Renovations to a Newcastle public library led to books and infrastructure being damaged, as contractors started work before the library had been cleared. Picture: Bert Meiring

Renovations to a Newcastle public library led to damage to infrastructure and books housed on the premises.

The library was closed for planned renovations and a much-needed upgrade to the facilities. However, it appears that the library was not cleared before the renovation work commenced.

During the library’s closure in December, the contractor in charge of the renovations broke down a wall, and parts of the ceiling appeared to have been torn down in the process.

DA councillor in Newcastle, Bertie Meiring, said the library was left in a shocking state, with library property being destroyed in the process.

“The contractor on site broke the wall to commence with the building work, without notifying relevant stakeholders. 

“The damage to the 80 000 books, electronic equipment, furniture, office machines and even an antique piano is enormous and will cost the municipality thousands of rand,” he said. 

“The fibreglass falling from the ceilings was also a huge health hazard for the personnel, who had to remove some of the articles to save them from being ruined forever,” he added.

Meiring said the DA would raise the matter at the municipality’s next council meeting.

Newcastle municipal manager Bhekani Mswane confirmed that damage to library material and property did take place but said the contractor in charge of the renovation and extension of the library would be liable for all damages and that the contractor would make use of their insurance to repair and pay for costs incurred. 

He said the municipality was awaiting a report from the company explaining the details of the demolition process and why it had failed to inform relevant stakeholders in time.

"It is unfortunate that the contractor failed to inform the library staff when demolition of the wall would take place, which has resulted in a huge amount of damage. 

He said the renovations were needed as the library had been experiencing high volumes of users and had been running out of space for books and infrastructure.