Lights Out

Before angry students start protesting outside Head Librarian Brian Schottlaender’s office, keep in mind that this drastic measure is the result of a top-down process. Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget takes $500 million from the UC campuses, and now all the campuses are being asked to take cuts in proportion to their size. UC Berkeley will be cutting $80 million, while UCLA administrators are trying to find areas in which to save $96 million.
Our shoulder of the burden peaks at $60 million, which means administrators have mandated that the libraries cut $6 million by next year. Thankfully, Schottlaender has bargained that into a $3-million cut, but he says that in order to make any dent in that number, CLICS needs to go. And while shutting down our favorite 24-hour finals week study spot would save us $450,000, the gain isn’t worth the loss of a study space, the books in it (which would have to be returned to the company they’re rented from) and one of the symbolic pillars of our university.
CLICS won’t be the only library affected. Other victims include the Medical Center Library, Science & Engineering Library and Scripps Libraries, whose collections will likely be consolidated into the Biomedical Library. Similarly, Geisel’s Science & Humanities Library would absorb some collections from the International Relations/Pacific Studies Library.
It’s a grim outlook, but at this point there’s not much else Schottlaender or other members of the Library Committee can do against their orders to cut costs.
Our libraries depend on state funding for the majority of their budget, and have already had their funding cut by $5 million in the past three years. This has led to positions being cut, and the shortened library hours we all know and love. As Schottlaender himself says, they can’t cut around the edges anymore. If this goes on, soon there won’t be anything left to cut.
The libraries must be prioritized when determining the amount each department must cut. While all departments are important, the libraries are both a practical and symbolic need on campus, and are a crucial tool to further our educations.
And if (in the very likely case) that the library finds at its March 5 meeting that the $3 million cuts are written in stone, it might be time for students to cough up some of our own money to keep the library open.
The idea that our tuition is rising and yet we would need to pay student fees — which should go toward student life activities and not academic ones — to keep libraries open is a ludicrous one. But it may be the only way that we can show that we prioritize our education and need CLICS kept open.
Last year, then-A.S. President Utsav Gupta said he was looking into a similar student fee referendum that would ask students to fund increased library hours. This referendum was never seriously discussed in council.
It’s true that a library referendum would open an entirely new can of worms; after all, it would be the first time student fees have gone to help out a UCSD department.
The issue has been brought up before, when Transportation Parking Director Brian d’Autremont’s asked for student money to help save the shuttles. One of the major arguments against it was the ever-ubiquitous fear of a slippery slope: First the transportation department, next Student Health Services and before you know it, half the university departments are lining up at council with an outstretched hand.
These concerns are still valid, but this may be the cause that warrants such a break from tradition.
Of course we should all keep asking Sacramento to return funding to the UC system, but in the meantime, there are some pretty difficult decisions to make. It’s dejecting to shoulder more and more of our base cost of education, but if there is a library referendum on this April’s ballot, and the alternative is fewer hours, closed libraries and  less resources, students should show with their money that they prioritize their education.
Unlike students paying for concerts at the Loft to stay free, or the recently re-introduced University Centers referendum — that would have students paying to keep Price Center open 24 hours — the library referendum would not go toward student-life luxuries, but sustaining the academic needs of our students.