Flashback Friday Feedback: Memorial Library Cages

Memorial Library Study Cages, 1965

The Memorial Library study cages — or “carrels,” as they are officially called — have been around since the library opened in 1953. But Badgers seem to either love them … or be completely freaked out by them. What’s your take? Leave your story below! Photo courtesy of UW Archives, S07436

“Love them! I used to ‘lock’ myself away when I had to really hunker down and study. Was quiet and a way to tell myself that I cannot seriously delay this effort any longer and to sit my a@! down.”
Lisa Boyce ‘91

“I loved studying in the cages. I could either get a lot done in a short amount of time or be in there for hours and not have it feel like any time at all, until I saw a clock! It was the one place I could go to the library and be productive. Most other study spots were very social in nature which was great for groups or seeing friends but not for productivity. I always appreciated the different “personalities” of the various campus libraries.”
Joe Campagna ‘96

“Love them!! I spent hours in there doing my dissertation. The faint smell of dry paper in the stacks is my Proustian trigger.”
Marie-Louise Mares MA ’90, PhD ‘94

“I loved the Memorial Library cages. The cages got me through law school. While they also freaked me out a bit, I visited them a few times a week for 5 or so hours at a crack. Bottom line, I got a lot of productive study hours done in those freaky cages.”
Thomas Rabenn ‘89

“Great place to study, no distractions, and quiet.”
Colin Webster ‘59

“Superb place to isolate. Used to hole up there when in graduate school and I was scared and decided to actually get something done.”
Gary Benke ‘72

“I didn’t love them but found them a great place to study when I really needed quiet. Creeped me out after a student (who I knew) was attacked while in the ‘stacks.’”
Casey Reiser ’77, MS ‘80

“I loved the cages. Something about the abject boredom they inspired carried me onto a BSCEE degree.”
Matthew Wright ‘81

“Loved the solitude; the smell of the books. Hated the incessant sound of someone nearby clipping fingernails (or toenails, who knows?).”
Tom Neubauer ‘67

“The Memorial Library Cages are amongst some of the finest catacombs of the university. I crammed for many tests in those cages finding them to be one of the few places on campus to find solitude to focus. While my friends were flirting and speed dating at Helen C. White, I was sorting through everything from the Prophets of the Bible to Alan Weisbard’s constitutional law queries. If anything ever happened to the cages, I would have to reconsider my giving pledge. They are also a great reminder as to why you may be at college and what you should avoid: Jail.”
Thomas Johnson ‘02

“Loved them! They were my sanctuary from the tear gas and disturbances in the early ‘70s. Langdon and Lake was a focal point for a while for demonstrations, but there was no tear gas there and it was quiet to study.”
Robert Friberg ‘72

“We used to use every trick in the book to stake out our cages during finals week in May of every year. They were only spooky around 3:00 AM.”
Sia Kusha ‘81

“Loved my cage! I could sit, undisturbed, for hours with my research. If I had to move around, I could always pass the new book shelf to see if something in my field had arrived.”
Carol Adamson ’61, MA ’63, PhD ‘87

“I loved them in the 70s. I remember good naps in the cages!”
Susan Lentz ‘77

“Love them. Only way I got through an Organic Chem I & II with no distractions.
I do remember one with a window which looked down on Kollege Klub. On Wisconsin!”
Brian Paterick ‘89

“I have fond memories of sitting in a carrel in the late 1960s/early 1970s, reading L. Frank Baum’s wizard of Oz books (purchased from the University Book Co-op located at that time on the same block as Memorial Library) while my father did research.”
Cindi Henige

“I had a Memorial Library for a year when I was in graduate school in history (shared it with an Economics PhD who I never saw, just their books) and I always found it hilarious. When my mom called once I told her I couldn’t talk because I was studying in my cage and she didn’t believe me, so I had to take a picture and send it. I figure it’s fitting for a graduate student, although the lighting could have been a bit better. There was one just down the way with a window in it (I must have had an interior wall) and I was always jealous of whoever had that one.”
Lisa Linde Turnes ‘12

“When I had to study for an organic chemistry test, I found a cage. I felt locked in, away from the world to concentrate. They were a necessary evil experiment in learning.”
Jane Hillstrom ‘80

“As a freshman in the fall of 1967, I was lucky enough to have an Honors English class, which allowed me the privilege of entering the stacks at Memorial Library and use or the study carrels. I loved the quiet, scholarly feeling of being within such a vast collection of knowledge. And, perhaps it influenced my decision to become a librarian!”
Patti Sinclair ‘72

“Totally fond recollections of these havens/dens for mulling, sifting and winnowing.”
Faye Robinson ‘67

“Love them! Mainly because when I walked out it was like leaving a jail cell to freedom.”
Jim Wiegand ‘02

“I had an assigned cage while in grad school. It was a back saver, since I could leave my research materials there instead of biking home with all the books… However, it was sometimes creepy being up in the stacks not knowing who else was up there. As a woman, I did sometimes lock myself in. And never stayed nearly as late as I might have in a more populated reading room.”
Nancy Proctor ’76, MBA ‘78

“The biggest perk as an ILS student was being able to reserve my own carrel. It was an oasis of tranquility and great place for study dates (had to sneak in the coffee!).”
Stephen Halloway ‘69

“I spent many horrible hours in the Memorial Library cages before graduating in 1972. Completing a double major in English and Psychology meant many papers due every week, and to eliminate distractions and obtain access to my research books, the carrels were the best and worst option. Of course, there were no cell phones then, and we wrote our papers by hand, then typed them on an actual typewriter!”
Susan Reilly ‘72

“The carrels taught me how to study, saved my education, and allowed me to have a wonderful career. I came to UW in the Spring of 1970 as a 2nd semester freshman (I was out of state and had to spend one semester on probation at UWM). I had a good memory, so I never really had to study to get good grades previously, so had not developed good study habits. hit the wall my sophomore year. I lived on State St. and would wander to the library to the same carrel every time, which became my second home, quiet, dark, a little spooky, sometimes it seemed I was completely alone. every few hours I would take a break, left everything behind) come back and pick it up from there. The environment provided me the ability to really focus on the physical material at hand with no distractions. (Books, notes, pen and paper, it was such an analog world back then.) I did this for a couple years and was able to study anytime and anywhere after that. (I stopped going after rumors of a guy with a shoe fetish stealing shoes!). With some great professors who stimulated my curiosity and provided guidance, and the ability to study and ask questions, I ended up with both a BS and a PhD. My education was critical to an engaging career.”
Anne Berssenbrugge ’73, PhD ‘83

“I did love my carrel. I could store any number of books there. I left UW in 1984 and probably had the carrel prior since 1980. There had been an “ax murderer” who did not murder anyone but had attacked someone in memorial library and been sent to jail. He was released and a short time later, I received a note in my carrel signed “the ax murderer”. It freaked me out. I informed the security people and they basically laughed at me. They took the note and I never heard anything about it after that. I loved sitting in the reading room with a big window and doing work. All good and interesting memories from my time in Madison!”
Margaret Flood ’76, MS ‘88

“My husband, who I met at Madison (he was class of ‘76, I was class of ‘78), wouldn’t go near them. However, when he couldn’t find me anywhere (remember no cell phones then), he knew where to look! Lol. I liked the quietness to study.”
Lois Gold ‘78

“When I had a big paper due or had a test the next day, I’d study all night in one of the cages, then turn in my paper or go and take my test. (I did everything at the last minute.) For some reason, it seemed to help me to get all my supplies arranged in the cage, shut the gate and go to it. I can’t really say I loved the cages, but they worked well for me.”
Bart Chapek ‘89

“I was always freaked out by the cages – and that’s why I loved them so much! I could imagine I was locked up until my homework was done! Unique and wonderful atmosphere!”
Gary Johnson ‘72

“For me the cages were reserved for one specific time of each semester: finals week. The memorial library cages were just about the only way that I could force myself to focus for those last few days to get myself over the finish line with whatever studying, papers or projects I had remaining that semester. With that being said, I always made sure to choose one with a window so that I could have a little taste of the freedom that I was so close to reaching!”
Dan Griese ‘17