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Eph’s Libraries – Lawrence Hall

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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#1 Comment By sophmom On March 18, 2009 @ 11:19 am


Great post! I look forward to devouring it.

Please consider moving it to the top and featuring this lovely old illustration. We desperately need a break from the endless threads on ‘ all that is wrong with Williams and the world’, and this is perfect!

#2 Comment By Ronit On March 18, 2009 @ 11:59 am

Lovely photos, Will. Thanks for posting. If I might make a suggestion – don’t hide them under the “more” tag. Most of our readers will miss them.

#3 Comment By Guy Creese ’75 On March 18, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

I was around during the great Sawyer-Stetson debate (library was finished the year after I graduated) and it’s interesting to now read the history of that era.

There were several drivers at work that Satullo doesn’t mention. First, any building would have been an improvement over Stetson. Other than the wonderful reading room, the Reference area, and Chapin Library, the place was pretty dark and dank. To a certain extent, I think the powers that be thought, “Well, Sawyer may not be perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than what we have now,” and I agree wholeheartedly.

As to the architect (Harry Weese), Williams had been doing the colonial revival thing for years, and Ben Thompson didn’t push that envelope. The Williams Art/Art History department belonged to the Harvard architecture axis, which had been top-notch in the 50’s and 60’s but starting to lose its leadership by the 70’s. The Harvard thing was Modernism: Gropius and van der Rohe (otherwise known as the stark box). But architecture by the 1970’s was moving into Post-Modernism (Venturi, Charles Moore), and Williams still viewed those people as upstarts. I remember talking with Whit Stoddard freshman year about Charles Moore and Don Lyndon, and he was very much of the view that they were dilettantes. That changed in the next few years, but I think President Sawyer saw the need to get out of the Harvard mindset, hence the use of up and coming architectural firms (e.g., Weese for the library, Giurgula for Mission Park, Charles Moore for the art museum addition).

Finally, the design program for the library was a book warehouse (hence the box shape) designed from the inside. That’s why the windows are in funky places and Weese spent so much time playing with the library furniture. While most everyone at Williams looked at the box shape as ugly, Weese saw it as a virtue, especially given his Chicago background where the Chicago school was especially good at two things: skyscrapers and warehouses.

#4 Comment By Parent ’12 On March 18, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

Those photos are really eye-catching. Please put them “on top” so passersby will see.

I recently was on campus. As I walked into Schow, I was surprised & impressed to see how late it’s open. If I recall correctly, a few hours past midnight on all but one night.

Are these hours typical of liberal arts colleges? Apart from medical libraries, I recall university libraries having shorter hours for the stacks. And, having study areas without access to books/journals either available 24/7 or into the wee hours.

#5 Comment By sophmom On March 18, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

P ’12:

I believe Schow is my son’s favorite place to study. At least it was last year. And he does burn the midnight oil more often than not, so maybe that’s part of its appeal.

#6 Comment By Ronit On March 18, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

Parent ’12 – The Williams libraries are open from 8 AM till 2:30 AM on Mon-Thu during regular semester, but only until 10 PM on Fridays, Saturdays, and winter study, and 5 PM during the summer. I thought this was woefully inadequate

#7 Comment By sophmom On March 18, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

I’m pretty sure Schow is mostly open till 3am from Sunday thru Thursday.

#8 Comment By Larry George On March 18, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

Are there still reserve cages that are open longer than the main libraries?

#9 Comment By sophmom On March 18, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

In fact, here is a schedule for all the libraries:


#10 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On March 18, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

I need someone else to do the moving around work, or to put the photos up. I also didn’t want to put too much load on Steve’s server, since the photos are linked directly from him.

#11 Comment By Ronit On March 18, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

I’ve removed the more tag. Steve’s photos are hosted on WordPress.com, which can handle the extra bandwidth from EphBlog.

Steve’s blog – http://ephlib.wordpress.com – has also been added to Eph Planet

#12 Comment By JeffZ On March 18, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

Jeez Ronit, you worked wayyyyyy too hard in college

#13 Comment By JG On March 18, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

I actually always thought that closing the libraries early on Friday/Saturday nights was a brilliant thing that forced people to, well, get the heck out of the library!

Whether it was intentional or not, I remember noticing it when looking at the school and have heard tour guides mention it in a way that suggested Williams students had lives. True or not, I think it creates a perception of a more well-rounded life, as opposed to the perception of a place such as Swarthmore where studying (at least from a quick glimpse) where it seems more hard-core academic and less fun.

#14 Comment By Ronit On March 18, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

Some of us don’t necessarily want to have lives. Some of us pulled a lot of all nighters because they didn’t get started on anything until the night before it was due.

After 2:30 AM, the only reasonable study spaces were Jesup Hall and a few nooks around the science buildings, which allowed you to card in at all hours. Baxter used to also be accessible all night – it’s a shame that Paresky doesn’t allow the same.

#15 Comment By Parent ’12 On March 18, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

Thanks for all the schedules.

I hope students & parents appreciate the libraries’ current hours. And, with concerns about the budget that they aren’t shortened.

Going down memory lane led me to look up the hours for 2 university libraries in my current community, neither of which I’ve attended, although I’ve used their libraries. Columbia’s library hours are more in line with what I remember as an undergraduate. NYU’s hours were a bit better. For the curious–



#16 Comment By ’10 On March 18, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

Paresky is accessible 24/7; after 2am you just have to swipe. Last year the administration tried to shut down the building between 2am and 7am, but ended up backtracking after student uproar.

#17 Comment By Ronit On March 18, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

Ah, I remember hearing about the policy, but did not know that student uproar actually caused them to change it. I guess there’s a first time for everything, because they didn’t listen to students on anything over the 4 years I attended. Is Hopkins Hall starting to go soft? Roseman would never have backtracked on a decision just because it pissed off the majority of students.

#18 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On March 18, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

Before the card reader system, most buildings — Sawyer, Bronfman, Clark– were open 24 hours, even in summer, with occasional security sweeps.

#19 Comment By JG On March 18, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

Ronit if you didn’t want to have a life, perhaps you should have thought about that before choosing Williams. They put a pretty huge emphasis in their promotional materials about how everyone studies hard but also balances that out with sunlight, social contact, and other activities. It’s not like it was a surprise.

On a general note, I honestly never understood why it was a huge deal to not have access to the library from 10pm – 2:30am on a Friday or Saturday night (seriously, it’s not mid-week or Sunday before Monday classes or something). It costs money and staff time to keep any facility open – particularly the library which seems to require a lot of staff around. This is 4 hours of your life, god forbid that the exact room you want to sit in isn’t available.

Perhaps this is one of those moments where Williams is trying to teach its students to be resourceful enough to find a space when there are literally hundreds available? Note that I think this is different from promising to have Paresky open then reneging. Nobody promised a 24-hour library.

#20 Comment By Alexander Woo On March 18, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

Hmm – in my time I think:

Baxter was shut down at midnight or 1. The WCFM folks had keys. During the last week of classes and finals the lounge in the SW corner of the building was kept open 24 hours.

Bronfman was locked at midnight or 1 but students were allowed to stay. Many nights you just knocked on the window to the CS lab and someone would let you in.

#21 Comment By Soph Mom On March 18, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

And for all those students who need to study later, Schow is open till 3am…
I repeat 3am! Getting that teensy little fact straight could provide four more hours of study time per week, which might then justify taking a night off every now and then.

(link conscientiously provided above)

#22 Comment By Soph Mom On March 18, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

Correction @ 21:

4.5 hours more of study time…

#23 Comment By Parent ’12 On March 18, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

I found the leather chairs & sofas in Schow by the current journals very inviting to read a novel or the newspaper.

Are there other places like that? The parts of Paresky that I’ve seen don’t seem that inviting.

That area in Schow & its late hours are a stark contrast to the hours at the coffee house, Tunnel City, which I find outrageous. I couldn’t believe that a college town had a coffee house that closes at 6pm!

#24 Comment By Ronit On March 18, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

To be fair, Tunnel City does open at 6 or 6:30 AM, which means it’s probably the earliest place in town to get caffeine and carbs. I’ve ended many an all-nighter by going to Tunnel City as their first customer of the day.

#25 Comment By Parent ’12 On March 18, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

Oh, Ronit (expressed with much sympathy)-

After an all-nighter I think I went to bed. Although my memory is fuzzy, I know I never had classes before 10 am.

I can’t imagine opening a coffee house, closing one maybe. Or, being in an all-night coffee shop until dawn.

#26 Comment By Tunnel City Coffee On April 1, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

The owners arrive at 3:30 am. The first baker arrives at 4:15 am. The reason for no late night hours is simple, not enough business. Remember, Willams only has 2000 students. We have tried several times in our 17 year history to attempt to make a nighttime coffeehouse work. Not profitable. We do not want to resort to alcohol to make it profitable. We do understand your feelings, but please try to understand that Williamstown has a population of 8000.

#27 Comment By Parent ’12 On April 1, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

TCC- Thank you for the explanation.

Where does one go after seeing a movie at Images? Or, where can one wait quietly before a 7pm show? This is how I learned that you close at 6pm. I told someone I’d meet them at TCC before a movie.

And, congratulations with 17 years in business! Were you the coffee house down the road on the other side of the street? And, if not, where were you?

#28 Comment By Ronit On April 1, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

Parent ’12 – The Red Herring is probably the most convenient place to gather before or after a movie. It’s open ’til 1.

And yes, Tunnel City used to be about halfway down the street on the other side.

#29 Comment By frank uible On April 1, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

Chef”s Hat is open for a full breakfast at 6:30 am (closed Mondays). In the spring or summer during the early evening until dark get a frozen confection at Lickety-Split and consume it outside on any of the benches or stoops at its end of Spring Street.

#30 Comment By Tunnel City Coffee On April 2, 2009 @ 7:23 am

That was us down the street. Cold Spring Coffee is still our corporate name. When we moved the roaster to North Adams, we chose the name Tunnel City to represent the northern berkshires. The hoosac tunnel is how North Adams became the “Tunnel City” and the tunnel helped bring industry to this region. It was an extremely huge engineering project in the late 1800’s. The Heritage State park in N.A. has a nice museum explaining the project.

We will never give up on the idea of opening late. In the long term, the Cable Mill project on Water Street hopefully will give us a better chance for nighttime success. In the short term, an upscale Mezze like restaurant in the former Hopkins furniture store would help along with another pub. Also another retail boutique similar to Zanna would help late night shopping. Fast food or comfort food is not the answer. Spring Street needs to attract people from outside Williamstown on a daily basis. Not Tourists. People from within a 30 minute drive.

Low priced food cannot compete with free. Perceived free, that is. Williams students have a meal plan. What people don’t realize is that the former Subway went through 4 different owners in the 12 years of its existence.

#31 Comment By JeffZ On April 2, 2009 @ 8:03 am

Tunnel City, other than the Pub, have you heard about any other tenants considering the Paresky building? Thanks!

#32 Comment By sophmom On April 2, 2009 @ 10:37 am


Great bit of background, thanks.

The coffee shop in our town (about the same size as Williamstown) has had the same problems with staying open late. It’s always bustling during the day (more so since they added free internet and plugs), even though it isn’t on the main drag. They have tried different things to bring in a night crowd, a local guitarist will play occasionally (no pay, but he puts out a cup), and there were Christmas carolers around the holidays. I don’t think that any of it has resulted in regular night time hours. And if anything, our town is busier over holidays rather than emptier.

In any case, Tunnel City is a terrific spot, one I have enjoyed each and every time I have visited Williamstown. And from the looks of the crowd, it seems the locals, students and professors, really rely on it.

#33 Comment By Parent ’12 On April 2, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

TCC- I totally agree with you that fast food or comfort food is not the answer. Although I’m no where near a local, I’m a regular tourist for many years. I’ll now be going up to Williamstown more often because of my son, who isn’t a fan of Subway.

I’d love to see something like a Tapas Bar go in, where one could have a nice lunch or dinner. With small plates it could be less expensive than Mezze, or just as expensive. I remember an interesting tiny Central American or Mexican place further down the street from your old location.

I really appreciate the story behind the change in the name of the coffee house. I enjoyed/enjoy both establishments. The old one because it reminded me of coffee houses in California coastal cities/towns in the 60s-70s. And, the current place because of the space & light.

I hadn’t realized that Cold Spring had been around for so many years. I wish you continued success. I hope at some point later hours become viable. If it’s good for you, it’s good for the community.

#34 Comment By Tunnel City Coffee On April 3, 2009 @ 10:31 am

Thanks for your support. It has been, and I hope will continue to be, a pleasure to be here in Williamstown. It’s a lot of fun seeing the Williams Alum come in and visit, both customers and former employees.

I have not heard about any prospective tenants for the Paresky space. I give Mark Paresky credit for finding Thai Garden and Spice Root to fill the former Cobble Cafe space down the street. Those two businesses added value to the street.

According to the papers, Subway will be moving into the former Lil Asia space which the building is owned by a local property management group, Scarafoni realty.

I know of an exciting new establishment that might be moving into the former Royal Cleaners. I can’t reveal anymore than that but I think the student body at Williams along with locals will be excited about it.

Thanks again for your support!

#35 Comment By Larry George On April 3, 2009 @ 11:49 am

Tunnel City –

When you hear anything, please come back and tell us. You can post on Speak Up (upper left corner) if there isn’t a likely current thread going.


#36 Comment By JeffZ On April 3, 2009 @ 11:55 am

Thanks for the info — and now I’m doubly curious :)