Alum Steve Satullo, Class of 1969, has been writing about the libraries of Williams. This is the first post in a series about his histories. Please go read the entire entry; your interesting passages may not match mine. I will be excerpting the other pages on the site as well. My interest comes from being a student member of the Stetson-Sawyer committee, but I hope general readers might find this slightly interesting.

The single quotation most associated with the history of Williams College is James Garfield’s opinion to the effect: “The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.” Less often noted is that his remarks were made — not so epigraphically — in last-ditch defense of Hopkins at an alumni dinner at Delmonico’s in 1871, debating whether the venerable President of the College ought to be ousted after 35 years, for failing to revive the College’s fortunes following the decimation of the Civil War, for lax administration, and for being just too old and out of touch to respond to a world in the throes of immense change. Within four months, Hopkins had resigned as president, though he continued to teach at Williams for another 15 years.

The college’s first library was in the 3rd floor or West College, and was really nothing more than a walk-in closet with very limited access. Griffin Hall then became the next location of a book repository.

One cold day in January 1846 the president of Williams was enjoying a drive through Boston with Amos Lawrence, the millionaire merchant-manufacturer and philanthropist who four years before had decided to spend his declining years translating his fortune into good works. Did Hopkins want anything for the college, Lawrence wondered. No, the Williams president could not think of a thing. The next day, however, he remembered that the trustees had voted to build a library if it could be done for $2500. He then told Lawrence, yes, come to think of it, the college had been thinking about building a library; perhaps Mr. Lawrence might be interested. (Fred Rudolph, p.175 of Mark Hopkins, I think.)

“Franklin Carter took a fresh look at the library in 1882 and found it deficient in every department. […] Then after securing $40,000 in funding, Carter presided over the addition of two new wings to the Lawrence library.” (RCL, p.106)

The new wings allowed the library to expand study space and access, with the reading room now open for 60 hours a week, including Sunday for the first time. The college library had finally become “an efficient educating power,” according to distinguished professor Arthur Latham Perry. But even at that, it was barely five years before further expansion was being considered, but never realized. The chapel room in Griffin Hall had to be converted to library space in 1904, as were areas of Goodrich Hall, so the libraries of the College would soon need another new home of their own…..

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