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UCT asks the public to help with restoring Jagger Library

The Jagger Reading Room was completely gutted. On April 18 last year, despite valiant firefighting efforts, many stood and watched in disbelief as flames engulfed the library, which houses valuable and historic collections. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency

The Jagger Reading Room was completely gutted. On April 18 last year, despite valiant firefighting efforts, many stood and watched in disbelief as flames engulfed the library, which houses valuable and historic collections. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency

Published Jun 21, 2022

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Cape Town - The University of Cape Town (UCT) has taken an unusual approach to restoring its Jagger Library by calling on the public to get involved.

The university has invited the public to participate and collaborate in the rebuilding project, with a number of Jagger Library workshops to be held tomorrow and on Friday.

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On April 18 last year, despite valiant firefighting efforts, many stood and watched in disbelief as flames engulfed the library, which houses valuable and historic collections.

The building was constructed in the 1930s, and served originally as the main library, then as a short loans centre, and most recently, from 2000 to 2011, as the reading room of the African Studies Library.

A Jagger Fire and Recovery Collection website was launched on UCT Libraries’ digital showcase platform, Ibali, providing a look at disaster recovery.

Project manager, Dr Heeten Bhagat said the rebuilding of the library has not begun yet.

“It's still a long process. This process that we’re in right now is primarily about reimagining what the library could look like, so it's at a very early stage.”

Involving the public in the restoration was aligned with UCT’s Vision 2030 which envisions a more community-related, inclusive and engaged institution.

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“And so normally processes like this are kind of internal and we were thinking to try out the processes of inviting various communities across the city to contribute ideas and to what the library would look like,” Dr Bhagat said.

Tuesdays workshops were held with UCT library staff ascertaining what they imagine the building to look like but also the services it could render in relation to their work and the library's strategic plan in terms of the development.

The workshops to be held on Friday are for members of the public who had registered online, to share their ideas around what they feel the library could look like and will include drawing exercises and discussions.

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For more information, email: [email protected]

Looking back one year later, Libraries executive director Ujala Satgoor said in a statement: “By being focused and strategic about our needs and requirements, we relocated to new premises; consolidated all our dispersed materials to a single location; continued with remedial conservation by staff, an international visiting conservator, and interns; re-organised the thousands of crates into collections; commenced the transfer of primary materials into new archival stationery; sourced additional funding for critical conservation equipment, shared expertise, digitisation of at-risk collections, and future capacity building; and commenced the re-building of the African Studies collection by re-shelving some of the salvaged and restored materials with the note ‘survived the Jagger fire’ on each bibliographic record.”

The outsourced restoration projects of rare and antiquarian books and monographs, and of audio-visual collections, are also under way.

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