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Opinion: UC Berkeley should stop planned library closures


Arguably further than housing and added issues which commonly allure further attention, the latest battle at UC Berkeley threatens the affection of the university: its libraries.

The Anthropology Library is central the Anthropology and Art Practice Building, apparent here. (Photo address of the UC Regents)

Distressingly, the university declares it wants to abutting three libraries, including its anthropology library, because it declares it can’t locate the cash in its $3.1 billion account to accumulate them open.

It may not assume like abundant amidst all the challenges adverse college education. Yet the fate of the anthropology library, the alone one of its affectionate in the state, and its about 45,000 volumes are at the beginning of a planned transformation of the absolute library arrangement at the oldest accessible university in the UC system.

UC Berkeley intends to compress the cardinal of libraries from 23 to 10 “hub” libraries, and seven “satellite” libraries, the closing with beneath services, beneath hours if budgets are reduced, and after a librarian in appearance in anytime cases. Others will be by adjustment only.

The mathematics statistics library and the physics-astronomy library would also bang beneath the alleged abiding amplitude plan. Some of the books will be transferred to the capital library, about others will be beatific to its off-site “shelving facility” in Richmond, mile from the campus, area addition 48,000 anthropology volumes are stored.

The changes, at least in part, reflect a movement demography abode all through college apprenticeship in acknowledgment to alteration reading habits. Students further are application libraries not so abundant for their books about further as abstraction halls.

But university librarians say the capital acumen for the planned closures is a bread-and-butter one. They say which the library arrangement has 40% beneath advisers than it did two decades ago, alike as acceptance added by almost 12,000 students. It is not, declares university librarian Jeff Mackie-Mason, “a aftereffect of anticipation any conduct as beneath basic than any other.”

But what does this say about university’s priorities? Losing the anthropology library represents not alone an advance on the many arresting attribute on the University of California’s seal (a book), about bigger undermines the anthropology conduct itself.

The library is a “crucial basic of animal analysis at Berkeley, both for its bequest and for what it has to action to approaching generations,” wrote anthropologist Charles Hirschkind, the department chair, in an afflicted letter to university admiral aftermost fall.

“The library is the axial hub holding calm the disparate and generally broken ap which accomplish up, not alone the department, about the bookish acreage of the conduct on campus as well,” Hirschkind wrote.

I really-feel a abutting affiliation with the university on this issue. I spent a lot of time in the library while I was once a alum apprentice in the department — absolutely in pre-internet days while we relied alone on adamantine copies of books and account accessories for our classes and research.

Yet the testimonials of accepted acceptance — many of whom lately alternate in a “sit-in” in the library for two days and nights to protest the planned cease — have been moving. They informed me that, admitting the abstruse changes in how advice is conveyed, the library still plays an capital role in the bookish and amusing activity of the department — and, in many cases, their brainy health.

What’s more, they say they absolutely use the books. Many of the library’s holdings, they point out, aren’t accessible online.

“The University and the Library cannot abide after each other,” a high-level agency on the approaching of the Berkeley library declared a decade ago. The agency alleged for a “serious main action of reinvestment.”

Yet the university is embarking on alone the adverse strategy, disinvesting in a athenaeum of ability which encompasses and helps sustain an absolute discipline, with appropriate acceptation for California.

It is not too backward to change course.

Louis Freedberg, a UC Berkeley-trained anthropologist and adept apprenticeship journalist, is above controlling administrator of EdSource. He wrote this annotation for CalMatters.

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