As the big brick box of the old Sawyer Library enters its final phase — as a blank obstruction squeezed between the striking new academic buildings — it is destined to make way for an open quadrangle, which will pass between those new faculty offices and lead to the entrance of Stetson Hall, gateway to the new Sawyer Library. This moment between incarnations is a good place to reconsider the biography of the building, its birth and its fate, its assets and liabilities. Like each of Williams’ libraries, Sawyer typifies an era in the history of the College, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that its tearing down will mark a new era. Before the infamous “bunker” comes down, let’s recall, in a bit of preemptive nostalgia, its war stories — the trials, the triumphs, the ultimate obsolescence. Find the story here.
Beyond any specific quotations within the text, I wish to acknowledge my sources for this story. As usual, my first recourse was to Whit Stoddard’s Reflections on the Architecture of Williams College and R. Craigin Lewis’s Williams 1793-1993: A Pictorial History, but the Sawyer story was brought to life for me by interviews with a number of eyewitnesses to its creation, including former President of the College John Chandler, Professors John Hyde, EJ Johnson, and Charles Fuqua, as well as current College Librarian Dave Pilachowski. Sylvia Kennick Brown and Linda Hall of the College Archives were helpful to me in unlocking the riches of the Williams Oral History Project, conducted by Charles Alberti, as well as the online sources to which I link in the body of the text. The files of the Williams Record were also valuable, especially coverage of the controversy that raged over the building throughout the Spring of 1973, when nearly every issue of what was then called the RecordAdvocate added fuel to the fire. Last but not least, College reference librarian Nick Baker provided most of the photos illustrating the text. Thanks to all.