Carrel desk

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A set of study carrels at Robarts Library at the University of Toronto.

A carrel desk is a small desk (usually) featuring high sides meant to visually isolate its user from any surroundings either partially or totally.


Carrel desks are most often found in university or college libraries. Most carrel desks are rectangular in shape. Above the main desktop area there is often a shelf for books. Sometimes the seat is integrated with the carrel desk. Unlike the cubicle desk, carrel desks usually have no file drawers or other facilities. Since the late 1990s, some carrel desk designs provide AC power and Ethernet receptacles for students using laptop computers.

Like the school desk, the carrel desk is normally produced and sold in large quantities for an institutional market. They are made to stand alone or to be grouped together, with or without common sides or walls.

The word carrel can also refer to a small isolated "study room" in public libraries and on university campuses; usually the room has a lockable door to which the user is granted the key on request. Carrels usually contain a desk (not necessarily one described as above), shelving and a lamp. Carrels are generally quite popular at universities and are therefore usually quickly occupied. This becomes especially true during mid-term examinations and finals. They have the advantage of power for a laptop (and often internet port) as well as generally being quieter than in the main library building. Carrels are also often used as temporary storage for books and materials the user is not finished with while they are at lectures or labs.

Carrels originated in monasteries to help contain the cacophony of roomfuls of monks reading aloud, as was the early practice.[1] Carrels are first recorded in the 13th century at Westminster Abbey, London, on the garth side of the North Walk, though they probably existed from the late years of the 12th century.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dom Le Clerq, Love of Learning and the Desire for God, trans. Catherine Misrahi (New York: Fordham University Press, 1961) p. 18
  2. ^ Helen Marshall Pratt, Westminster Abbey: Its Architecture, History and Monuments, Volume 2. Duffield (1914), p. 698.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica. On line.