The battle of maintaining open libraries continues.
UC Berkeley Library recently announced its long-term space plan, a plan that involves the merging and closure of libraries across campus, including the Anthropology, Mathematics and Statistics and Physics-Astronomy Libraries. This new decision to reorganize library services is met with significant backlash, most prominently at the Anthropology Library.
Students and faculty have organized sit-in and sleepover occupations to protest the closure of such an integral part of the anthropology department’s community. There is a true urgency to stop the shutting down of these facilities, and campus members are making their voices heard.
There is an imminent need by campus and the state to prioritize and allocate funding to these facilities that are an irreplaceable core of a college. While the state is held accountable for needing to provide more funding to public universities, it is up to campus to prioritize where the money goes. Although campus is actively finding a financial compromise, there is a degree of uncertainty that nevertheless looms for what the future of libraries looks like at UC Berkeley.
We strongly believe that libraries must remain at the forefront of a university’s financial priorities. Campus must work earnestly to fund these libraries to hire more staffing to allow them to remain open and for longer hours. Many of these libraries are the only quiet space available for students to properly study and work in. The closure of them means the closure of the vital locations students rely on to study and gain the education campus promises them.
But, more than just a study space, libraries are hubs for department majors to forge connections and build community. It is a place of collective gathering for students outside of a classroom setting. One of the most important aspects of college is to create lasting relationships with fellow peers. Closing libraries that encourage this interpersonal connection breaks off an avenue for people to meet and get to know each other.
In addition to allocating more financial resources to campus libraries, campus can continue to work toward digitizing much of its information so students can still have access to it in a more sustainable way. Digitization of information may free financial restriction on the maintenance of these resources and thus allow for libraries to have more leeway in how funding can be distributed.
Campus maintains a crucial responsibility to maintain these open spaces for students. The impacts of a closed library make ripple effects throughout the student body and faculty, and it should be a reality that we do not gradually reach. We hope that campus works to sincerely address these issues with libraries and work earnestly to reach a satisfactory conclusion to this ongoing fight.