The anthropologists at UC Berkeley had been waging an 85-night-long battle to save their beloved anthropology library from impending closure — and last week, they announced a (partial) victory.
The university conceded to allow them to retain their library space and 40% of its vast collection of 50,000 books, as the Chronicle reported. Plus, the group of activist anthropologists announced that for the first time ever, a (limited) number of community members could apply for free UC Berkeley library cards, allowing them to access and check out books from the anthropology library — a key ask from the group
The news is an about-face from UC Berkeley’s original plan to shutter three of its 23 libraries (the George and Mary Foster Anthropology Library, plus the physics-astronomy and mathematics statistics libraries) to narrow a $75 million budget deficit.
Subsequently, as is the Berkeley tradition, students and faculty protested. They wanted the hard copies of eclectic anthro research studies and books to remain in one easily accessible place, according to Berkeleyside. Protesters reportedly occupied the library from April 21 until July 15, and Anthropology undergraduate organizer Ian Molloy even slept in the anthropology library for 40 consecutive days before taking a break.
In the end, the protestors and the university reached a compromise: The library will no longer function as a circulating library, but instead serve mainly as a reading room, the organizers said. The anthropology oeuvre will mostly go into storage in an off-campus warehouse in Richmond or into the main library, available upon request. Still, patrons will be able to read the remaining books still there on-site, such as some smaller collections, like scholarship on Native American studies. The anthropology department will take over running the reading room, including staffing.
Image of UC Berkeley Anthropology Library via UC Berkeley.