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Two New Wings, 1962

Portrait of College Librarian Margaret Johnson, undated.


Less than ten years after the completion of the Library’s first addition, it was determined by staff, faculty, students, and administrators that even more space was needed. A Library Planning Committee was formed, and recommendations were made to President Herbert John Davis in 1947. But other building projects took priority on campus until 1960, when President Thomas Mendenhall met with the architectural firm of O’Connor and Kilham to begin serious discussions for new library expansion.

Margaret L. Johnson, librarian of Smith College, joined the staff of the Library in 1943. She was reference librarian from 1943–47, both reference and assistant librarian in 1947–48, and acting librarian in 1948–49. She was appointed college librarian in 1949, a position she held until her retirement in 1968.

During her years at Smith she oversaw the addition of two large wings to the library, which increased seating capacity by 50 percent and stack capacity by 40 percent. The library remained open and in continuous operation throughout the building project thanks to the hard work of Johnson and her staff.

College Librarian Margaret Johnson with model for 1962 Neilson Library building addition.

At a meeting with these architects on September 7, 1960, Mendenhall “referred to a study entitled The New College which advocates a system of stacks in the center of a room and perimeter seating. … He also suggested more individual seats in carrels rather than larger tables.”


This site plan for the Library’s 1962 additions clearly shows the original H-shaped building, the 1937 wing, and the location of the two new wings, as well as their proximity to surrounding structures.

Development brochure for 1962 Neilson Library building project.


Smith’s Development Program published this pamphlet as part of its fundraising effort for the new Library additions:

The total cost of this enlargement and modernization will be $1,700,000. In recent years the shortage of space throughout the campus has caused the library to be used for too many activities not essentially dependent on its facilities. Completion of this program will allow the library to resume its original purpose: to become again a quiet place for study.

There were also opportunities for named gifts in the new buildings and on the new furniture, including carrels and chairs, stacks, staff lounge, and work areas.