Who doesn’t love our libraries? UC Berkeley’s campus, home to more than 13 million books, is served by 23 libraries daily. These libraries are used not only for academic resources: Libraries are social spaces, study spaces for those without a quiet spot at home and so much more. Now, thanks to a campus proposal, some of them may be at risk.
Campus recently announced a plan that could close multiple libraries — namely the Anthropology, Mathematics Statistics and Physics-Astronomy libraries.
Ultimately, the proposal recommends that certain libraries become “hub” libraries offering comprehensive library services, six “satellites” with reduced services and two that would operate by appointment only. The proposal aims to address a reduced budget and lowered staff numbers. Since 2003, the staff has been cut nearly in half and so has the funding per student given to the library when adjusted for inflation.
Though widely criticized by campus community members, the plan remains in place as of press time.
There are many reasons, though, why campus should reconsider a plan that limits access to our libraries.
Firstly, as a research institution, UC Berkeley has a responsibility to ensure students, faculty and staff have access to the myriad resources libraries provide. Closing specific libraries means that those working in that discipline face unfair disadvantages or difficulties in their studies compared to other students.
Additionally, library overcrowding is already an issue during high-volume times of the semester. With more libraries closed, not only do some students lose study space, but we are all at a higher risk of communicable diseases being spread — which is no joke, especially when COVID-19 variants and flu season are right around the corner.
At a school where most students are forced to live off campus due to a housing crisis, many lack regular access to quiet, safe study spaces. Libraries on campus provide space for students, allowing them to focus and academically succeed.
Furthermore, it is important for campus to invest in not only the academic needs of its students, but also their social needs. It is more important than ever that students have access to communal spaces they could not access during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, this proposal is not set in stone quite yet — students have the opportunity to express their comments on the proposal until Oct. 31. In the past, students made tangible impacts using their voices, such as keeping the Anthropology Library alive — albeit temporarily — despite previous campus plans to shut it down.
Now is the time for students to stand up and let their voices be heard. If you value your libraries, make comments on the proposals, attend town hall meetings on it and think creatively to show campus we care about our libraries and the services they provide.
Never has it been more essential to save our libraries, and that change can start with each of us.