Community shares high hopes for planned College bookstore

The College will continue its expansion of Spring Street’s economic district with a new College bookstore situated on Willmott Lot, a vacant College-owned space on the corner of Walden Street and Spring Street.

Follett, the College’s current partner, will operate the bookstore. Follett currently distributes the textbooks provided in the textbook section of Water Street Books, the current bookstore that serves the College.

“It’s weird for Williams that we haven’t had a campus bookstore like virtually every other college in the country,” Professor of Philosophy Alan White, former chair of the College Bookstore Committee, said. He presided over the committee when it released a report last spring detailing the options it considered for the location and operation of the bookstore.

Among the concerns that prompted a review of the College’s bookstore service were a desire for space for performances, presentations and readings; complaints about the distance of Water Street from the center of campus and comments about the lack of seating and meeting space in Water Street Books.

“It’s meant to serve the entire community and strengthen business on Spring Street,” White said of the new bookstore. “We’re taking important public space – community space – and we have to be responsive to the community’s concerns … Making the bookstore a hangout space for students is in [the bookstore provider’s] best financial interest.”

Fred Puddester, the College’s vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, who was also a member of the committee at the time of its spring report, imagines the bookstore as a new campus social space: “The main goal for the College is to create a place where we could create community, … a place where we could bring the college community together.”

In addition, White remarked, a new bookstore will have more space for displays of books from the faculty and more space for students and community members to browse and discover new books. “When I was a student, I would go to a bookstore and look at books in the bookstore on subjects that interested me … This is a resource that we need to support,” White said

Jason Hoch ’95, Williamstown’s Town Manager, looks forward to seeing more retail space on Spring Street.

“Filling that lot with active retail space is a good idea,” he said. “I think there is a place for all of that to work,” Hoch added, commenting on the competition between the bookstore, merchandise store, café and existing Williamstown businesses. “It’s not going to put Water Street Books out of business,” White said, responding to claims that a campus bookstore would topple Williamstown’s only independent bookstore.

The bookstore comes as another element of recent College construction projects that will expand business on Spring Street, Williamstown’s downtown economic district. This fall, the Log reopened following an eight-month, $4.5-million renovation and restoration project. The College is also considering building a 60- to 100-room hotel at the base of Spring Street on a College-owned lot adjacent to Weston Field.

Comments (3)

  1. It takes a green space. That is what this does. It takes an open lawn and develops it. This and the development of the old American Legion space into a large hotel are all a part of the new reality- Williams is a business, not a college.

    Yes of course Williams wants it to “be their own.” This is a part of the design where Williams owns everything in the prime business district. No room for outside ownership of spaces. No small business ownership. No market economy for local development. No private enterprise that can gain market share from the brand- through the ownership of real property.

    A command economy, controlled by the college. A self-licking ice cream cone that enjoys billions of dollars in untaxed real estate and revenue- which now gains the primary benefit from the draw of this design through the ownership of all the prime profitable/taxable real estate.

    Why support increases to this monopoly?

    Survey “the community” to see if they want green space on Spring Street more than this bookstore. “The people” would rather have a lawn than a developed space. The narrative that the community supports this is a false narrative. Put it before town vote- it would be denied.

  2. I find it so amusing that everyone thinks Water St. Books is independent. Follett owns the whole store. Ask the employees themselves. Who is doing the fact checking on this?

  3. The bookstore design is an abomination that doesn’t fit the New England character of the community. Instead of investing in a historical design pleasing to and complementing the surrounding history of the area, another ode to modernism is plopped down in the midst of a very special New England village.

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