I remember Sawyer library fondly, both as a place I would study, and as a place I would fall asleep while trying to study. One evening I was sitting in one of the carrels sunk into the floor upstairs, along the windows which looked down onto the entrance doors. It was late in the semester and I was rather behind on my reading, so naturally I fell asleep at some point. I woke needing to use the bathroom, so groggily stumbled into the restroom. As I was washing my hands afterwards, a female student came into the restroom and stared at me with obvious disapproval. I left the restroom thinking she was really quite rude; it was only upon regaining my seat that I remembered my usual sitting place on the second floor had been occupied when I got to the library, and hence I had been sitting in the same spot, only on the third floor. At that point it dawned on me that, since the bathrooms were on either end of the building but were flipped on the third floor compared to the second, and Sawyer was one of the few buildings on campus in which the bathrooms weren’t unisex, I had been using the ladies’ room–and hence I had been the rude one!
Having recently moved back to Williamstown, I’ve been taking my four-year-old daughter on walks through campus this summer, and have been watching the new library slowly develop. There have been a lot of changes on campus since I was a student, and so these walks always remind me of how time marches on, and even though I enjoy seeing each new addition to the new library, I also feel a touch of melancholy, as I think that Sawyer will be coming down soon.
–Erryn Leinbaugh ’99
2 comments on Erryn Leinbaugh '99
Sawyer Library was built after my time. I was very disappointed that Van Rensselaer had been torn down. A lovely building for meetings and a hideaway study. On a visit back to Williams, I ran into an faculty member who should have been on top of the situation. I asked him how that could have happened. He knew nothing of it. He had been out and about and thought a colleague was handling it! Talk about not seeing the trees for the forest. The college librarian had said that he did not care about aesthetics, efficiency is what mattered. Aesthetics do matter. A library should be the jewel in the crown. A Williams alum and architect once proposed a plan for the library similar to what is being built. What a waste, but how fortunate we are to recognize a big mistake and the resources to do it over.( Rumor has it that John Sawyer felt embarrassed to have his name on that building.)
I still remember the comment Professor Whitney Stoddard made about the old Sawyer library. In the annual talk he gave to freshman about Williams architecture (simultaneously erudite and humorous) he said that the only good thing about Sawyer was the two large trees growing in front of the building.
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