Occupy Cal library protest ends

Campus officials and faculty leaders reached an agreement Saturday evening (Jan. 21) with a group of Occupy Cal protesters who have been conducting a ‘study-in’ since Thursday evening to protest a change in library hours at the Anthropology Library in Kroeber Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

“We are pleased by the successful and non-confrontational resolution of this protest, and appreciate the hard work of Chair Terrence Deacon and the small group of volunteer faculty who assisted,” said George Breslauer, executive vice chancellor and provost. “We are especially appreciative of those who were willing to stay in the library throughout the ‘study-in’ to ensure the safety of the Anthropology Library’s collections.”

Yesterday’s agreement, signed by University Librarian Tom Leonard, calls for restoring the fall 2011 hours (Monday – Friday, 9 – 6 p.m. and 1 – 5 p.m. on weekends) as soon as students can be recruited to work during those additional morning hours. It also stipulated that during those hours when there is no professionally trained library staff present, the circulation desk will be closed, but the library will remain open for computer use and as a study space. The search for student staff to work during those hours will commence Monday and faculty volunteers will fill in until students are hired. Costs will be provided from tme Main library’s funds.

In a statement issued last week, Leonard explained that the library hours were trimmed due to the unexpected retirement of a staff member in December, not budget cuts.  

The library has been the protest site since Thursday afternoon, when at its height about 70 students and other protesters entered the library declaring a “study-in” and remained there after its official closing time. The group fell to as few as 12 at some point throughout the duration of the events until Saturday evening. Terrence Deacon,  chair of the anthropology department, along with a number of faculty volunteers, spent much of the last two days in the library serving as the contact for library occupiers and ensuring that the collections were preserved. Throughout the protest, the students and others were informed that the ‘study-in’ was against campus policies, as efforts to resolve the matter were underway.   

 “The circumstances of this protest activity led us to invite members of the faculty, department chairs, deans, the chair of the Academic Senate and the university librarian to join in our deliberations,” said Breslauer. “Thanks to the efforts of this collaborative group, the campus was able to resolve the situation without police intervention and to support the faculty and staff who volunteered to initiate and sustain constructive dialogue with protesters.”

Library officials were already undertaking a full review of operations and staffing levels in order to develop recommendations that will enable campus libraries to maintain service levels in the context of budgetary constraints. Leonard has committed to share and discuss the expected proposals with students, staff and faculty before any are implemented. 

 “I look forward to continuing to work closely with members of the university community,” said Leonard. “In any situation involving campus issues, it’s most productive to work with people who access the services directly on a daily basis.”

 “We do not condone actions that violate campus rules and regulations,” said Breslauer, “and we hope that future issues can be resolved through dialogue among members of the university community, rather than the disruption of building takeovers. The outcome of this event is an example of our efforts to focus on the engagement of protesters through dialogue and communication.”