There’s irony — not tragic but pointed — in the new Sawyer Library going the way of the old. First in having fiscal difficulties delay its construction, and second in having its future called into doubt by a presidential transition. This is a tale of two letters written by Morty Schapiro, sent by email to the Williams community, one in October outlining the College’s response to the global financial meltdown, and this month’s announcing his own imminent departure to assume the presidency of Northwestern. The first brought news of the hold — perhaps one year but who really knows? — on construction of the new library, and the second means that some currently unknown person will be leading the decision to go forward when the time comes. In several ways, it’s 1972 all over again.
The delay in completion of the Stetson-Sawyer Project does not imply abandonment of this online journal, but it does stretch out the timeline and remove some urgency. In between the two communications from President Schapiro, I had a conversation with Dave Pilachowski, College Librarian, and found him still hopeful, even a little grateful for the breathing room the delay offered, to complete planning and preparation. The architects were busily preparing immensely-detailed construction drawings, useful to have before the bidding process. Asbestos abatement was going forward in Stetson, a necessary prelude to construction. Historic appeals were in process on the disposition of the Seeley and Kellogg houses, which would have to be moved or razed as part of the project. The overall design of the new library was not being reconsidered, but rather the administration was just waiting for the cost of money to come down, in the wake of the overall credit crunch.
Update as of 4-30-09 : Here’s a link to a communication from Professor Michael F. Brown, co-chair of the Stetson-Sawyer Project, which indicates current status of building plans.