Fresno State students 'study' in library protest

November 21, 2009 

About 60 Fresno State students stayed in the Henry Madden Library as long as they could Friday in protest of the library's reduced hours due to recent budget cuts.

The library, which closed Friday at 5 p.m., let students who were inside at closing time continue the "study-in," but did not allow in anyone else.

Around 10 p.m., the previous crowd outside the library of about 15 had doubled. Many had brought food for students inside who were told they would not be allowed to re-enter if they left.

Inside the library, students gathered in the lobby holding signs with such phrases as "Shared Governance" and "24-hour Library" and chanted along with those outside, "Whose university? Our university!"

Students expressed a variety of reasons why they were there.

"The study-in is not just about the library," Fresno State student Satvir Dhah said. Dhah said it also is part of a week of action in coordination with other California State University and University of California schools.

Dave Lacebal, a sociology major, said he hopes the administration will listen and make compromises as a result of the study-in.

"The library has all the important materials that we need for our studies," Lacebal said. "I don't have this type of access at home. It's sad that we paid millions of dollars to have it, and we're denied access."

"The students wanted to make a statement about library hours and the frustrations they are experiencing regarding the increasing fees and budget cuts," said Paul Oliaro, the school's vice president for student affairs. "We understand their frustration and, as always, we try to work with students to try and find some common ground."

Dean of Library Services Peter McDonald told the students that he understood why they were there and would do whatever he could to help. "Study away!" McDonald said. "I'm a librarian. If I can help you study, I will."

Public health student Ali Espinoza followed McDonald with her own address to students.

"This is your library," Espinoza said. "This is your campus. The fact that they'd even closed and limited the library hours as much as they have is ridiculous. Please don't be fooled by the administration. It is a victory that it's after 5 o'clock and we are all still here in the library."

The library reduced its hours -- including closing on Saturdays -- due to budget cuts. But federal stimulus money has allowed it to reopen Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m., starting today.

McDonald said students should have taken their concerns to library staff. "Nobody approached the library, and we make the decisions about the library."

The reporter can be reached at csmith@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6330.

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