Anthropology Library to close Feb. 28 due to staffing shortages

Photo of the Anthropology and Art Practice building
William Webster/Senior Staff
Despite the closure, students and faculty will still have access to the Anthropology Library's resources at other library locations, and new material will be added to the library's reserves.

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The UC Berkeley Anthropology Library announced Wednesday it will close indefinitely beginning Feb. 28.

The closure was prompted by “severe and sustained” staffing shortages, according to a campus library press release. The Anthropology Library is not alone — many other campus libraries have been affected by staffing and budget issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re feeling stretched thin and pulled apart,” said Celia Emmelhainz, campus anthropology and qualitative research librarian, in an email. “But we keep showing up because we care for each other, and for the campus community we work with.”

According to university librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, hiring new staff typically takes four to six months, and the library system is prioritizing locations with longer hours and more use by the community. They also noted the social sciences division of the library, which includes the Anthropology Library, has several unfilled vacancies.

The Anthropology Library houses various cultural and linguistic materials, as well as archaeological resources related to ancient ancestors and primate bodies, according to Emmelhainz.

“We’re one of only three anthropology libraries in the nation that are connected to both an anthropology museum and a department of anthropology,” Emmelhainz said in the email. “We’ve had a very special place on the West Coast for many years.”

While the library will close its physical doors, students and faculty will still have access to its resources at other library locations, according to the press release. Additionally, Emmelhainz will continue to add new material to the library’s reserves.

However, the campus community feels the loss of the Anthropology library deeply, despite the preservation of its materials.

“The library is an important space for the Anthropology community that provides more than just access to books,” said campus archaeology professor Laurie Wilkie in an email. “It is a study, thinking and writing space for so many of our students who … otherwise don’t have a home on campus.”

Those who frequent the library are encouraged to find spaces to study at one of UC Berkeley’s 24 other libraries and adjacent locations, such as the Environmental Design and Hargrove Music libraries, according to the press release.

MacKie-Mason also noted the potential reopening of the Anthropology Library depends on funding for the library system as a whole. He added current deliberations are taking into consideration the library’s materials, staffing and services offered, as well as how those factors align with the department’s budget.

“It is with a heavy heart that we close any library location,” MacKie-Mason said in an email. “We have to make hard decisions about where to devote our limited resources to best serve our campus population — in particular, our students.”

Contact Anoushka Jasuja and Riley Cooke at [email protected].