The City of Cape Town says that 110 insurance claims, valued at more than R1m, have been submitted due to public libraries being vandalised.
According to a statement, the Library and Information Service has already submitted insurance claims valued at R1 247 864 in the current financial year - three times higher than the previous financial year.
Of the City's 104 libraries, 17 feature prominently on the list of insurance claims and account for 54% of all claims submitted in the last three financial years, with the most damage occurring at the Bellville, Bishop Lavis, Eerste River, Goodwood, Hangberg and Heideveld libraries.
Gugulethu Library became the latest target on Tuesday when a group of attackers vandalised computer equipment, windows and doors.
Staff and patrons were threatened with physical violence and it is suspected that the group intended to set the building alight, said mayoral committee member of safety and security JP Smith.
'Some of our libraries are under siege'
"I appeal to anyone in the community who knows anything about this incident to please approach the police or the City's enforcement agencies so that we can hold those responsible to account for their actions," he said.
"Some of our libraries are under siege, with thieves stealing anything of value that they can lay their hands on, from air-conditioning units to computers. There is also malicious damage to property, targeting doors, windows and ceilings and, frankly, we are appalled," Smith said.
He explained that the SmartCape facilities were crucial to learners, jobseekers and entrepreneurs.
"To deprive people of these opportunities through cable theft or vandalism, and even the theft of desktop computers, is nothing short of callous," Smith said.
In an effort to highlight the seriousness of the situation, library staff had started engaging with local councilors and sub-councils on the matter.
"In many instances, people know who the criminals are, but are too fearful or apathetic to do anything. Libraries are such important resources in the communities they serve and should be protected at all costs," Smith added.