Cutting campus library hours cuts students off from necessary resources

CAMPUS AFFAIRS: UC Berkeley budget cuts have forced campus libraries to close early, leaving many students without the space, Wi-Fi and technology they need.

Illustration of a girl dreaming about a silent library
Aishwarya Jayadeep/Senior Staff

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Walking home from the library at night after the last sentence in your essay or final line of code has been written is peaceful. With the comfort only a quiet library could give, you’re able to return home and relax. Providing students with 24-hour study spaces does more than yield this quintessential college experience. It ensures everyone has access to Wi-Fi, technology, printing and a quiet place to spend caffeine-filled nights studying. Especially in light of inadequate academic and Disabled Students’ Program accommodations, UC Berkeley is failing to create the learning environment students need to succeed.

Reduced library hours this semester are primarily a result of funding cuts — the campus library budget has fallen by about $6 million since the start of the pandemic. In order to provide extended hours for Moffitt Library and Main Stacks during RRR and finals weeks, other library services such as the Moffitt circulation desk will temporarily be closing early.

As a world-class research institution and center for entrepreneurship, some of UC Berkeley’s other facets receive lots of attention and funding. But campus must prioritize its ultimate purpose — to give everyone who attends this school the opportunity to succeed. Adequate study spaces are a basic need for students, and when major libraries close by 10 p.m. and others as early as 4:30 p.m., many are stuck working in crowded, loud environments or are expected to attend to additional responsibilities if they are at home.

Not everyone has access to reliable Wi-Fi or necessary technology — the Student Technology Equity Program, or STEP, did not receive continued funding for 2021-2022. Libraries provide many students with the tools they need to simply complete their school work.

Students deserve access to study spaces 24/7, a service that was provided in 2018. Access to campus resources such as libraries is part of what students are paying for. These essential services must be shielded from pandemic-related financial cutbacks.

It can be impossible to find a study spot on campus, but this issue will only be exacerbated when Moffitt Library is closed during the spring and summer semesters for mandatory seismic retrofitting. Moffitt Library not only serves as a study space for dozens of students but is one of the only collaborative working environments on campus. While campus approved emergency funding to keep other libraries open longer next semester, UC Berkeley must also guarantee students will have access to comparable study spaces on campus before closing the library.

Most UC Berkeley students don’t have the luxury of studying at home in a quiet one-person bedroom. This isn’t a matter of preference but is instead a matter of equity.

UC Berkeley must find the funding to immediately reinstate longer library hours. Campus’ refusal to provide the necessary resources for our success proves once again that its priorities lie outside of guaranteeing every student an equal opportunity to succeed.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2021 opinion editor, Emily Hom.