Jagger Library Recovery

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A message of thanks from our ED #JaggerLibrarySalvage

21 May 2021 - 12:00

Dear All
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.
The realisation of the loss of the Jagger Reading Room as a historic moment in the lives of extraordinary libraries was brought to bear by the global outpouring of shock and support. The original elation at knowing the fire did not breach the basements was fast quelled when we saw and realised the enormity of the secondary damage caused by water used to douse the fire. Our immediate response to this was to evacuate the entire holdings of the basements – a herculean task indeed! Therefore it is with a deep sense of gratification and appreciation I inform you that Phase One: Salvage of the entire holdings kept in the Jagger Library basements, which commenced on 21 April was completed on Monday, May 17.

I wish to acknowledge the University Executive for their support and confidence in the Libraries team; Properties & Services for the unquestioning and unstinting project support at every turn; Communications and Marketing Division; Development and Alumni Division, academic departments and centres, and external sponsors including Pick'n'Pay, Windmeul, Gift of the Givers, Merrypak, Amazon, Metrofile who responded to our call for help!
And so, a huge shout-out to all our volunteers – alumni, students, academics, retired and current UCT 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 throughout this salvage period. You made it possible for us to remove these holdings in over 12 000 crates, which are now stored in 10 different sites and four dry and cold storage containers. You separated wet, damp and dry materials, and applied appropriate interventions to stabilise compromised materials. You also monitored the stored/crated materials at the various sites to check for persistent damp and obviate the onset of mould. The sight of you in a human chain slinging crates under difficult and uncomfortable conditions was both touching and inspiring as it spoke to the depth of your feelings to save the life blood of a valuable library.

Thank you to each one of you for showing up and making this herculean task a success. We still have a long way ahead of us and together we will achieve our new goal of reimagination and reconstruction of the Jagger Library.

Best regards

Ujala Satgoor
Executive Director: UCT Libraries

Volunteers form a human chain to transfer crates of books from Jagger Library. Photo by Dilshaad Brey
Photo credit: Dilshaad Brey, Librarian at Bongani Mayosi Health Sciences Library