citizens and especially their children – but seeing as how our libraries welcome visitors, visiting them may just be one of your most rewarding and unusual activities in Knysna.

Main Street Library

Knysna’s first library – a wooden reading room that stood on the corner of Main and Long Streets – was built in 1858. That was replaced in 1893 by the more permanent and beautiful sandstone building that now forms the core of our ‘main’ library at 2 Memorial Square.

When you visit, make sure to take a peek into the activities room, which you’ll find on your left hand side after you enter the building. Here you’ll see two of the finest examples of the local cabinet makers’ craft: a pair of enormous, glass-fronted bookcases made of stinkwood – the most valuable of the indigenous timbers from the Knysna Forests.

The larger of the two was donated to mark the opening of the library by the Union Steamship Company (whose ships regularly visited the old Port of Knysna): its shelves now house a collection of books that once belonged to a Dr. Clifton, who lived and practiced in the town in the 1890s. The ‘smaller’ cabinet (it’s still huge!) was made for the Friends of the Knysna Library using stinkwood donated by Geo. Parkes & Co, Sawmillers. It houses the Friends’ collection, which includes many first-edition works by authors associated with Knysna.

Dalene Matthee

Turn right into the library itself, though, and you’ll find a treasure trove of books, DVDs, and music CDs.

Book titles include fiction and non-fiction, as well as loan and reference material.

For a real holiday reading treat – and for evocative, iconic novels about Knysna and the forests of the Garden Route of South Africa – look for works by the author Dalene Matthee.

Famous for her stories of the Knysna Forest – tales of the woodcutters who once lived here, of the Knysna elephants that still roam the Garden Route National Park, of the ships that sailed through the Knysna Heads – Dalene Matthee wrote a total of 13 novels, including her wildly popular Forest Series.

All of these novels about Knysna are available on loan from the Knysna Library – as are DVDs of some of the movies based on Dalene Matthee’s stories.

Visitor Membership

For visitors, the two branches of the Knysna Library you’ll probably find most accessible are the Main Street Library on Memorial Square, and the Leisure Isle Library on Hall Road. (For a complete list of branches of the Knysna Library, visit

Visitors can qualify for temporary membership and the right to borrow books and other media for holiday reading on payment of a modest fee.

Further Reading