The building was constructed in the 1930s, named after John William Jagger, a major benefactor of the University of Cape Town Libraries. It served initially as the main library, then as a temporary lending center, and more recently, between 2000 and 2011, as the reading room for the African Studies Library.
By 1980, the library was part of an eight-library complex at the University of Cape Town, and was the headquarters of the university's library service. It then contained 518,000 of the 741,000 volumes available in the library network, and could house 1280 readers in its reading rooms.
In 2011, the university began a project aimed at restoring the Jagger Library to its original condition. The walkways and balconies installed in the 1960s and 1970s were removed, and it was subsequently painted, refurnished, and had its original elements restored, becoming once again the main library of the University of Cape Town.
It was partially destroyed by the April 2021 Table Mountain fire. However, the library's fire detection systems stopped the destruction of the entire collection. The salvage operation ended on 18 May. The library will not be rebuilt—the collections will move to a new premises.
- "Jagger Reading Room". University of Cape Town Special Collections. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
- Coetzee, Cornelius Johannes Stephanus; Geggus, Caroline (1980). South African Human Sciences Research Council (ed.). University Education in the Republic of South Africa. p. 196. ISBN 9780869656631.
- Persens, Lizell (18 April 2021). "Fire wreaks destruction on UCT". Eyewitness News. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
- Tembo, Theolin (18 April 2021). "Some of our valuable collections at Jagger Library have been lost in the fire, says UCT libraries head". Independent Online (South Africa). Retrieved 18 April 2021.
- "Completion of Phase One: Salvage". University of Cape Town Libraries. 18 May 2021. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
- "Update: Wrapping up the salvage phase and the way forward". University of Cape Town Libraries. 13 May 2021. Retrieved 13 April 2022.