Anthropology Library to remain open after students, faculty plan sit-in

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William Webster/File
Although students will not be able to check out materials or receive research assistance, the library will remain open during regular hours.

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Update 2/28/2022: This story has been updated to include additional information about the library’s closure.

The UC Berkeley Anthropology Library will remain open after approximately 40 students and faculty organized a sit-in Friday to protest the closure.

Due to the planned sit-in, campus Dean of Social Sciences Raka Ray initially offered funding from her office to keep the library open this week as a study space. But according to anthropology department chair Charles Hirschkind, the office of University librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason will fund the library for the remainder of the semester.

“The sit-in was crucial in getting the administration to move on this,” Hirschkind said. “It was clear that (students) saw this as an incredibly important issue — one that they were willing to stand up and dedicate their time and bodies to.”

In the hours ahead of the sit-in, faculty and students discussed strategies to apply “serious pressure” to MacKie-Mason and the campus administration, noted campus professor of anthropology Cori Hayden.

Susan Edwards, head of the social sciences division of the University Library, explained the library’s financial strain amid a hiring freeze.

“Students might be a little unaware of just how bad the budget situation is,” Edwards said during the discussion. “It’s pretty draconian on our side.”

Edwards also apologized for the breakdown in communication regarding the closure. While Hirschkind received notice of the closure Wednesday, sit-in attendants campus second-year Janeth Cabanas and campus fourth-year Ashley Blake said they only received an email about the closure the afternoon of the sit-in.

Despite the short notice, students and faculty organized the sit-in Friday.

“This is a stance in solidarity,” said Will Gerardo, co-president of the Anthropology Undergraduate Association, during the discussion. “The word traveled really quickly — I feel really united with my department right now.”

The crowd of students and faculty nearly quadrupled throughout the afternoon.

photo of a protest sign

(Anoushka Jasuja/Staff)

About 15 minutes before the sit-in would formally begin, Hirschkind and Ray announced via Zoom that the Anthropology Library would remain open.

“For now, you have my word that … you will find it open on Monday when you come to study,” Ray said on Zoom. “The will is there.”

The sit-in was subsequently called off. After Ray and Hirschkind’s announcement, MacKie-Mason arrived in person to answer further questions.

Although the library will remain open during regular hours, a librarian will no longer be available. Students will not be able to check out materials or receive research assistance, but Hirschkind noted the goal is to eventually reinstate a librarian.

Hirschkind added that the anthropology department will meet with campus librarians Monday to discuss the future of the library.

Additionally, students who attended the sit-in are working to ensure the library is consistently occupied over the next week to demonstrate their commitment to the space.

“We have the grounds for a set of really productive conversations next week,” Hayden said after the sit-in. “This is not the last we will all be talking together.”

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