Engaged Learning

A nostalgic study space

Making memories in Carrier Library

After the Carrier renovation and expansion plan was announced, JMU Libraries developed a Kudoboard for alumni, faculty, staff, and students to share and reflect upon their memories of the library. The responses range from stories of long study sessions and the beginnings of friendships to short quips about needing some space away from a difficult roommate.

A common theme across the online board is time spent in the stacks, a secluded section of Carrier spanning what felt like miles. Many students believe it was the ideal spot to get work done; oftentimes it became their own little world.

A study space in the early 1980s
(Photo: Courtesy of JMU Libraries / Special Collections)

“I graduated in 1989. Back in the day, Carrier Library was the best place to study. There always seemed to be some space in the stacks where no one could find me,” said one contributor.

“I graduated in 1989. Back in the day, Carrier Library was the best place to study. There always seemed to be some space in the stacks where no one could find me.”

“My roommates and I loved the stacks in Carrier. They felt old, strange and kind of mystical,” another anonymous graduate wrote. “After we all had finished most of our finals in 2010, we went for a long night walk around campus and ended in the stacks. We wondered about what was stored in the gated-off floor, imagined using the dumbwaiter, rode the elevator that felt like it was a snapshot from the past and got lost several times. I don’t know why that was so exciting to us, but I remember that whole experience very distinctly and fondly. Getting lost in the library felt so like getting lost in a book.”

Buildings like Carrier, while important to JMU’s campus, are also essential to the meaning of the Madison Experience. One person remembered a fond interaction there with former President Ronald E. Carrier, for whom the library is named. 

“He turned, walked back to me and asked my name. I told him my name was Ron,” the Duke shared. “And he said, ‘Nice name, Ron. Today is your lucky day!’ He glanced back toward the line [of students] and said, ‘In fact, I think you all are going to be pretty pleased.’ Next thing we hear is a Krispy Kreme delivery van rolling up and Dr. Carrier walking away stating, ‘Free doughnuts and coffee for everyone ... thanks to Ron.’” Memories of Carrier’s connection with students and his ability to lift their spirits with compassion and humor seem as lasting as the building itself. 

More recent study spaces

Sometimes the Carrier Library experience wasn’t about something happening, but rather the feeling of being present in the building. As one contributor remembered, even small moments inside the walls of Carrier had an enduring impact on students: “Sitting in the older part of the building by the fountain doors, warm coffee and sweater on, reading and taking notes is one of my favorite college memories.” 

The newly renovated Carrier Library, which is set to open in Fall 2026, will have a high standard to meet, but will surely be home to new memories for generations of Dukes to come.