The occupation of UC Berkeley’s anthropology library ended Saturday evening when campus administrators agreed to meet the demands of protesters and restore the library’s hours, marking the second time the campus has restored the library’s hours in response to a student occupation.
The demonstration began as a “study-in” Thursday evening in protest of cuts made to the library’s operating hours for the spring semester after a longtime library staffer resigned unexpectedly.
About 30 protesters were in the library Saturday evening when news came that Tom Leonard, UC Berkeley’s university librarian, signed the agreement to restore the anthropology library’s hours to its fall 2011 schedule. On a temporary basis, students will be hired to help staff the library.
According to the agreement, recruitment will start on Monday, but anthropology department chair Terrence Deacon said that many of the department’s faculty members have volunteered to work at the library during the morning hours until students can be hired. He added that during hours when there is no professionally trained library staff present, the circulation desk will be closed but the library will remain open for computer use and as a study space.
The original demands that protesters sent to administrators requested that the campus find a full-time staff member to work in the library within the next 30 days, but the campus agreed to the demands only after negotiating to start the search for a full-time staff member in that time period instead, according to Yvette Felarca, a national organizer for BAMN.
The agreement comes a little more than two years after the campus administrators restored the library’s hours following a similar demonstration.
In October 2009, the campus cut the Saturday operating hours of the anthropology library and other campus libraries to offset the library system’s budget deficit. The hours of all libraries were restored after students held a 24-hour “study-in” at the anthropology library that month and the campus received donations from UC Berkeley parents and students.
Callie Maidhof, a graduate student in the anthropology department who participated in both occupations, said that because this week’s restoration of library hours is the second time administrators have responded directly to a student occupation of the library, protesters are making it apparent that direct action is effective in changing campus policies.
“It sends a clear message of the power of collective direct action when students come together and say ‘we are going to do to this, and we are going to hold out until we get what we want,’” Maidhof said. “It is particularly poignant when we have the support of faculty and staff.”
During last week’s occupation, anthropology department faculty made arrangements with the campus administration to help supervise the protest past the library’s closing hours on the condition that campus police officers would not intervene.
Deacon, who spent much of the protest in the library and said he had been in conversation with administrators throughout the protest, said there was “good faith at the administrative level” about the students who occupied the library.
Staff writers Geena Cova, Chloe Hunt and Amy Wang contributed to this report.