Wellesley SMiLES, which stands for Spontaneous Moments in the Lives of Everyday Students, is planning to redesign the space near the vending machines on the first floor of the Clapp Library. The project will not cost money, as it consists of rearranging existing furniture in the building and adding games and other fun activities to encourage socialization and relaxation. Students can expect to use the new space, which will be called SMiLESpace, by the end of the semester or next spring. The space will be reviewed after a one-semester trial.
Initially, Hannah Ruebeck ’16 and Anne Dickinson Meltz ’16, the founders of SMiLES, included their redesign proposal on the Student Ballot Initiative last spring. Despite losing to the Student Leadership Stipend (SLS), they were determined to make their proposal a reality.
Ruebeck and Dickinson Meltz are currently working with Heather Woods, director of research and instructional support, and Laura Sheriff, manager of public services for Library and Technology Services (LTS). In order to get their proposal approved, they spoke with Ravi Ravishanker, chief information officer, who approved the project and directed them to Woods. Woods, who sits on the Advisory Committee on Library and Technology Policy (ACTLP), sent SMiLE’S proposal to the committee, and it was subsequently approved. Currently, Ruebeck and Dickinson Meltz are in talks with Facilities Management to determine when the space will be created and which furniture can be moved.
Woods explained that the LTS partnership with SMiLES will help address concerns raised by students during the feedback session regarding the re-examination of the academic commons, which was held earlier this month. Students consistently commented on the noise level of the building and the confusion it has caused.
“Students in the feedback sessions consistently talked about how quiet the building was and how it felt community-enforced. They weren’t sure where they could go to work with people collaboratively or to take those breaks,” she said. “I think it is appropriate that students are talking about different ways of solving the problem.”
SMiLES decided on this specific space after learning that the space was updated several years ago and that its original purpose was to be used as a place where students could take study breaks and be loud. The update included adding the television and vending machines. Despite these updated features, the space houses individual student desks and seats, which Ruebeck and Dickinson Meltz believe enforces individual studying and silence.
Ruebeck believes that their plan to restore the space’s original function as a social space aligns with their mission.
“Our events are meant to make you stop and think about the little moments that are happening every day,” Ruebeck said. “We are now moving toward reclaiming student spaces and creating areas that foster those kinds of moments.”
In the proposed layout, comfortable furniture pieces, such as sofas and lounge chairs that are located on the third and fourth floor, will be moved to the first-floor space. Ruebeck and Dickinson Meltz selected pieces that are currently underutilized and isolated to serve a better purpose in the community space they are redesigning. The existing furniture in the space will be relocated to the third and fourth floor and used for individual study.
Additionally, the proposal includes a game table and usage of the existing television to play movies for special events.
Dickinson Meltz explained that they will reach out to the student body and ask for help with decorating the space.
“We hope that by having students decorate the space with their posters, artwork and anything else, they will develop a sense of ownership and truly claim it as a student space,” Dickinson Meltz said.
Once implemented this fall or next spring, the space will be reviewed after a one-semester trial period. The decision to renew the SMiLESpace will be made by Ravishankar and ACLTP. Ruebeck and Dickinson Meltz are interested to see if students will take a study break and utilize the space as it was originally intended. They are planning to release a survey to gauge student interest in the space.
Woods noted it was important not only to identify how students generally react but also how students who regularly used the space for studying would react to the transformed space.
“It will be interesting to see how students who were used to having those spaces in different ways formerly react and whether or not they have ways to adjust for that,” Woods said. “Are they able to readjust to other spaces that are quiet study spaces or are they finding that they are out of space?”
Additionally, she cited that the student feedback from the SMiLES initiative will help open the conversation about the re-examination of the academic commons and help them further understand how students want to use the building.
Students seem to be excited about the new changes to the space and believe the community will embrace it. Elizabeth Loxterkamp ’18 studies at Clapp regularly and thinks a break space would be appreciated.
“It would be nice, since there is no break space in the Clapp currently. It would be great to grab a snack from the vending machines and hang out with friends in the space,” Loxterkamp said.
Similarly, Zahra Pirani ’17 believes the redesigned space will fulfill the need for a social space in the library.
“Clapp would benefit from a social space that encourages interaction between students. Unlike the Science Center, Pendleton Hall and other academic buildings, Clapp does not have a welcoming environment that encourages socialization,” Pirani remarked. “There are tables and group study spaces, but there is no place for relaxation, which I think is necessary in a productive library.”
Because the SMiLESpace is open and not confined, Evana Nabi ’17 believes the noise level of the space may disrupt individual study areas on the ground floor.
“I think the space could pose problems; however, I do think it is a great idea,” Nabi said. “The trial period is a good plan, and SMiLES should send out surveys and talk to other students to see if the noise is disruptive.”