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Below are some definitions for «carrel» from Webster's:
1. Also called cubicle, stall. a small recess or enclosed area in a library stack, designed for individual study or reading.
2. a table or desk with three sides extending above the writing surface to serve as partitions, designed for individual study, as in a library. Also, carrell.
In fact, the word expression «study carrels» means a desk with partitions, as it is described in definition 2 above. Originally, the word combination «study carrels» is not verb-based, as «study» is an attribute to the word «desk».
In your specific case, however, where «study» is a verb, «We are told to study carrels» means «We are told to do some studying in the library».
artyan United States Local time: 15:35 Native speaker of: Russian