The Old Library is the fourth building in the Graaff Reinet Museum Complex.
In 1847 the citizens of Graaff Reinet raised money to build a public library – the central section of the current building. The two wings were added in 1878 and 1926. The building continued as a library until 1981, when the service was moved to Parsonage Street. The Old Library now houses the Tourist Office and exhibition spaces.
Dr Robert Sobukwe (1924-78) was born in Graaff Reinet and his life story is one of courage and determination – and shame and waste. He came from a poor family but educated himself to a standard where he could lecture at the University of Witwatersrand. However his political activities as a founder member of the Pan Africanist Congress and his participation in the march which resulted in the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 led to imprisonment, solitary confinement on Robben Island, house arrest and general isolation. It is eternally shaming to South Africa that such a life should have been sacrificed and largely wasted.
There was also an exhibition on fracking, currently a very hot issue in the Karoo. As I understand it the main concerns are that fracking needs extremely large volumes of water, a very scarce commodity in the Karoo; that the process of fracking could penetrate the underground water system which stretches from the Karoo to the Western Cape and poison the water; and that poisoned water will kill the sheep and cattle in the Karoo, a major supplier of meat in the country.
The Old Library faces on to Church Street, aka Kerk Straat.