13 December 2004
Queuing to gain access to South Africa’s National Library will be a thing of the past when a state-of-the-art R160-million building opens in Pretoria’s city centre in 2007.
The library will become the focal point of a Government Boulevard linking new government buildings and other historic sites with the Union Buildings, and form part of the rejuvenation of downtown Pretoria.
Construction on the four-storey, 2 700 square metre building will start in January 2005 and is due to be completed in 2007.
The new facility will feature a raised public piazza leading to its entrance, steel and glass covered walkways and ramps, double-volume reading rooms with views onto the streets, and conveyer belts linking the different sections to ease the movement of books.
Architect Jeremie Malan told Business Day that the design of the building would allow 60% of the space to be used as book stack rooms “with the best air-conditioning systems, keeping temperatures at an optimal 18 degrees Celcius and 40%-50% humidity”.
Speaking at a sod-turning ceremony on 3 December, Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan said the modern glass-and-brick building would reflect the dynamic future of the National Library of South Africa.
“The National Library building will add a new and exciting dimension to the capital of South Africa, while revitalising the CBD and providing a much-needed investment of capital, human resources and future activity”, Jordan said.
The National Library came into existence through the merger in 1999 of the former state library in Pretoria and the former South African library in Cape Town.
The new Pretoria branch will provide approximately 1 800 seats compared to the 130 presently offered by the existing facility.
The National Library is the custodian of the country’s documentary heritage, receiving – in terms of the Legal Deposit Act – a copy of every book, magazine, newspaper, government document and any other document published in South Africa.
The library has a collection of over three million items from legal deposits, donations, and exchange agreements, and is a primary resource for researchers, writers, students and the general public.
The new building is expected to store over 3.5-million documents over the next 20 years.
“This will be the largest and most modern library on the continent”, said National Librarion John Tsebe.