The Evolution of the Study Carrel

 

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Senate House / Exeter College / Standard Carrels / Variety of Study Booths

Back in October, you told us that you wanted more group and quiet space in roughly equal numbers.   An even split in the desire for group and quiet space is not an usual in our experience, and we often suspect that this is due to a genuine need for an increase in group workspaces yet not at the expense of rare and valued individual spots.  Interestingly some interviewees suggested that learning spaces change seasonally to support a higher number of individual seats at critical points of the academic year.

Microarchitecture has become hugely popular in both commercial and academic environments in the last decade as a way of creating temporary quiet spaces. However, microarchitecture is not a new phenomenon in libraries.  Study carrels have always been a feature of the academic library creating micro-environments within the larger envelope and providing a spot where you can be alone to focus without taking up valuable space. However, until recently they have not been very flexible, comfortable or sexy.

If you are lucky, you might go to a University where they have an original 19th-century building with carrels such as the examples from Senate House (London) or Exeter College (USA) above.  What they lack in comfort they certainly make up for with plenty of charm.  Sadly, more often than not libraries are crammed with bland pale fixed timber partitions which are lacking in both character and comfort.

Fortunately, inspired by the rise in open plan workplaces furniture manufacturers have come up with a plethora of microarchitecture solutions that mimic the function on the carrel yet are infinitely more stylish, comfortable and flexible.  These range from alcoves built into walls, huts, upholstered pods and most interesting of all portable cardboard shields that can turn any desk space into a semi-private environment (see below).  The cardboard shields are perhaps the most flexible solution available as you can create a microenvironment at any time or place or move around creating an individual pocket of space wherever you please.  Perhaps this is the type of thinking required for a 21st-century library that needs to change seasonally?

Do you have any ideas on how to create microenvironments, or how your learning landscape could change throughout the academic year?  We would love to know your thoughts. Leave your comments below or direct message us on Twitter at @warwicklibscape.

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Cardboard / Temporary Study Booths

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