‘The Reading Room is completely gutted’: A message from UCT Libraries Executive Director

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Smoke hovered over parts of Cape Town on Sunday as firefighters battled a veldfire that raged from Rhodes Memorial towards the University of Cape Town on 18 April 2021. Photo: Glen Jones
Smoke hovered over parts of Cape Town on Sunday as firefighters battled a veldfire that raged from Rhodes Memorial towards the University of Cape Town on 18 April 2021. Photo: Glen Jones
Supplied (Instagram/@glenjonesphotos)
  • On Sunday 18 April 2021, a massive fire made its way through the Rhodes Memorial, spreading down to the University of Cape Town. 
  • One of the affected areas is the Reading Room of the UCT Libraries’s Jagger Library. 
  • Below is a statement from Executive director of the libraries, Ujala Satgoo, who says a thorough assessment of the damage will take place once the building has been declared safe. 


Dear Colleagues, staff, students and friends of UCT Libraries

An unexpected natural disaster struck at the heart of UCT Libraries today and I write this message with a deep sense of sorrow and loss at the havoc and devastation it wrought upon the Reading Room of the Jagger Library. 

As some of us watched, from on site, with horror and helplessness this elegant and historical library burn, I can only imagine the shock and horror you must have felt as you watched the news reports and pictures of this destruction. 

At this stage, we can confirm the Reading Room is completely gutted and thankfully the fire detection system in place triggered the fire shutters thereby preventing the spread of the fire to other parts of the Library. Some of our valuable collections have been lost, however a full assessment can only be done once the building has been declared safe and we can enter the building. An official statement is forthcoming and until such time, I request that individuals refrain from speculation and conjecture. 

I wish to acknowledge:

  • the prompt and co-ordinated efforts of the various UCT Properties and Services teams with our Facilities team
  • the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue teams for all their efforts to control the fire and contain further damage to the Jagger Library
  • all the messages of support and offers of assistance for crisis conservation and our recovery efforts. We will certainly call upon you to be a part of this. 

To the staff and students, this is indeed a sad day for UCT and UCT Libraries! Although this loss will be felt deeply, we will weather this storm and rise from the ashes. We will keep you updated of developments and our recovery plans.

Ujala Satgoor is the Executive Director of UCT Libraries. 

Follow this link for LIVE UPDATES on the Cape Town fire.

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