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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.

Neilson Library

Student sitting in a chair reading a magazine, while a group of students studies at a table in the background.

Pursue new ideas. Uncover history that has been overlooked. Work with classmates to create something original. Grab a cup of coffee with a professor to discuss a concept from class. Laugh with friends in the café as you work on a paper. Enjoy the view from the roof balcony while you collect your thoughts. You’re in Neilson Library, an intellectual meeting place at the heart of campus, and life is full of possibilities.

Discover the New Neilson

Photo of students studying at a table in the library.

“The Neilson Library ... offers a site to delve into our shared knowledge and renew our sense of the collective. That’s no small thing.
Our future depends on it.”
Carolina A. Miranda,
Los Angeles Times


Where History Meets Modern Innovation

The completion of the library in 2021 represents the next exciting chapter in the intellectual and architectural history of Smith. Designer Maya Lin describes Neilson as “calmly natural,” “social but solitary” and “innovative but respectful of tradition.”

A Hub for Ideas & Imagination


40,000 linear feet of archival material and rare books


1,900 Smith community members participated in the planning process


24 learning spaces: meet, socialize, study quietly, collaborate

A Place to Think Differently

The Neilson Library is more than a place that holds books. It’s a space that celebrates learning, reflection and intellectual exploration. As libraries keep evolving, Neilson will continue to foster bold creativity, expand intellectual boundaries and invite everyone to participate equally in dynamic scholarly exchange.


Ideal Spaces for Study & Scholarship

  • Flexible spaces and movable furniture accommodating individual or collaborative work
  • The right balance of books and new technology
  • Easier access to special collections
  • More opportunities for connection
  • Better access to librarians
  • An environment to create and innovate
  • A reflection room for self-care, contemplation and spiritual activities
  • A café to grab a snack while studying and socializing with friends

Collaboration & Discovery

  • Learning Commons—where students can discuss ideas or research with faculty, scholars, writing coaches, technologists and other experts
  • Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center—where students can bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life
  • Special Collections Seminar Room—equipped with high-tech cameras so visitors can analyze the fine details of objects from the collections
  • Exhibit spaces to showcase Smith community research and artwork 
  • A reading room for Special Collections research

High-Tech Tools to Advance Learning

  • A Digital Media Hub with high-end studios so students can record podcasts, videos and use other digital media to add another dimension to their traditional scholarship
  • Self-service labs where students can use technologies such as spatial analysis, gaming software, survey software and GIS
  • A User Experience Lab for research and usability testing
  • A Printing Room with regular, large-format and 3D printers, as well as other creativity tools

Sustainability: On the Table from the Start

The library uses materials and furnishings that were selected to minimize exposure to toxins and maximize the cognitive function of users. The building was designed to be the country’s most energy-efficient library with an archive, consuming half as much energy than a typical academic library.
Photos by Time Bandit Photography.