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By Eric Weld   Date: 11/30/10 Bookmark and Share

Neilson Reading Room, Once and Again

It was a return to the future on Monday, Nov. 29, when a room inside the front entrance to Neilson Library, renovated and transformed into a handsome reading room, was opened to the Smith community.

Susan Bourque, government, and Chris Loring, director of libraries, teamed for the reading room ribbon-cutting. View a gallery of the room.

The new Friends of the Libraries Reading Room, a bright, expansive space for studying and quiet relaxation opposite the Neilson Browsing Room, became available for use upon the cutting of the ribbon before a crowd of students, faculty and library friends.

“This is a memorable day for all who love books,” said Susan Bourque, Esther B. Wiley Professor of Government and former provost, before scissoring the ribbon, “especially for those who love libraries and who see libraries as more than repositories for our priceless human inheritance of books, but also as central to the joy and possibilities of continuous learning.”

“By celebrating the opening of this reading room today, we are returning the room to its rightful purpose,” noted Chris Loring, director of libraries, during the ceremony. When Neilson Library first opened its doors, on November 29, 1909, he explained, the room served as a reading room, and remained for that purpose until 1978.

The new reading room is one in a succession of transformations that have taken place in Neilson Library in recent years, including additions of the Information Commons and the Spinelli Quantitative Learning Center, and the renovation of the Collocott Room. The $740,000 reading room project included the relocation of library staff offices to a renovated area next to the circulation desk.

Libraries staff members Janice Mason (on left) and Susan Barker are among the first reading room patrons. View a gallery.

Identical in dimension to the Neilson Browsing Room, the reading room mirrors its well-used twin with a double-door entryway, tall, peaked windows and white globe lights overhead. Though, as a reading room, the new facility emits a warmer, more intimate air, with ample cushioned chairs and sofas bordered by dark pine tables and cabinets topped with reading lamps.

Display cases—one inside the room’s front entrance and one lining the rear wall—exhibit materials from the Sophia Smith Collection and the Mortimer Rare Book Room, adding a sense of history and scholarship.

The reading room was designed by architect Peter Lapointe (Archimetrics Design Studio, Northampton) with interior design by Lisa Lukas (Lukas Design), and with support, including fundraising, from the Friends of the Smith College Libraries.

“This is meant to be a room where people can meet, where they can read for fun, or read seriously, for classes and research,” described Loring, “where they can talk, and where they can study.”

A formal dedication of the reading room will take place in April, according to Loring.

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