Executive Mayor Helen Zille officially opened the 'New' Central Library (today) Tuesday 29 July, in Cape Town. The library, which was previously housed in the City Hall, has moved to the site of the Old Drill Hall where it will re-open as a Centre of Excellence to the citizens of Cape Town on 1 September 2008.
Initial funding for the upgrade of the new library came from the Carnegie Corporation, when they awarded a $2 million grant to the City of Cape Town in 2004.
In a surprise announcement at the event, the Carnegie Corporation donated a further $2,495 million for the upgrade of the library over a three year period.
Councillor Shehaam Sims, Mayoral Committee Member for Amenities & Sport, said: "I am delighted by what has been achieved. A modern, state of the art library has been built inside the Old Drill Hall, which from a historical and architectural point of view, is one of the significant buildings in the city centre. The provision of this amenity, which can be used by Capetonians from all walks of life and social and economic backgrounds, is also a major contribution from the City to the regeneration of the Central Business District."
The bulk of the Carnegie Corporation grant was used to purchase books as well as computer equipment. The City of Cape Town, in turn, contributed R36.6 million for the refurbishing and upgrading of the library. This resulted in extensive changes to the interior of the Old Drill Hall. As it is a historic building, most of the changes have been to the inside of the building, including building a basement level to accommodate the Children’s Library.
Vartan Gregorian, Carnegie Corporation President, said: "The 'new' Central Library will be at the centre of the community. It will be a learning and a reading place, but it will also be a gathering place, a meeting place, a place where cultural events happen, where children sit in reading circles with other children of every race, ethnicity and class and where both children and adults are taught to read. Like all libraries, the 'new' Central Library will be a haven for retreat and a launching pad for the human imagination."
Gregorian continued: "Today we must remind the public that libraries are invaluable to those of us who are engaged in lifelong learning and cannot imagine an existence without something new to learn about and discover almost every day."
The library will offer free internet access on 40 computers as well as access to a wider selection of books than previously offered in the old library. It will also house a Professional Children’s Collection, intended for research purposes, an extended Art Library and Music and Performance Arts Library. An innovation will be the American Corner, which will house additional books and computers donated by the US Embassy.
The facility will also have a coffee shop, a bookshop, meeting rooms, seminar rooms, and an auditorium. The music library will have listening posts for CD’s and the DVD/Video collection will emphasise South African and African content. The book stock will have a similarly strong focus on local content, and it will be the only library in the city that will have reading materials in all 11 official languages.