I was shown round the fire damage to the National Library last week, along with Ceredigion's Assembly Member, Elin Jones (for anyone who doesn't know, a serious fire broke out at the top of the building on 26th April).
A few things were very clear. Firstly, the damage is serious but restricted to a relatively small area of the top floor. Secondly, how well the library's fire safety measures, from the evacuation of staff to the sealing off of the affected area, worked on the day of the incident. Thirdly, how close, but for these measures, the library came to a real catastrophe, both in human terms and in terms of the vast catalogue of national treasures contained in the building.
The photo shows a part-burnt but still solidly intact fire door that separated the area of the fire on the left from the rest of the building. I’ll bear this picture in mind the next time I think of ignoring a sign saying ‘Fire Door - Keep Shut’.
The library staff pointed out how the materials and construction methods used many years ago for some parts of the building make it extremely vulnerable should any future fire ever break out in, or spread to, those areas. The new Welsh Government Minister for Culture, John Griffiths, also visited the library following the fire. I’m very hopeful that the Welsh Government will make available money not only to repair the existing fire damage but to safeguard those parts of the building that remain a future risk. The heritage contained within the National Library is irreplaceable.
Despite everything, thanks to the hard work of the highly committed staff, the National Library was open to the public again just three days after the fire. More photos here