Dismay and grief met the news that the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) historic Jagger Reading Room had been lost to fire on 18 April. The Jagger Reading Room was home to the African Studies collection, started in 1953, as well as portions of many other collections: journals, ephemera, manuscripts, film and video, and maps and rare antiquarian books.
An unexpected natural disaster struck at the heart of UCT Libraries today and I write this message with a deep sense of sorrow and loss at the havoc and devastation it wrought upon the Reading Room of the Jagger Library.
As of Monday May 10, the salvaging of the entire holdings kept in the Jagger Library basements was completed. This was the first phase of the Jagger Library Recovery efforts. We succeeded in removing these holdings in over 12 000 crates, which are stored in 10 different sites and four containers, with the exception of our map cabinets, which occupy a 250sqm footprint. In addition to the clearing of the basement, the fire rubble was cleared from the site.
This last week of salvage and retrieval of materials from the basements of the Jagger Library was a lesson in despair and hope, collegiality and camaraderie, patience and impatience, stoicism and endless possibilities.
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, visited the University of Cape Town (UCT) after a devastating fire affected the Rondebosch campus on Sunday, 18 April. Dr Nzimande pledged to help UCT digitise and restore its library assets, and assist students whose research had been disrupted by the fire.
A “tragedy of unspeakable proportions” is how current and past staff of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Jagger Reading Room described the fire that left their beloved library – a safe, beautiful space, and home away from home – in utter ruins.
Today, a month ago, the Jagger Library, the home of UCT Libraries Special Collections, was gutted by fire. A renowned and well-loved library amongst UCT alumni, academics and scholars, and the training ground for many professional librarians, the shock waves of its destruction by a freak of nature reverberated across the world. From a former active contact library abuzz with students to a more scholarly Reading Room since 2012, this disaster has catapulted it into the annals of library history.
PNA, South Africa’s one-stop stationery shop, has gifted R50 000 to the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Jagger Reading Room. The funds will go towards the rebuilding project to restore the much-loved library to its former glory.
Following the devastating loss of some special collections at the Jagger Library, our vendors have generously provided temporary access to their historical databases spanning multiple subject disciplines. These databases also contain materials relating to Africa and African history. Explore the list of databases and ebooks.
Two months ago on 18 April 2021, UCT Libraries changed significantly with the devastating loss of the Jagger Reading Room caused by the unexpected Table Mountain fires. As I reflect upon the significance of this moment and the last two months, I would like to share the following observations.
Mandy Noble, Principal Librarian in Special Collections, pays tribute to the Published Collections team who led an enormous amount of recovery work since the salvage after the fire in the Jagger Library.