The international and human rights collection in the Library, which became a reality through donations by the Canadian Bar Association, several American law schools and the Government of India, has faced increasing demands as the LRC’s role has evolved over time.
In order to meet the growing demand for up-to-date legal resources and to provide research facilities to accommodate an increasing number of users, the Library underwent extensive improvements made possible through a one-time grant from Dr. Bill Venter, then Chairman of the Altron Group. The newly refurbished Library was officially named and re-opened by then President Nelson Mandela in 1996.
The Library and the building in which the Library is housed, are named in honour of the late Bram Fischer, an Afrikaner lawyer who was deeply committed to the cause of non-racial democracy in South Africa. Fischer lived in a time when his membership in the Communist Party and his political resistance to the Apartheid regime were considered to be treasonous, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. His courage and dedication to the cause of democracy and equality for all continue to inspire the work of the LRC. It was therefore with great pride that the LRC accepted from Fischer’s daughters a collection of legal books that belonged to Bram Fischer, his father Percy Uhlrig Fischer and his grandfather Abraham Fischer.
At the opening of the Bram Fischer library, the following message was received from Ruth Rice and Ilse Wilson, Bram's daughters:
“There are three generations of Fischer books in the LRC library – those belonging to Bram’s grandfather, Abraham Fischer, his father, Percy Ulrich Fischer and his own books. Arthur Chaskalson looked after all these books while Bram was in prison. He continued to subscribe to the law journal and to put Bram’s name on the books until the year Bram died. When the LRC came into being, Arthur asked us if he could put the books in the LRC library and we readily agreed.
We believe that Bram would have felt the LRC was an appropriate place to house the collection. We are very pleased that Bram is now being remembered by this library being given his name and we are delighted that his old friend and comrade, Nelson Mandela, has agreed to officially open the library.
We believe that the lawyers of the LRC with their determination to promote human rights and their service to the community are following the example of courage and integrity, which Bram Fischer showed.”
Apart from the historical Fischer collection, the original papers relating to President Mandela’s Rivonia trial were made available to the LRC by former Johannesburg attorney Joel Joffe and were presented to Mr. Mandela in June 1995. Copies of these papers are now housed in the Library, whilst the originals are in safekeeping and serve as a constant source of pride for the LRC.