UC Berkeley community members have criticized proposed changes to the campus library system announced Oct. 3, which would limit services and close the Anthropology, Mathematics Statistics and Physics-Astronomy libraries.
One week after campus released its proposal, the Berkeley Faculty Association, or BFA, released a statement urging campus’s Academic Senate to pressure campus administration for a higher library system budget.
“Campus leaders must restore funding to the library at the very least to the minimal standard it committed to in 2014,” said BFA chair James Vernon in the statement. “Let us recall that that was less than half of the annual increase the Commission (on the Future of the UC Berkeley Library) believed was necessary.”
This year, the library received $44.5 million — $2 million less than in the 2014-15 academic year despite the increasing cost of salaries and subscriptions and a 27% increase in student enrollment, according to Vernon.
The BFA’s proposal would increase library funding to $62 million, which is the amount it received in 2014-15, adjusted for inflation. This would represent $17.5 million more than the library currently receives at a time when campus administration is seeking ways to drive costs down.
According to Vernon, however, a budget increase is the only way to fulfill the library’s mission. Vernon called the library “the beating heart” of campus’s academic mission and stated that the lack of funding undermined campus’s ability to conduct research and educate students.
“The current plan to reorganize the library is like rearranging the deck-chairs on the (Titanic),” Vernon said in an email. “It is not a solution to the real problem of the systematic underfunding of the library.”
Sheyda Aboii, a campus doctoral candidate, noted that the Anthropology Library holds value as one of a declining number of specialized libraries in universities in the United States, offering access to rare materials as well as space for quiet and reflection.
Aboii also made a distinction between libraries and study spaces. While libraries do serve as a gathering place for study and thought, she said, the material they offer is also crucial and important for graduate student research.
“It’s a rare jewel that we should really think very strongly about before committing to a decision that evacuates the space of meaning and ready access to materials,” Aboii said.
The UC Berkeley Library has hosted forums on the proposed changes and is seeking feedback via an online survey. However, Aboii said that feedback opportunities have been insufficient.
A survey sent to graduate students simply asked them to choose between time frames for library hours, Aboii noted. Another asked for testimonies regarding the value of the libraries, she added.
“It’s an unfortunate system because it sets the constituency of the Anthropology Library against those of the other two libraries that are at risk,” Aboii said. “It continues and feeds this concept of scarcity … and frankly, it doesn’t open up the creative, academic, scholarly pursuits that a university that’s being supported by tax dollars is supposed to offer.”