The New Neilson Library
A Destination College Deserves a Destination Library
Since it opened in 1909, Neilson Library has been the academic heart of Smith College. We have now embarked on Neilson’s next phase—a comprehensive renovation that will transform our library into a technology-infused hub filled with active learning areas, the right balance of print and digital resources, and flexible spaces that support the entrepreneurial spirit of our students.
The renovation will feature two new wings, dubbed “jewel boxes” by Maya Lin. The new south wing will bring together special collections—the Sophia Smith Collection, Rare Books and College Archives—creating one-stop access to these important, rich materials and the staff who study and care for them. The new north wing will be filled with spaces to support active learning and scholarship, entrepreneurship and innovation. It will also include a cafe and digital media hub that will bring the community together. Altogether the project will focus on natural light, an energy-efficient design, cutting-edge technology and flexible, collaborative work spaces.
Our vision is bold. We must be ambitious in order to meet the needs and expectations of students and scholars today and into the future.
Why I Give
“This is a proud moment for Smith and an incredible opportunity for all of us as a community to put our support behind a project that will transform the campus in profound ways, showcasing once again how Smith is committed to providing a one-of-a-kind educational experience for women. I only wish I could start my own four years over again once the new library is completed!”
—Madeleine Fackler ’80, trustee and co-chair, President’s Library Roundtable (shown below at right)
“Maya Lin’s vision for the old Carnegie-funded library is magnificent. Her plan to use light and glass and elements of nature brings drama and 21st-century imagination to the project. Reading nooks that can be reconfigured for solitary study or collaborative work and special spaces for meeting with friends or perusing a book on one’s own will make the new Neilson more user friendly in the manner students want and expect today. But most of all the new Neilson will be a destination for students, faculty, alumnae and the community because of its extraordinary architecture and landscape. Brava the reimagining of Neilson Library!”
—Lile Rasmuson Gibbons ’64, co-chair, President’s Library Roundtable
“As a loyal supporter of Smith for over 60 years and a lover of libraries, it gives my family great joy to invest in Smith’s future—the reimagining of Neilson Library.”
—Pat Klingenstein ’51
Transforming a century-old library into a modern, multifunctional teaching and learning center requires great vision, ambition and philanthropic support.
The $100 million renovation of Neilson presents an exciting, once-in-a-generation opportunity for alumnae, parents and friends of Smith to partner with the college.
- Gifts of $250,000 or more will be recognized with an individual naming opportunity
- Gifts of $100,000 or more will be included in a community recognition display
- Gifts can also be directed through the Smith Fund: Resourceful Smith designation
For opportunities to support the library, contact:
Betsy Carpenter ’93
Director of Development
For more information and updates on the project, visit the libraries’ website.
West elevation, Burton lawn and amphitheater: At the building’s core is the original 1909 structure, anchoring Neilson’s place in our community and respectfully paying homage to the long history of learning that has taken place inside its walls.
East elevation, Seelye lawn: Rising from both the north and south sides of the building, two softly curved “jewel boxes” underscore Neilson’s status as the intellectual heart of the campus, beckoning visitors to explore Smith’s renowned special collections, rich archives of women’s history, rows upon rows of books and a new café and digital media hub.
South elevation, view from Green Street: Neilson’s Special Collections are among the most significant college research repositories in the country and represent one of the highest caliber teaching, learning and experiential learning environments at the college. They will now be housed in the south jewel box wing in one visible and accessible location and will incorporate modern technologies such as augmented reality to help users gain insights into the past.
Sunken courtyard and north jewel box: The grounds around the library will be opened up, linking the college’s science quadrangle with center campus and restoring integrity to Frederick Law Olmsted’s original campus plan. An outdoor courtyard garden will allow daylight to stream into the library’s lower level.
Site plan: On the rooftop, patrons will enjoy a new “skyline room” and outdoor patio, providing yet another space to study and take in the surrounding environment.
Main hall, level 2: One of the building’s most distinctive design details will be an ocular sunscoop—a round skylight in the library’s central atrium that will be surrounded by a reflective, curved wall that captures and then magnifies outside light. Maya Lin describes it as a “contemporary sundial at the library’s historic core.”
North jewel box level 3, study and research: In the north wing, library patrons will find study spaces as well as more social spaces—an intellectual commons filled with general collections, rooms that can easily be transformed to accommodate group activities, a café and a digital hub that will connect scholars from around the world to the library’s resources.
Sunken Courtyard: Light-filled study spaces will surround the north wing’s sunken courtyard.
South jewel box level 3, Special Collections reading room: Within the south wing, the Smith College Archives, the Sophia Smith Collection and Mortimer Rare Books will unite to create a one-stop shop of scholarly material accessible to the community and curated by knowledgeable staff on hand to share their expertise.
Skyline Reading Room: A glass-walled rooftop reading room and adjoining outdoor patio will open up spectacular vistas of the surrounding valley and hills and is designed to function as a reflective study space by day and an active multipurpose events space by night.
Academic success commons, level 2: Book stacks will surround many of the exterior walls of the building. Compact and underground book storage will also be well utilized.
First floor site plan: Throughout the building, soft hues, large walls of glass and swaths of natural light will bring the outdoors in, creating a soothing atmosphere in which to reflect, study, explore and enjoy time with classmates and friends.