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10: Close down the Chapin library

Williams College is honored to maintain, on permanent display, original printings of five founding documents of the United States. The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist are all available in the Chapin Library. The National Archives possesses the only other originals. On July 4 every year actors with the Williamstown Theater Festival come to Chapin Library to read the Declaration to the community.

There is no need for the Chapin Library. Shut it down and sell the Declaration of Independence.

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#1 Comment By David On March 31, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

1) I realize that you are kidding, but it is either this or something else.

2) One reason that I did not include this in the original list is that I don’t think that it would save $200,000 from the operating budget. I think that the Chapin library may only have 2 employees. I also think that it has a dedicated endowment, so even if the College wanted to cut this cost, it may not be legal to do so.

3) There is no point in selling the documents. First, we probably aren’t allowed to. Second, it is a one time saving. Third, the documents can be thought of as an investment, just another part of the College’s wealth.

4) I have pre-posted my other items and, so, have no plans to renumber them.

#2 Comment By JeffZ On March 31, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

PTC: love it. Well done.

#3 Comment By anon On March 31, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

It says something about the absurdity of many of David’s ideas that at first I thought this was his post and that he was serious.

#4 Comment By PTC On March 31, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

I keep thinking back to my “Townie Vs Ephblog Version of the CGCL” as I read these posts on cost cutting. Read just the townie and ephblog versions… like the re post from Dick, it is worth a laugh.


#5 Comment By rory On March 31, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

lol. bravo ptc.

#6 Comment By Ronit On March 31, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

While I applaud the general idea, PTC, you might want to put a little more thought into how we could use this crisis to increase inequality.

#7 Comment By Suz On March 31, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

PTC: well played. While we’re at it we might as well get rid of our book collection because everything is online. :p

#8 Comment By Parent ’12 On March 31, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

Oh- how disappointing… not the Chapin Library, but that the “real” #10 goes up tomorrow.

#9 Comment By current student On March 31, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

The College wouldn’t save much on personnel by closing the Chapin Library, because they would probably still want to retain the College Archivist. She oversees another employee (or two) in the Library–but without her, the College would have great trouble in archiving theses (David would go bonkers!), pulling old images for the alumni magazines, consulting old views or documents for land use guidelines, and more.

#10 Comment By Guy Creese ’75 On March 31, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

OK, this one is on my list of “Don’t you even dare think about it.” I’m pretty sure the Chapin bequest is specific to the Chapin Library and shutting it down would gain nothing for Williams.

This is one of the undiscovered gems at Williams. If you’re a current student, go in, look around, ask to see some first editions, and just learn about rare books. One of my Winter Study courses was “The Development of the Printed Book” given by the Chapin Library Archivist, Richard Archer. Learned a whole bunch of things about how a new technology (books) changed how the culture viewed and disseminated information. Turns out that perspective is highly useful for the work I do now, which is to advise large corporations on solutions for collaboration and content management (e.g., SharePoint, Lotus Notes, web content management, document management, productivity suites, social networking, etc.). If it weren’t for the Chapin Library, I wouldn’t be as good at what I do.

#11 Comment By PTC On April 1, 2009 @ 6:11 am

$200,000 from the operating budget.

-This can be done very easily by selling non essential faculty housing in town. For example:


It costs money to keep these kinds of properties up and running. A lot of money. So they target the ones that will save them money in the operating budget and get the added bonus from the sale on the top line while they leave the core mission (academics) programs running.

#12 Comment By kthomas On April 2, 2009 @ 12:56 am


As a comment on our priorities–

Your post has reminded me that John Littlejohn, who carried the copies from the National Archives out of Washington as British troops, advanced, and later participated in the revivals at “Duncan’s Grove” which would lead to the founding of the little Chapel behind which five generations of my family lie — himself lies buried, with his family, in an abandoned cemetery a few miles from our house.

Between when I pulled the grass back from the stones in the summer of ’92, and my next visit in ’97 or so, vandals broke off the stone of his son John, and those of others — mostly slaves who had found their way to freedom under his influence– where they still lie.

Wikipedia, for what little it is worth– has no entry for John Littlejohn.

The cemetery is now, at least, somewhat regularly mowed and cleared by volunteers (we spent part of a day or two in ’92).

It is useful, I think, to know a little of where you are from– so you can imagine that Chapin has a particular series of meanings, a religious significance for me– as well, that there have been specific plots to target it.

It amazes me again– that the act– the literal defense of our Constitution, in time of war– is so little known– for what it says, about rests on a document, an expression, and its physical incarnation– a flag–

I would very much like, if this small, abandoned, humble plot of earth would one day become a national memorial– and if, from time to time, the Constitution which the man buried there once held in his Protection, would return to him, and a nation seeking, would be forced to visit him, and his quiet spaces in the hills and plains of Kentucky, instead of Washington.