John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport
Following the fire on the roof on the National Library of Wales on 26 April, I agreed to keep members updated on the situation as further information became available. I would like to begin by reiterating the Welsh Government’s appreciation of the professionalism and commitment of the staff of the Library and all those individuals and organisations who are continuing to work together to maintain the Library’s vital role in safeguarding the rich heritage of our nation. Normal service to the public and internal business functions were resumed on 30 April and this position has been maintained to date. I visited the Library on 2 May and saw for myself the tremendous amount of work which had been completed in a very short space of time.
Initially, the fabric of the roof has been temporarily repaired to ensure that there is no further water ingress. Work is continuing on an assessment of the extent of the damage, including the risk of mould affecting the fabric of the building and the Library’s collections. Around 70 of the Library’s staff have been re-located while remedial work continues.
Harwell, the specialist document restoration service is continuing to work with the Library’s conservators to restore material which it will be able to conserve. In total, 140 small crates, 5 map drawers and 4 boxes of material were sent for external conservation. A similar amount of material is being restored by Library conservators. The Library has now provided me with a list of items which were lost during the fire and the Library is making this available to the public today [4 June].
In addition, some ICT equipment in one of the server rooms has been damaged beyond repair, although around 75% of items have been salvaged.
The library has received a report from Mid and West Wales Fire Service. The Fire Service has stated that the most probable cause was ‘the accidental ignition of timber, located behind the external cladding on the edge of the roof. Ignition was caused by a propane powered torch’. The Library is continuing to discuss with its legal advisers the circumstances leading up to the fire and the position regarding insurance.
While more detailed assessments are progressed on the financial consequences of the fire, urgent work is being funded in the short-term from the Library’s existing capital budget.
The Welsh Government has already stated its commitment to support the Library through this emergency and my officials in CyMAL division are continuing to liaise very closely with the Library staff during this difficult period.