UC Berkeley’s 67-year-old George and Mary Foster Anthropology Library is one of only three university anthropology libraries in the U.S., but the school wants to shut it down, prompting an Occupy-style student protest.
The above photo of a UC Berkeley university library with an Occupy protester's tent is not from last week’s protest and occupation of the school's George and Mary Foster Anthropology Library. The above photo is from a 2012 occupation of the library over its then-proposed closure; the protest was successful, the university kept the library open. Fast forward to October 2022, when the school again tried to shut the specialized library to save costs, and again backed off the decision. Now the Chronicle reports that UC Berkeley is yet again proposing to shut down the anthropology library, one of only three anthropology libraries in the U.S., which has of course spurred another round of protests and occupying.
“The Anthropology Library at UC Berkeley is the cornerstone of the Anthropology Department at UC Berkeley,” student organizers say in an online petition. “We demand that the Anthropology Library be protected and fully supported by the University.”
What is an “anthropology library,” anyway? As the Chronicle explains, “The Foster library houses an estimated 50,000 volumes of anthropology and its subfields: sociocultural, archeological, biological and linguistic — as well as books on medical anthropology and folklore.” And the school’s anthropology program is a legitimate field of study, the Chron estimates the program has more than 170 undergraduate majors, some 70 grad students, and 28 professors.
Yes, UC Berkeley is running a deficit, specifically a $75 million deficit on a $3.1 billion overall budget. The school therefore plans to close three specialized department libraries, folding them into the main library, to save an estimated $1,5 million.
But students are quick to point out that the school spent $107.3 million on their athletics department last year, compared to just $60 million on its libraries. (And of course, the football stadium took a sizable revenue hit on a crypto deal gone bad.)
“We do have the funding!” anthropology undergrad Amilia Romero said at last week’s protest, per the Chronicle. “But where is it going? To the football team!”
And it’s a big sticking point that not all of the anthropology’s library materials are going to the main library, the majority of the materials will be shipped to off-site storage in nearby Richmond. The sensible answer here seems to be just digitizing the collection, but that’s not happening either. “Most of the library isn’t digitized,” the Chronicle points out. “Just 1,440 volumes are available on the university’s online library, less than 3% of the collection."
Image: Colleen Young via Wikimedia Commons