Welcoming a Library Leader

Smith’s new dean of libraries, Susan Fliss, joined the college staff at the beginning of this month.

A Daily Hampshire Gazette story notes that Fliss arrives at an important moment, as the college is partnering with acclaimed designer Maya Lin and the venerable firm of Shepley Bulfinch in a significant reimagining of Neilson Library. The new building aims to be the signature library of the 21st century, the intellectual heart of the campus—which hosts a rich learning and research ecosystem—welcoming varied modes of knowledge-making by an increasingly diverse community of users.

Members of the Smith community are invited to meet Fliss at a reception from 3 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, in the Neilson Browsing Room.

Here are a few things you should know about Smith’s new dean of libraries.

Fliss comes to Smith from Harvard, where she served most recently as university librarian for research, teaching and learning at Harvard Library and as director and librarian of the Monroe C. Gutman library at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

She believes in women’s colleges. Fliss holds an undergraduate degree in Canadian studies from Mount Holyoke College and worked for 12 years on the library staff there. (Fliss also holds an M.A. degree in history from the University of Ottawa and an M.L.S. degree from the State University of New York, Albany. She earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Maine.)

She wants to encourage collaboration and innovation. “As an academic library leader, my goal is to create environments that encourage innovation and the piloting of new ideas in order to support community,” Fliss said when her appointment was announced. “I’m excited to do that at Smith—especially at a time when the college’s library is going through such an exciting period of change. Academic library spaces are quickly evolving in order to offer services that support student learning and research. I look forward to collaborating with faculty, staff and students on these efforts at Smith.”

What she loves about her job now is what she loved about her job when she started. “My favorite part when I was a younger librarian was helping people find the information they needed and then watching their reactions,” Fliss told the Gazette. “I loved when you could see connections being made,” she added later, “when they were taking the information and building their own knowledge.”

Reading is a passion—and she reads both print and e-books. Right now, her reading time is focused on all the work that has been done in preparation for the Neilson project: the planning reports, program reports and findings from user surveys,” as well as histories of Smith.