They were cramped, poorly lit, and, well, kind of ugly. But Firestone Library’s study carrels still evoke nostalgia in alumni who spent countless hours toiling inside those metal walls.
More than 140 of the two-person lockable carrels have been removed from Firestone as part of the library’s 10-year renovation. Eventually all of the original carrels — there were about 500 when the building opened in 1948 — will be replaced by 500 single-person open wooden carrels with modern lighting and wireless connections.
The new carrels, which will be distributed throughout the building, will not lock or be assigned. Instead, students will be assigned lockable storage units with shelf space comparable to the old carrels that are near the resources they need.
Library staff found in recent years that the carrels were not used enough to justify the “enormous real estate” they required, according to University Librarian Karin Trainer. Currently, 490 seniors and 231 grad students are registered for carrel space, which also includes rooms that hold up to seven people.
A faculty steering committee recommended eliminating Firestone’s carrels, which, if kept, would have needed individual smoke detectors and sprinkler heads to conform to modern building codes.
“They [the locked carrels] just are not appealing to contemporary students,” Trainer said, although alumni frequently have “a sentimental attachment and want to see their carrel” while back for Reunions.
There are no plans to remove carrels from any other campus libraries, all of which have some type of individual study space.