Librarians, ACE delight in sending Sawyer off in style

Sawyer Library’s first floor glows purple as students crowd in to enjoy the all-campus dance party.  Photo Courtesy of Jocelyn Volk.
Sawyer Library’s first floor glows purple as students crowd in to enjoy the all-campus dance party. Photo Courtesy of Jocelyn Volk.

Sawyer Library has been many things since it first opened its doors in September 1975 – a bastion of books, a reservoir of research help (provided by the friendly faces of the Sawyer staff), a brick building that can sometimes feel increasingly Azkaban-like in the late night hours. Not until this past Friday night, however, had it ever been the host of a dance party.

The event was put on by All-Campus Entertainment (ACE) in conjunction with Christine Ménard, head of research services andl ibrary outreach, Nicole Prokop, head of access services, Mary Dzbenski, access services assistant and Laura Zepka, catalog/government documents assistant. The idea was initially conceived  last summer at a meeting of library staff members in which many ideas were discussed regarding how best to send Sawyer off in style.

“I’m pretty sure a bounce house was thrown out there,” Zepka recalled. Another idea was the memory books, which were placed around the library and allowed students to record their favorite remembrances of the old building. “A whole bunch of things were thrown out there, and the dance party was one of them … and that’s how it began.”

At first, Zepka said, the staff members “weren’t even sure the dance party was going to be possible … We had never planned anything like that before.” They took the idea to the students in ACE, who quickly took the dominant role in the project planning challenging.

Transitioning Sawyer from a study space to a dance hall was something of a monumental effort.  Planning a party for venues such as Greylock Dining Hall or Goodrich Hall, while not easy, is simplified by the fact that safety and capacity information for those places is known from the start. On the other hand, as Karen Huan ’16, co-president of ACE, said, “With the Sawyer Library party, [ACE] had to work from scratch.” Huan credited the Sawyer Library Staff, Campus Safety and Security (Security) and the Safety and Environmental Compliance with helping in sorting out all the logistics. “They were all very helpful and willing to cooperate with us to put on this event despite some, very reasonable, reservations,” she said.  “I can’t say enough about the Sawyer Library staff who were so excited about this party and very determined to make it a success.”

One of the biggest questions was where exactly to have the party in the building. Ultimately, it was decided that the second and third floors would be made entirely inaccessible. On the first floor, all the desks in the reference area would be cleared away, as would the centrally located computers, in order to make way for the DJ and the dance floor. The basement level would also be somewhat, though not entirely, open and would have homemade cookies, pizza and a keg.

It was important to the staff members who were planning the party, however, that the library retained some of its usual atmosphere and ambience. “We wanted to keep the books here because we wanted it to feel like the library,” Zepka said. “I mean what good is having a party in here if it still doesn’t feel like the space everyone is kind of used to?”

As late as Friday morning, there was still uncertainty about whether or not the party would actually happen. Zepka said she freaked out a little when she woke up to find Williamstown in the midst of a major power outage. When the power came back mid-morning, the planners could breathe a sigh of relief. As the message posted by ACE on the event’s Facebook page read, “We don’t let no power outage stop us.”  The message also included a plea for all attendees to remain respectful of the library and the staff members who had “graciously let us put on this event.” Zepka joked prior to the party, “I really hope nobody shows up with any wrecking balls or anything. We do still need to work here after for a few weeks, and you guys need it for finals.”

There were no wrecking balls on Friday night, although there was a multitude of students.  “I think people were very excited about the idea of partying in Sawyer,” Huan said. She added that she thought the main draw of the event was the “new and once-in-lifetime opportunity it offered”: a contrast to the First Friday or Goodrich parties  where students, especially by senior year, “know what to expect.”

By the sheer numbers alone, Huan said, the event can certainly be counted as a success. By midnight, the event has reached capacity, and Security had to stand at the door and monitor those waiting to enter. Only at the College, perhaps, could one find a throng of students waiting in line on a Friday night to enter a library.

“It was shocking to see how long the lines were to get in,” Huan said. “Shows how studious we are, right?