Nestled between bookshelves in the Chinese literature section of the Science & Engineering Library, Amu Sidhu, a third-year undergraduate student, slept in the most unexpected of places. Sidhu, along with around 75 others, made the library their bedroom after hours of negotiations and studying at a sit-in last Friday.
“I’m just a science kid who wants the science library open,” said Sidhu, who organized the nearly 24 hour library sit-in.
The newUC, an organization seeking to implement new policy in the UC system regarding the fiscal future, hosted the Science & Engineering Library Overnight Study-In to protest the cut in library hours.
Similar library sit-ins happened at UC Berkeley and UCLA — however, both of these campuses ultimately found an outside source of revenue to restore hours.
The new library hours include early closures at 5 p.m. on Friday and no services on Saturday.
A little before 5 p.m. on Friday, students crowded into the lobby area of the library, fearing that the library administration would lock the doors before the event began. More than 100 students crammed into the lobby area and spilled out the double doors onto the causeway leading to the building.
The protest got off to a rocky start as organizers and the library administration were not on the same page.
University librarian Ginny Steel described the negotiations in the weeks building up to the event as unclear.
“It’s not how I would like to work with student organizations,” Steel said. “I think it would have been great to be able to talk about this before the whole event was planned and really talk about what the goals are.”
The student organizers thought they had administrative backing until midnight.
Initially library administrators wanted to collect students’ IDs in case of any damages, but the idea of compiling a list of protestor names rose instead. The point of contention was whether the list of participants would be made available to administrators after the event was over.
As the deliberations continued, demonstrators became restless and at 5:15 p.m. demanded to know what was going on.
“[The administration is] basically going back on what they’ve said,” said someone from the student group. “So it is now our decision, it is up to us what we would like to do from here.”
At that point, the large crowd made its way through the gates chanting “Whose library? Our library! Whose books? Our books!” After the steady hum of confusion and subsequent eruption of shouting, the library then became quiet.
“Everyone was confused at that point,” Sidhu said. “To my surprise, people rioted and then went in and studied.”
Administrators locked the doors, allowing people to exit but not enter. Fifty-six students gathered outside hoping to participate and study in the library. At around 7 p.m., a general assembly was held addressing the “comrades” left outside as well as conditions for the remainder of the night. Eventually they were let in.
The library administration and public affairs cooperated with student organizers, and by the end of negotiations all parties agreed upon leaving the doors open until 12:00 a.m., to reopen at 8:00 a.m. and close at 5:30 p.m. the following day. Around 75 students opted to stay the night.
Steel spoke directly to the assembly, describing how the library and its staff are being hurt as well.
“I feel as though the library and all of us who work in the library share the goals of the students of trying to make the library as accessible as possible,” Steel said. “That being said, I don’t know that this approach will help us reach the goal that I think the group wants because it is costing money that we have to spend for staffing.”
The library budget has already taken a $1.9 million cut over the past two years out of an initial budget of $11 million. If the library endures the cut it has been told to prepare for, it will have had nearly a 32 percent reduction in three years.
In order to preserve the safety of the collections and the students, 17 staff members volunteered part of their weekend, many in the middle of the night, to watch over the library.
During the course of the study-in, students passed around a hat to collect funds to help make a dent in the cost to the library. The final count at the end of the night was around $300.
Sidhu said the general assembly was the most crucial part of the sit-in.
“People realized that it is not us versus them,” she said. “After Ginny spoke about it hurting them, we realized we should all work together.”
The following Saturday there was a general assembly to discuss the plan for actions on Wednesday the 18, and to hold a teleconference with similar university occupation groups in Italy and Germany.
At the request of the librarians, the students left an hour early, exiting the building at around 4:30 p.m. after a collaborative cleanup.
Sidhu hopes that the study-in was an example of what could come.
“In the future we will try to be more clear,” Sidhu said. “I think the main thing that came out of this is that there is now a committee that will head trying to figure out how to get more library hours.”