Smith Learning Theater

Sponsoring a Smith Learning Theater Event

The Smith Learning Theater, located on the fourth floor of the Gottesman Libraries, provides an experimental environment that can be configured and curated to support a diverse range of learning, teaching, and research activities. Library staff members partner with event sponsors to create ambitious settings to optimize learning experiences. The Smith Learning Theater (the "Theater") features the widest range of reconfigurable elements available at Columbia University and allows event sponsors and participants to realize designs that cannot be achieved in typical settings. The Theater infrastructure offers a robust set of tools and technologies that can be augmented over time to meet evolving needs of students and faculty.

Planning for events in the Theater begins with a short application, ideally six months in advance of a proposed date. A library advisory group uses your application to identify an appropriate event producer to continue the planning process. For more information please see the Guidelines for Using the Smith Learning Theater.

Submit your online application by selecting "Smith Learning Theater" from the drop-down menu at:

Priority deadlines for Learning Theater applications are due by August 10 for the spring semester, December 10 for the summer semester, and April 10 for the fall semester. After those dates, special requests are handled on a rolling basis. Applications are reviewed on a monthly basis.

Design Elements of Smith Learning Theater Events


The main Theater space is 6000 square feet with 8 columns and a theatrical pipe grid to carry elements of infrastructure (e.g., power, data, lighting control, etc.) and facilitate hanging elements (lights, projectors, screens, curtains, etc.). Power, data, and AV systems are available at the ceiling and the floor level throughout the space permitting a virtually unlimited number of configurations. The Theater support team can leverage a set of integrated networks that converge in a Control Room. Many technologies can be blended to achieve sophisticated program effects for maximum learning impact. Download the Theater Floor Plan.


The Theater can be equipped with diverse sets of physical objects to support the learning goals of programs. Space dividers and definers set the stage for smaller scale elements and props that contribute to the build-out of the space. Both conventional stagecraft and showcase components are employed to achieve the desired effects.


A reception area for ticketing and registration activities supports Theater events. Sponsors can make tickets available to the College community and beyond. The space can accommodate up to 100 guests, although events with 60 guests offer the optimum active learning ratio (OALR) of 100 square feet per learner. Refreshment stations and food serving areas can be configured to meet program needs. Adjacent restrooms and coat check locations are available.


The Theater lighting system includes both a base lighting configuration ("House Lights") and theatrical lighting. Lighting can be designed for each program including specific lighting looks and choreographed light changes. Solar and blackout shades provide a range of natural-light options.


Theater infrastructure supports video projections at varying scales as appropriate for content and event configurations. Video can be displayed on screens as well as on most surfaces throughout the space. Wired and wireless microphones also can be located throughout the space to permit audio amplification and capture. Speakers are located throughout the theater space to support background music, custom program configurations, and special audio effects.

Data Capture and Data Visualization

Theater infrastructure supports a range of data-capture equipment and techniques as dictated by the needs of a particular learning, teaching, and/or research event. Real-time data can be accessed and displayed throughout the theater space. In addition to in-house capacities, the Theater supports the addition of more specialized Internet of Things (IoT) components unique to particular learning goals and events.

Recording and Broadcasting

Theater activities can be captured on video for archiving and research purposes. Cameras can be mounted throughout the space on the ceiling grid and columns, as well as from placements anywhere on the floor. The Theater can be configured as a studio to support the production of programs for both live and delayed broadcast. Audio production and recording is enhanced by multiple audio channels, a concert-quiet HVAC system, and acoustical glass applied to the 120th Street-side windows to mitigate street noise.

Please contact us via a Library Support Request to learn more about available resources and for support in developing grant budgets for equipment to extend the basic theater infrastructure to meet particular project needs.