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A call from every corner of campus: fully fund the UC Berkeley Library


August 16, 2023

Recently, the University of California Berkeley released the Report of the Joint Academic and Administrative Working Group on the University Library. The report lays out a dire portrait of systematic defunding of the UC Berkeley Libraries, and explores the serious consequences for the future of research, teaching, and learning at Berkeley if the current course is not corrected. 

The academic working group makes specific recommendations for reinvestment to protect crucial library collections, staffing, and spaces. The working group recommends the campus provide an additional $32.5 million per year to the libraries to adequately support the diverse needs of the UC Berkeley community.

UC-AFT is the union representing librarians across the University of California. Our Bay Area Chapter is keenly aware of the significant cuts to the UC Berkeley Libraries over the years, which have negatively affected librarians’ collective efforts to carry out the work entrusted to us. In 2022 we released a call to end the pervasive practice of austerity and instead reinvest in employees and services directly supporting the university’s teaching and research mission. 

We are not alone. In October 2022 the UC Berkeley Senate Faculty voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution to restore funding for the libraries; the Chancellor’s office has received several letters from academic committees demanding the same; and students, faculty, and community members protested the closure of the Anthropology Library for months when it was announced that it would be shuttered due to budgetary constraints. And in this report, a working group of key faculty, library, and administration leaders join in the call to reverse the alarming pattern of disinvestment carried out over the past two decades.

Library workers are the engine that powers library collections, services, and spaces on the UC Berkeley campus. The academic working group report underscores the well known fact that the systematic defunding of the libraries has necessitated that workers do much more with fewer resources. While student enrollment has massively increased at Berkeley, the number of professional librarians has not just flatlined but actually dropped. And it’s not just about the sheer numbers of workers. The librarians and professional staff who remain have been taking on greater responsibilities and scope of work, supporting additional subject and research areas. 

The report should be a clear wake-up call to UC Berkeley administration. We urge UC Berkeley leadership to respond and recommit to making the libraries a central priority for the University. It should act on the recommendations made by the working group and refund the libraries to the levels prescribed in their report. In doing so, the administration will put Berkeley back on a solid path to fully supporting teaching, research, and student learning at this great institution. UC Berkeley, the UC system, and the people of the state of California deserve no less. 

UC-AFT Bay Area Chapter Librarian Organizing Committee

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