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KU Libraries partner with architectural design students to renovate Watson Library study carrels

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Through an incredible partnership with a class of dedicated architectural design students, Watson Library has undergone significant renovations to one floor of its beloved study carrels. For more than 50 years, the carrels have been special spaces where students have spent time writing, reading and studying for exams. Now, several of these popular study nooks have been updated to provide access to stable power sources, improved lighting and modern furniture.

This unique collaboration offered KU students in the School of Architecture & Design’s Studio 509 design-build course a real-world project to complete from start to finish. After holding multiple focus groups with student users, Studio 509 drafted several potential proposals that took into consideration targeted user needs—conferring regularly with library staff throughout the semester as they refined designs and fabricated the new furnishings.

In December, the students completed installation of remodeled carrels in Watson’s third floor west stacks. The 13 carrel spaces offer diverse solutions to students’ study needs—from individual and two-person spaces to lounge seating.

“I always come to this floor of carrels when I need to focus on writing a paper,” said Jake Honer, a KU sophomore majoring in strategic communication and minoring in film and media studies. “Returning to this spot and seeing the new space is incredible. The desks are so chic, and the renovations make you feel really at home. There is a clean, modern vibe to the updated carrels.”

The new designs maximize natural light, balance openness and privacy and ensure comfortable seating, task lighting and power in every carrel. Each carrel also offers a naming opportunity, with donors’ gifts to be recognized on special, engraved plaques installed in each named space.

“We are so pleased with the incredible work of these dedicated students in the design and construction of this project,” said Kent Miller, associate dean. “We are hopeful that students will make good use of these renewed quiet study spaces, and that donor support will allow us to look at updates of carrels on other floors of Watson Library.”

For more information on the carrels, please contact Christy McWard, director of the Office of Communications & Advancement for KU Libraries, at or 785-864-0092.


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