A salvage operation began to retrieve valuable materials from the Jagger Reading Room, which was severely damaged in the runaway Table Mountain fire. Staff, students, and volunteers from outside the university came together in a beautiful expression of community and camaraderie to save what was left of the Special Collections housed there. The university would like to express its sincerest gratitude to all the volunteers for their overwhelming support. Lerato Maduna and Je’nine May were there to catch it all on camera.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe (loosely translated as “Tears do not fall in vain”) has been published by UCT Libraries and is available on the open-access platform, which means it’s accessible to readers outside the campus community.