Stetson Hall, 1920-

20 October: The cornerstone of Stetson Library is laid.  It contains: a 1920 alumni roster of the College, a copy of the 1920 College Laws, Administrative Rules, treasurer’s report, College Catalogue, announcement of courses, Colonel Ephraim Williams: an appreciation, The Award of the Williams Medal, a copy of the 4 October issue of the Record, the first three Alumni Reviews of the year, the 7 October Springfield Republican, a photograph of the memorial tablets to Ephraim Williams, and the Loyalty Fund list.

An important part of the building is the Chapin Rare Books Library.  Alfred C. Chapin, a trustee, had made this collection with an eye towards donating it to the College.  When he did, a Record writer waxed rhapsodic over the collection: “The addition of the Chapin Library will place Williams on a distinct intellectual level. It will be a living educational factor in the intellectual life of Williams and of the United States, and will do much towards raising the reputation of Williams.”  (Record  5 June 1923)  Special thought was given to the collection’s placement in the new library: “The housing of one of the most extraordinary collections of Americana and other very rare English literary works in the United States (known as the Chapin Library, given by Alfred C. Chapin) was of almost equal importance to the usual college library problem.” (Architecture).

5 December: Francis Lynde Stetson, who had donated the money to build the library, dies.  (Record 2 June 1923)

During winter break, 80,000 volumes are removed from Lawrence, Goodrich, and Griffin Halls to the new library, where they will be ready for the students in January. (Williams Alumni Review Dec. 1923)

At this time, the Stetson lobby houses the circulation desk and the Lippman Atrium holds nine floors of book stacks.

19 June: The Chapin Rare Books Library is opened.  At the same time, ‘Bibliophile’ pleads for more books to fill the new Stetson Library, saying that, previously, “the lack of room explain[ed] deficiencies otherwise inexcusable” and that “if one begins the editing of almost any English or American author, he has to send to Harvard or Columbia for books that every college library ought to have.  I do not wish to hint that Williams needs a million or a million and a half volumes as Harvard does,” but the Chapin Rare books library was the only section he found adequate.  (Williams Alumni Review June 1923)

August: Architecture publishes a glowing review of the building. (Architecture August 1923, v. 48 n. 2)

The reading rooms are rearranged so as to permit the establishment of the Hamilton Wright Mabie Room (currently the location of Stetson classroom 307).  The room is to “contain a special book collection for cultural and recreational reading, a collection which has primarily no direct connection with college studies but which is made up of books, both old and new, with which all educated men are expected to be acquainted.”  The room also has a display of James W. Bullock’s (Class of 1881) collection of Roman coins.  (Williams Alumni Review November 1925).

Head Librarian Dr. William N. C. Carleton finds that Stetson’s reading room is most used for studying on Tuesday nights, with Saturday and Sunday the days having the fewest users.  The room is most used in October, and least in September and January.  Students’ favorite time of the day to study is the afternoon, with the night the least popular.  (Record 18 April 1936)

Because the lighting in the library is “nowhere adequate” and, in some places, “dangerously inadequate,” the lights are improved on a trial basis. (Record 23 March 1937)  The library is rearranged, with periodicals organized by subject mater, while the science libraries are recatalogued (Record 21 September 1937).  After the lights are completely improved, students marvel at being able to read the titles of books on the shelves (Record 2 October 1937).

Later this year, there is a rumor “that the College Library has offered Professor Frederick L. Schuman as much as $1,000 if he will agree not to assign international juris-prudence cases next year.”  The 125 men in the class all have to work from 20 reserve books, leading to thefts and “one case of nervous prostration.”  One student tries to steal books by sending them to the ninth tier in the stack’s book elevator but, when he reaches the floor, he finds that someone has stolen them from him in turn.  (Record 11 December 1937)

A section for new books is put in the Mabie Room.  Reserve books were used during the previous year at the rate of “1.28 books per course-student” (Record 8 January 1938).

The reading room hours are extended until 11 p. m.  The year before, students had “taxed the facilities of the library and forced an extension of the time in which the library could be used.”  (Record 17 October 1939)

The addition to Stetson is a full month behind schedule as of 11 January because of problems with the foundation, a carpenters’ strike, and difficulties in obtaining steel strong enough to support the weight of the books.  Still, the builder hopes to have the building finished by the fall (Record 11 January 1956).

Somehow, by May, the pace of construction has sped up enough that the building is to be ready for use by the last day of June.  The addition includes: “eight floors of stacks with a capacity of 168,000 volumes, 33 faculty offices, and 60 small carrels for studying purposes.  In addition to these facilities, there will be a large open reading area which will be used as the reserve cage.” (Record 12 May 1956).

These expectations are in vain, however, and the building is only “nearly completed” as of October.  At this time, the Roger Preston Room opens in its original location as “a lounge for smoking and a place to talk without disturbing others in the reading rooms.”   “A fluorescent lighting plan” supposedly makes “studying less tedious.”  (Record 24 October 1956)  The Preston Room is dedicated to the memory of Roger Preston (Williams Class of 1922).  E. Weber Fülöp painted the portrait of him that hangs there.  The paneling in the Preston Room, which came from England, was given by William H. Vanderbilt, former governor of Rhode Island.  The Preston Room paneling and fireplace were reinstalled on Sawyer’s lower level in 2014.

The Roper Public Research Center, containing 600,000 poll interviews, is established in the new wing of the library (Record 10 May 1957), opening on 1 July (Record  4 October 1957).  It seems to have become well-integrated with the campus; its IBM machine was used to sort bids for fraternity rushing that fall (Record 25 September 1957).

A new addition to the Roper Public Opinion Research Center is dedicated. This houses the Center on the first floor and faculty offices on the second.  (Williams Newsletter Fall 1962)

Because of book thefts, four out of the six exits from Stetson are to be locked (Record 8 February 1966).  Until then, there was no check to make sure that books leaving the library had been checked out (Record 12 January 1966).

Plans for the original Sawyer Library are proceeding.  Although the new library will replace Stetson’s functions, “the building’s principal axis lies east and west, affirming the continuing functional relationship with related library activities in Stetson Hall.”  Even the brick of the new library is carefully selected “to harmonize with Stetson Hall.”  (Williams Alumni Review Spring 1973).

The tunnel between Stetson and (old) Sawyer has been built, and crews are converting Stetson to office space, its library functions having been taken over by Sawyer.  (Williams Alumni Review Fall 1975)  “The former library facility in Stetson will follow the examples of West College, Griffin Hall, and Lawrence Hall in continuing usefulness.  The 1957 addition is now being renovated into a faculty office building.  The original structure will house the Chapin Library of rare books, expanded quarters for the Williamsiana and other special collections, and storage for seldom used materials.” (Record 16 September 1975)

The conversion of parts of Stetson into faculty offices is proceeding, along with construction of “a four level bridge” between the old and new parts of the building, which is supposed to make navigating through Stetson easier.  Plans for a cinema in the front of the building are abandoned because of cost.  (Record 20 January 1976)

Stacks and carrels are removed from the building, while the faculty mail room and the kitchenette are added (Record 21 Sep 1976).  Sawyer Library has twice as many users at any given hour as had the old Stetson Library.  (Record 24 September 1976)

“[W]alk over to Stetson Hall.  Go to the information desk on the main floor and locate Tier One.  Now make your way to the staircase which connects the old and new wings of the building.  Walk down to Tier Three, make your way through offices and classrooms to Tier Two, and pray that you will find the staircase that will deposit you onto Tier One.  Assuming you have come this far, walk down the staircase that blind chance has led you to, then, at the bottom, walk through the fire door onto Tier One.”  This description of how to find the Paul Whiteman jazz collection appears to be the first published joke about the impossibility of navigating through the renovated Stetson.  (Record 8 Feb 1977)

Planning begins to provide improved quarters for the Humanities and Social Sciences faculty.  The Stetson-Sawyer Project quickly becomes one that includes improvement of library facilities.

The architectural firm of Bolin Cywinski Jackson is selected to renovate Stetson Hall and Sawyer Library.  “Work on Stetson is expected to include restoration of the building’s interiors, razing and replacement of two later additions, and the construction of new classrooms, offices, public spaces, a combined rare books and archives area, and a technology center . . . Sawyer Library . . . will be renovated and expanded to accommodate collaborative study and the library’s growing collection of books and journals.” (The Advocate, 29 Jan. 2003). At this time, the Stetson and Sawyer projects are physically separate.

The decision is made to demolish (old) Sawyer Library–in part due to the difficulties involved in bringing the building up to code–in favor of constructing a new library behind Stetson Hall.

Construction of the Library Shelving Facility, and Schapiro and Hollander Halls is completed.  Faculty move from Stetson offices to new quarters in the north and south academic buildings.  Staff of the Chapin Library and College Archives–with reduced collections–shift to temporary quarters in the Southworth Schoolhouse.  In fall 2008, in response to the global economic crisis, construction on Stetson-Sawyer is postponed until 2011.

Renovation of Stetson Hall and construction of new Sawyer Library are completed.  Staff and collections move in.