Katherine Hazen ’18
In the midst of the massive, highly-anticipated redesign of Neilson Library, Smith appointed Susan Fliss to lead as Dean of Libraries for the college.
Fliss’s appointment comes at a moment of great transformational change as Smith, with Maya Lin and distinguished architecture firm Shepley Bulfinch, rethinks the importance of college libraries in the digital age. “I am very excited to be at Smith at this time. I value the mission of women’s colleges and to be at Smith when the community is reimagining the library is a wonderful opportunity,” Fliss said in an email to The Sophian.
Before arriving at Smith, Fliss served as Associate 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, prior to which she was director of education and outreach at Dartmouth College library and on library staff of her alma mater, Mount Holyoke College.
“Susan Fliss emerged from a very competitive national search as the top candidate,” Katherine Rowe, provost and dean of the faculty, said. “There was great enthusiasm for her from all of the constituencies involved in the search and she returns that enthusiasm for Smith. We are delighted that she is bringing her creative talents to Smith at such a propitious moment for the college.”
Of her role in the library redesign process, Fliss said, “My role will be to work with the library design committee to incorporate the findings of the program committee into the internal space design of Neilson, communicate broadly and serve as a conduit for ideas and feedback from library users and staff.”
“An immediate role is to work on a smooth transition process over the next year as staff and collections move into new spaces for the duration of the construction. We are working to ensure we deliver robust library services during construction,” Fliss added. “We are developing a ‘Where’s my library?’ app for identifying library services and available quiet and collaborative study spaces. Library staff are also designing new, additional ways to connect with students on their research needs and we are partnering on the request for proposals process to grant $100,000 of library transition funds for student-generated ideas on study spaces in the houses.”
Fliss said the new library will have places for both quiet and collaborative study “with easy access to books, media and special collections, and will provide an integrated service approach for the campus in supporting student learning and creativity.”
One aspect of the redesign that is known for certain is that the materials from the Sophia Smith Collection, Rare Books and College Archives will be located in a more central location of Neilson to provide students and researchers with easier access. Fliss looks forward to seeing the scholarship that emerges from students and researchers because of this change.
In her first year, Fliss said she will be meeting with students, faculty and staff to learn about “the Smith environment and the role of the library in supporting learning and research,” in addition to representing the libraries on the Neilson design committee and acting as the liaison to the Five College library committees on “access and user experience.”
Fliss follows Chris Loring who retired this summer after 16 years as director of libraries.