In an excellent turn of events, the Berkeley student “Study-In” protest and resulting parent donations I posted about a few weeks ago have allowed the University Library to resume Saturday service, as well as provide our traditional 24 hour staffing during finals. Along with a number of other librarians, I volunteered to provide a staff presence at the overnight event. My shift occurred during the early hours of the morning (which is quickly apparent if you take a look at my pictures).
The 5 am situation meant that I missed many of the teach-in activities that other staff were able to witness, but even simply listening to students snoring in the stacks was well worth my time. It was one of those instances when I was able to see how strongly students can prioritize library spaces, and furthermore that, given the right context, they will demonstrate this sense of ownership via challenging gestures if they feel their needs are being deprioritized. I feel oddly grateful to be orienting to this campus during such a fraught period, because it continues to provide insight into the complicated culture I find myself in. I was absolutely impressed by the way various parties involved handled the situation, and watching the interplay between stakeholders highlighted the delicate balance between action and reaction in complex organizations. It also reminds one that, particularly at a time of scarce resources and/or diverging interests, it definitely pays to be transparent and flexible rather than pugnacious and furtive.
The best part of the experience by far was a manifestation of the cardinal rule of good manners, which my sweet Texan mother drilled into me at length: a hand-made thank you card left by event organizers for library staff who volunteered their time. It features a pencil-replicated Banksy graphic (“there is always hope“) complete with tiny heart sculpted out of cheese-rind wax, and this inscription:
Thank you for your support, solidarity, and love. Most of all, thank you for your belief that all students deserve a library where they can study, learn, grow, and come together. These last 24 hours wouldn’t have been possible without you.