”We have an announcement … This is now our library,” said UC Berkeley senior Andi Walden to more than one hundred students, as well as a few professors and staff members, who gathered at the anthropology library in Kroeber Hall on Friday, October 9th, shortly before the usual 5 pm closure time. During the next 24 hours, they would study for their midterms, participate in various ”teach-ins”, and even sleep over in the reclaimed space.
The principle of this action, organized in less than a week by an informal student group, was to respond to the University’s decision to close nearly all campus libraries on Saturdays. The library closures are the ”undeniable symptom of a dying university,” Walden said, reminding the attendees of the other impacts of this year’s budget cuts, including the unprecedented 32% tuition fee hike and the pay cuts imposed on UC workers across the board, even those already living under the poverty line.
While various actions were discussed to follow up on the September 24th walkout against budget cuts, organizers of the “study-in” mentioned the importance of direct actions that create change by themselves — in this case, keeping a library open that should have been closed — in addition to putting pressure on legislators and administrators. For Daniel Nemser, a graduate student in Spanish and Portuguese and one of the organizers of the event, the goal was ”not only to demonstrate the problems” caused by the budget cuts, ”but also establish a place for public dialogue.” Some speakers pointed out that at a deeper level, keeping the library open was a symbol of the need for more openness (i.e., transparency and accessibility) on the public campus.
Some of the lively discussions that took place in one half of the library – the other was reserved for quiet studying – covered such topics as non-violent resistance, the history of public education since the New Deal, and power and privilege within the student movement. On Saturday afternoon, Professor Bob Meister from UC Santa Cruz delivered a much-anticipated talk on his analysis of the UC budget and how tuition fee increases were used by the University of California to receive cheap credit for its building projects.
In the end, with the volunteer participation of dedicated library staff, students were able to remain in the space for the entire 24-hour period. That the University police were ordered not to intervene by the Chancellor, and remained outside the library as the result of negotiation with the organizers was also seen as a success, according to Nemser.