By Michael Verna
BERKELEY —UC Berkeley will close down three campus libraries, including Anthropology, Mathematics Statistics, and Physics-Astronomy Libraries, as part of a new “long-term space plan” to manage budget constraints. The plan involves merging smaller libraries into more extensive “hub libraries.” In the current timeline, the Anthropology Library will be integrated with Main (Gardner) Stacks by January 2024, followed by the Physics-Astronomy Library merging with the Chemistry Library in August 2024, and Mathematics Statistics in the following year.
The Anthropology Library, being the first of the three scheduled for closure, has sparked the most substantial backlash from students. In response, a petition to save the library has gathered nearly 30 pages of signatures from Berkeley students, faculty, and advocates from other universities.
Students are particularly concerned about the limited availability of Anthropology libraries nationwide. At a recent town hall meeting, UC Berkeley Professor Laura Nader stressed the significance of the library, stating, “There are three great Anthropology libraries in this country; one at Harvard, one at Penn, and one at Berkeley. Why would you throw a gem like that away…Harvard wouldn’t be so idiotic to do that!” The video of her statement has since gone viral, with over 20k views on the SaveTheUCBAnthroLibrary Instagram account, where supporters can also find updates on open meetings, town halls, and funding campaigns.
The community feels that the library is more than merely a collection of aging books; it’s a collaborative and communal space for students and faculty to study and engage with one another. Moreover, its closure would result in the loss of 45,000 volumes of research, with only the “high use” collections relocated to Main (Gardner) Stacks, while the remainder will be transferred to an off-campus facility.
Nevertheless, Berkeley administrators argue that the library consolidations, which would save the institution around $1 million per year, are necessary in light of rising inflation, campus restoration needs, and wage increases. However, critics maintain that the closures will cause the loss of vital community spaces, study areas, and access to valuable resources for the greater Berkeley community.
Michael Verna is a writer for the Vanguard at Berkeley’s Social Justice Desk.