Staffing shortages, student misconduct trouble UC Berkeley libraries during RRR, finals weeks

Photo of Doe Library
Madeleine Fruman/Staff

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As Moffitt Library and Main Stacks have extended their hours around the clock throughout Reading, Review and Recitation and finals weeks, library employees have reported staffing shortages and increased student misconduct.

According to Doe and Moffitt libraries circulation supervisor Tom Brown, the end of the semester brings high levels of traffic to the library at a time when the library is staffed at the “bare minimum” due to student workers studying for finals. The library has insufficient staff to enforce its policies, he added.

“If anyone is sick or has a review session rescheduled we are left scrambling for a cover,” Brown said in an email. “For the students that do come into work, this leads to an increase in stress since they have to pick up the cover and possibly cover multiple desks.”

According to senior associate university librarian Elizabeth Dupuis, shifts are flexible around student workers’ schedules. Some student workers welcome the extended hours as an opportunity to make additional income before winter break, she added.

Prior to the end of the semester, one student library worker, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation by peers, worked 13 to 14 hours weekly in Moffitt and Doe libraries. With the extended hours, he is now working 20 to 25 hours — a difficult workload during finals, he noted.

The worker confirmed he did not feel pressured to work additional hours and felt supported by his employer. The primary challenges at his job during dead week instead came from students, he noted.

The worker noted that with the increase in library traffic, there is a greater incidence of students attempting to enter the library without an ID, not wearing masks, moving furniture and generally behaving poorly.

“Students come up to us demanding so many different things and feeling really entitled to our time or being very rude to us,” he said.

He noted one situation where a library patron reportedly failed to wear a mask and coughed for 10 to 15 minutes. He also described the “emotional stress” caused by one instance where he was berated by a student for a situation beyond his control.

The anonymous source added that he believes the naked run has become a “spectacle” and a “hazard” during which people rush the library doors and trigger emergency exit alarms.

“If they want to run around naked, they should find somewhere else to do it,” the worker said. “That just puts us as student workers in uncomfortable positions.”

To relieve strain on staff, Brown recommended the library should maintain 24/7 hours but end services at 2 a.m. Finding students to staff the circulation desk late at night is difficult, he added.

The library is hiring more student workers and staff for the spring semester in response to student demands for longer library hours, according to Dupuis. Additional staff was not hired specifically for the end of the fall 2021 semester due to logistical challenges, the anonymous worker noted.

Condemning student misconduct, ASUC Senator Muz Ahmad stressed the importance of long library hours to help students study for final exams. He added campus could fill staffing shortages with nonstudent employees.

ASUC Senator Osirus Polachart echoed these sentiments, describing the attitude of some students toward student library employees as “immature” and “classist.”

“Telling students how to behave should not have to be a part of the job,” Polachart added in an email. “Students should know how to act.”

Library staff noted that part of the solution must come from students.

Brown recommended that students remember to bring their Cal ID card for entrance to the library, while the anonymous student worker urged his peers to “take personal responsibility” and respect library staff.

“I just think students need to have a little bit — a lot more — compassion for us,” the worker said. “Once we step into these roles as workers, I feel like a lot of that camaraderie and that peer-to-peer kind of relationship gets lost.”

Contact Gabe Classon at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @gabeclasson.