Last week, two-dozen Harvard students and affiliates claimed a corner of the Lamont Library Café at Harvard University. The New Harvard Library Occupation was announced on the Occupy Harvard website: “We intend to open a persistent community space for critical thought, engaged learning, and insistent action in the Lamont Library Café.”
The group plans to hold study breaks, film screenings, knowledge shares, and facilitated discussions about many issues including access to higher education, the ongoing privatization of the university, and Harvard’s role in facilitating neo-liberalism worldwide. Topics for upcoming discussions include: “The role of knowledge in promoting social equality and social justice,” and “What is a library? What does the library of the future look like?” The group intends to maintain a presence in the cafe until 10:00pm on Friday February 17th.
The Occupation of the Library coincides with a larger campus debate about plans for restructuring the Harvard library system. In a letter sent to the Harvard community last week, President Drew Faust wrote, “We are moving into an exciting yet uncharted new world of digital information in which experiments and innovations are constant and necessary, yet their outcomes not always predictable.”
Such vague statements from the administration about restructuring the library have provoked serious concerns about the human and academic cost. Library workers have received mixed messages about the security of their jobs, and students and workers held a rally last week when the University refused to take lay-offs off the table. “As a member of the No-Layoffs Campaign I am grateful for the solidarity this group is showing to the library workers whose jobs are threatened by the restructuring process,” said Sandra Korn, a sophomore at the College who is also a member of the Student Labor Action Movement.
“Our concern for the library staff is certainly the major motivation for this Occupation. More broadly, we are exploring how we can play a more active role in the production and ownership of scholarship.” said Fenna Krienen, a graduate student in Psychology. “Libraries quite literally house stored knowledge; rather than passively absorb it, we ask: what happens when we collectively and critically engage with these spaces of learning in a more intentional way?”