UC Berkeley Students Occupy Anthropology Library, Hoping to Save It From Closure

From Book Riot:

A group of University of California at Berkeley (UCB) students are entering the second full week of occupying the school’s Anthropology Library, slated for closure. The silent protest organized by students has had them setting up makeshift beds among the library collections, and they plan to remain inside until the school agrees to keep the facility open. The Anthropology Library is only one of its kind at a public university in the United States, and it is one of only three at any higher education institution.

UCB Chancellor Carol Christ believes closing the facility will help bridge a budget gap, saving the university $400,000. Christ believes the collections could be moved to other facilities across campus, and the space could be used instead as a reading room.

. . . .

Students disagree, noting that the library’s rare materials are a crucial resource for anyone studying the humanities and social sciences. Because the staff knows every resource within it and because those resources are so specialized, shifting the collections elsewhere would not only risk loss of vital research and primary source material but would also disintegrate the interconnectedness built around such a focused collection.

“This plan once again emphasizes the disconnect between the administrators of the University of California and its mission to “serve society as a center of higher learning, providing long-term societal benefits through transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge”,” said the student organizers behind the Anthropology Library occupation.

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Many universities, public and private, are home to specialized libraries and collections. Their purpose is to both preserve those materials and to grant access to them for the purposes of learning, research, and scholarship. Where public libraries serve the needs of the community and are not repositories of all knowledge, academic libraries operate with the opposite ethos–they are repositories, and specialized libraries such as the Anthropology Library exist in order to collect and retain as much information, material, and ephemera as possible.

. . . .

“UC Berkeley’s plan to close the Anthropology Library will destroy the curated collection of material for research from students who depend on it, and confine the disarticulated material to physical locations that our community partners cannot access,” said the student organizers.

. . . .

Students activists emphasize that this library’s closure will also have an especially big effect on some of the most marginalized within the school.

“This decision will disproportionately impact socio-economically disadvantaged students, including many underrepresented minority students, on this campus. This is especially poignant with regard to the anthropology department, as our own student population is 34% Latinx identifying, an outlier on campus,” they said. 

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Who knew anthropology could generate such heated disagreements?

4 thoughts on “UC Berkeley Students Occupy Anthropology Library, Hoping to Save It From Closure”

  1. “Who knew anthropology could generate such heated disagreements?” If I hadn’t known before, this tells me that PG did not marry an anthropologist – or even dated an anthropology major in his past life. There were occasions when I expected the bone-tipped spears to come out…

    In any case, this is an example of the ignorance of college students these days. If they want to save the place, they should be pounding the pavements to find a foundation to fund it – $400K is peanuts to many of them. But that would take work instead of literally “sleeping on the job.”

  2. “Who knew anthropology could generate such heated disagreements?”

    The late Napoleon Chagnon, that’s who.

    He studied the Yanomami, and had to play tricks on them to get them to tell him their actual bloodlines. Apparently they had a taboo against revealing who their parents / grandparents were. The “tricks” set off mini wars amongst groups of Yanomami. Learned about him in anthropology class back in the day, where we debated whether or not he should have done that. After he died I found out other anthropologists had, *ahem*, strong feelings about him.

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