Neilson Library construction resumes as semester ends

Cas Sweeney ’19 | Associate Editor

Construction on Neilson Library resumed on May 14. Demolition progress halted on March 9, when part of the building collapsed.

In the six weeks since the collapse, no demolition has taken place. However, the college states that “behind-the-scenes” work has continued.

The damaged section of the building, the west pavilion cornice was part of the original Neilson Library that the college plans to preserve and incorporate into the new design. To prevent any further damage to the structure, the building has been secured with steel cables around the east pavilion cornice.

Had the collapse not occurred, “concrete munching”—when portions of the building are torn down by a crane—would have continued for another week in March, before moving onto demolition of other parts of the building.

On April 2, it was announced that demolition of the library additions and interiors would be finished by the end of Winter 2018, and the construction would move on to setting a new foundation and structure in the spring. Instead, demolition will continue throughout early summer, which setting the foundation has been pushed back to late summer and early fall.

According to the administration, although the most visible aspects of construction were halted, debris removal and material acquisition continued. As a result, the project is still on track to finish by Fall 2020.

Construction of the new library was originally expected to cost $100 million. In contrast, Ford Hall, which was built as an entirely new structure in 2010, had cost $70 million.

One significant feature of Neilson Library’s construction is that the designers and architects working on the project are working with the Office of Disability Services to make both the building and the technology and services offered accessible to disabled students.

The construction itself has created difficulties for disabled students on campus, due to the decreased number of pathways through campus, and alternative routes throughout campus had to be established after construction had begun to make sure students are able to get to class.

Many of the original concerns that Smith students had about the new library have remained. For example, many of the books that were previously stored in Neilson have been moved off campus, and the new library will not hold many of those books once it has been finished. Instead it will focus on having more study spaces.

The books are stored at the Five College Library Annex, and to access them, they must be requested. The library staff at Smith have organized a system that makes it very quick and easy to get requested books, but some students have complained about the inability to browse.

Though the construction has significantly disrupted the campus, not all of that is necessarily negative. There have been initiatives across campus to create new study spaces in houses and classroom buildings that will still be available after the library opens. Students have had chances to express what they desire in the new space, such as more private study rooms and more windows. When the construction is complete, Neilson Library will be a combination of the students’ desires, frustrations and wishes.

Sophian Smith