Sawyer Library to undergo extensive re-wiring

Starting June 1, contractors will descend on Sawyer Library and carry out a major rewiring project that should be completed by mid-August. In addition to this, the Library is also looking to greatly expand its systems and spaces, projects that will be supervised by Chief Librarian Dave Pilachowski.

Pilachowski arrived on campus at the beginning of this year with a vision of a more accessible and sophisticated library, and over the past few months has worked out preliminary plans for several major undertakings.

The first project, managed by the Office of Information Technology and overseen by Network Technician Ben Laroche and Director of Networks and Systems Mark Berman, is aimed at increasing computing options throughout the building. Plans call for ethernet connections at most of the individual carrels and at some of the tables on the second and third floors, as well as some connections installed in the tables in the Reserve area. “We want to make computing ubiquitous, with network connections located conveniently all across the library,” Pilachowski said.

Students and faculty with laptops could all use these connections, as well as those who gain access to such machines through the library’s “laptop loaner” program. Pilachowski also plans to expand that program by buying new machines and making them more accessible to the student body.

This summer’s project will also include upgrades of the electrical systems and some work on lighting in the work areas. In all, Sawyer should gain about 600 network ports and undergo a major overhaul that it needs. “We have to worry about power access and network connections, since the library was built long before anyone imagined that everyone would want access to computing,” OIT director Perry Hanson said.

“The project will accomplish many things,” Hanson said. “One, the building needs to be brought to standard. The other is that we’d like a lot more drops so students can plug in almost anywhere—in the various work places.” By the beginning of next year, students and faculty should inherit a very sophisticated facility.

Pilachowski and Hanson also stressed a commitment to expand public access to the library’s computing systems. Five new workstations—similar to the machines in Baxter Lounge—will be installed in the lobby area of Sawyer, as well as several new machines at the Reference Desk’s present location. The Desk will be moved to the Stetson side of the main floor.

The library is open during the summer, and officials acknowledge the balance which must be found during the work. “We do have to be sensitive to this activity,” Pilachowski noted. “Plus, we have to get it done before school starts next year. We want to have things buttoned-up and back to normal again by about mid-August.”

The Library is a demanding place, and this rewiring program is only the beginning of a major overhaul. One exciting area that Pilachowski is developing involves the library’s relationship with facilities at nearby colleges. Officials already introduced the “Reciprocal Borrowing” program, which can be found on the library webpage under the heading “Services.” In the program, students can find materials in both the Amherst and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute libraries, which could be delivered to Williams in a matter of days. It is a new idea and not very well known around campus, but Pilachowski hopes more students will learn about and use the program.

Sawyer officials are also looking to expand the system, already talking to Smith College and looking into connections with other members of the Five Colleges in central Massachusetts. Ideally, Sawyer and many other libraries in the region could be linked by a “unified database that would include the collections of all the libraries in the region, and we could have a daily delivery system to keep everything in motion,” Pilachowski said.

“The technology is there to help us partner with other libraries and help us expand just as they expand, and all it takes is the will to develop relationships with these other libraries.”

Pilachowski has experience in these issues from his days as Chief Librarian at Denison College in Newark, Ohio. He oversaw a system much like the one he envisions in Massachusetts, and during his tenure at the school saw the circulation skyrocket. “Through interlibrary loan, about 1,500 books shuffled through the system between these four libraries in Ohio,” Pilachowski said, “but after the first year of our new system, about 21,000 volumes moved around the system. That number continues to grow today. We know what the system can do, and the possibilities are endless.”

Sawyer is also looking at physically expanding at some point in the next decade. “By about 2006 we’ll probably be at capacity,” Pilachowski said, “and we’ll have to grow outward.” The library committee, which consists of three students, three faculty members, the head of the Chapin Library and the Provost, will issue their preliminary report to the college in June regarding these issues.

“We’re asking what our needs will be by the middle of the next decade,” Pilachowski said. “It’s clear that we’re going to need more space—that’s a very exciting prospect.” But it also promises a busy time at Sawyer in the next few years.