May 20, 2022

Maya Lin and Design Firm Shepley Bulfinch Selected to Re-imagine and Redesign the Neilson Library at Smith College

From Smith College:

Maya Lin—whose balance between art and architecture is evident in her very first project, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and throughout her three-decade career—and Shepley Bulfinch, a national design firm with an impressive portfolio of higher education projects, have been selected to partner on the re-imagining and redesign of Smith College’s Neilson Library. The project, which will be Lin’s first college library and one of the most significant capital projects in Smith College’s history, is expected to break ground in 2017.

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney said that the Lin/Shepley Bulfinch team was chosen for the project after an international search. “Maya Lin’s celebrated work within the combined fields of architecture, art and landscape–coupled with Shepley Bulfinch’s extensive experience in creating 21st-century academic libraries–will create a new library that is not only functional but forward-looking,” McCartney said. “Maya Lin thinks of libraries as today’s temples–spaces for reflection, intellectual exploration, and discussion of ideas. I am confident that she and the design team will work in close partnership with the Smith community to create a library that will showcase our collections and enrich our community in ways we can only begin to imagine.”


“I am honored,” said Lin, “to be chosen for this project. The architecture of a library for the 21st century is rich and complex, offering an opportunity to create not only a supremely functional building–one that encourages various methods of learning and research–but also a space that creates a wondrous experience, and a place that resonates with larger meaning. As a house of learning and of knowledge, the library must act as a space that helps knit together the community and the campus in a way that is respectful of the existing landscape, and yet talks to us of our new century.”


Smith’s library redesign began in 2010, when the college engaged Shepley Bulfinch to partner on a master plan for all of the college’s libraries. Soon after, the college worked with Shepley Bulfinch on several studies to assess what could feasibly be accomplished with current library space. In 2014, the trustees approved the concept of a redesign of Neilson and the hiring of an architect. There are two groups that have been leading the library initiative: the Library Architect Selection Committee, which is chaired by President Kathleen McCartney, and theLibrary Program Committee, which is charged with deciding what needs to be in the library. Both committees include students, faculty, staff and alumnae.

In the next phase of development, the library program committee will begin working with the architects to produce a comprehensive plan for refurbishing Neilson. In addition, the architects will lead a robust set of planning exercises that will involve all parts of the community that use the library. That process may include forums, meetings, design charrettes and surveys.

Construction for the project is scheduled to begin in 2017, and is likely to last at least two years.

More Details About the Project, the Neilson Library, and Maya Lin in the Complete Announcement (Approx 2200 Words)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.