Damage to UCT is sad for varsity, students
DURBAN - AS UCT comes to terms with the destruction to property allegedly caused by a vagrant and runaway fires that began on Sunday morning, the loss of rare books and manuscripts has left many South Africans devastated.
In KwaZulu-Natal, local universities said they had measures in place to deal with fires similar to that at UCT and to ensure rare books and manuscripts were kept safe.
University of KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Normah Zondo said the institution had various measures in place to safeguard its libraries. “All libraries have 24-hour security patrols and are fitted with smoke detectors, fire-proof metal shelving and sprinkler systems. The Documentation Centre has gas equipment in place that cuts off the oxygen supply in the event of a fire,” she said.
Zondo said they were currently finalising a preservation plan and were in the process of digitising publications that were rare and of high value.
Zondo said UKZN had a copyright office that worked closely with libraries to ensure that copyright requirements regarding digitisation were adhered to.
“The damages sustained at UCT are catastrophic. It is a sad day for the university and its students. Any loss of information suffered is undoubtedly a devastating blow to the UCT community, the institution and humanity. We will continue to reach out to our counterparts at UCT to lend support wherever we can,” Zondo said.
She said this as UCT on Tuesday announced they had suspended the academic programme until Friday.
UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said the academic programme would resume on April 26.
Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) spokesperson Mbali Mkhize said they had fire extinguishers and fire alarms should such a situation occur. “Fortunately, we do not have a special collection of rare books at MUT.”
Mkhize said MUT was in the process of getting its books digitised. Covid-19 has also changed the way the university operated.
Durban University of Technology (DUT) spokesperson Alan Khan said they had a fire alarm system and smoke detectors on all floors. He said the institution had a small archived collection and the digitisation process would only start in this financial year.
“However, it is important to note that some books cannot be digitised. It is rare for very old books to be covered in archival plastics which retards the flaming process. For the books that cannot be digitised, it is essential that those books be handled appropriately. The DUT library, after it has been granted copyright permissions, plans to digitise all books from the archives,” he said.
Khan said DUT was yet to apply to the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation for copyright clearance.