Jeff MacKie-Mason, the university librarian, will retire in June 2024, according to a campus press release.
His retirement comes as controversies surrounding campus libraries come to a head, with protests and sit-ins against the closing of the Anthropology Library gaining national attention. MacKie-Mason said that he decided to retire last summer before the proposal of the long-term space plan that included the potential closure of the Anthropology Library.
“I’m retiring because I feel that we — the entire Library staff, together — have accomplished the key goals that I was hired to address, and so I can move on to my other passions,” MacKie-Mason said in an email. “I’ll be 65 next year and want enough time to spend with my grandchildren and my piano studies.”
MacKie-Mason noted that in collaboration with UC Berkeley Library employees, his accomplishments include securing $97 million in funding for three building projects, agreements for open access for 54% of all articles published by UC authors and doubling philanthropic funding to campus libraries.
Daniel Melia, professor emeritus and chair of the Library Committee, worked with MacKie-Mason over the past two years during what he called a “fraught” time for the library. He noted that budget cuts, the high costs of essential journal subscriptions and the low prioritization of libraries to campus have put the library in a difficult financial position.
“I think the library is now raising more than 25% of its total budget through philanthropy,” Melia said. “Working constantly to develop donors to the library — that also is embarrassing. It’s a great thing that alumni and friends of the library are willing to donate millions every year for operating expenses. This isn’t for endowments. It’s to keep the electricity on.”
Melia believes that MacKie-Mason’s response to the pushback against the Anthropology Library’s closing has been “as sympathetic as possible.”
However, Rabindra Hayashi, a doctoral student of anthropology and organizer for the Save the Anthropology Library movement, pointed out that while Save the Anthropology Library occupiers are not a monolith, most do not have a “positive impression” of MacKie-Mason.
He alleged that MacKie-Mason seemed “frustrated and exasperated” at their occupation of the Anthropology Library.
In the future, he said members of Save the Anthropology Library hope for someone who will do a “better job” of advocating for academic needs.
“I think there’s been a lot of pressure that has made his work more difficult, visible and complicated,” said Sandra Oseguera, a doctoral student of anthropology and a co-organizer of Save the Anthropology Library. “When we protested his seminar a few weeks ago, we told him he failed to raise money for the libraries that he hadn’t pushed hard enough and if he wasn’t capable of this job, he should quit or resign, (and) he said maybe he would.”