Home > Update from UCT Libraries ED: Two months down the line....
Update from UCT Libraries ED: Two months down the line....
18 Jun 2021 - 23:45
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:
The Jagger Library, a highly respected library, has earned a place in history
The affirmation of the knowledge project in South Africa, and the contributions thereto by UCT
The reputation of UCT underpinned the enormous international attention garnered, groundswell of support, offers of assistance and sponsorships.
The acknowledgement and recognition of the library as essential to the knowledge project as evidenced by the deep feelings of loss and immense value of the Jagger Library, the Reading Room, the African Studies Collections and other holdings. Many librarians and library assistants contributed directly to the Jagger Library earning its reputation as it is the human endeavour that builds and manages these collections.
The unhesitating offers of research support collaboration by national and international Ivy League universities and leading vendors to provide additional access in support of the continued teaching and learning endeavours of UCT.
The goodwill of human nature made us realise that we were not alone in our loss as demonstrated by the positive responses to our various calls for volunteers, the long-hours and commitment of both staff and volunteers for the greater good, and digging deep within one’s self to be strong for each other.
Open, authentic and responsible communication of our activities and progress via our website and social media platforms engendered keen interest and support for our efforts.
Being honest about our capacity and capabilities and unafraid to ask for help. This was critical as none of us had experienced a disaster of this nature and by reaching out to experts, drowning out the noise and being focused, we were able to accomplish our goal in record time.
The importance of leveraging this moment for:
a. facilitating a national conversation on cultural institutions, academic libraries and the preservation of cultural heritage
b. picking up the conversation about the UCTL 10-year spatial and design plan within the context of rethinking the narrative about and towards Afrikan identity and memory
c. determining how we become a Centre of Excellence for preservation and conservation (be it traditional and/or digital)
And so in these two months we have succeeded in or are in the process of:
evacuating the entire holdings of the Jagger basements, with 67 map cabinets being the last to be removed on 4,5 and 7 June and relocated to Maitland House.
relocating the Special Collections staff and a sizeable collection of materials to interim premises at Maitland House, River Park, Mowbray for a period of two years. Staff were introduced to their new workplace yesterday.
identifying that which was saved and the priority restoration/ rehabilitation projects.
articulating a plan for the restoration of damaged materials and rebuilding of lost collections.
articulating specific needs related to the restoration and reconstituting SC as a library/archive and exploring funding opportunities with various entities to realise these needs.
dismantling the triage operations outside the Jagger Library next week.
ensuring business continuity across UCT Libraries under the different lockdown levels.
Albert Einstein said “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”. In harnassing our collective pain and memory, let us seize this historical moment and pledge ourselves to new ways of thinking, being and doing as we restore, reconstruct and strengthen UCT Libraries. This will certainly be a moment of celebration!