On 18 April 2021 our professional lives were changed so unexpectedly and drastically by the quirkiness of both fire and water. It's been a month of shock and deep-seated pain that witnessed the sad and joyous coming together of friends and colleagues to mourn the loss and celebrate the influence this elegant and splendid library had on many individuals, scholars and librarians; the selflessness and selfishness of human nature during a time of crisis; the generosity of spirit and goodwill to ease the burden of loss; and the commitment of time, effort and expertise to find the best solutions to salvage and recover that which was under threat.
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.
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 huge shout-out to our volunteers - students, academics, retired and current Libraries staff, UCT staff, conservators (retired and current who have taken leave to be with us), staff from sister institutions, and local Capetonians who responded to our call for help this weekend. You made it possible for us to move 2172 crates of materials since Thursday and we will be continuing this week. And so a huge thank you to each one of you for showing up and making a difference.