Fun in your workplace?

26 Jun

I’ve been enjoying discussions we’ve had about creativity in libraries, and am interested in how this can be demonstrated to be of benefit in these more restricted financial times. I remember some years ago a question from management about ‘What would we see as a reward for good work? Outside of money …’. Initial reactions were dismissive, yet as the conversation continued lots of other motivators were identified – respect, consultation, flexible work hours, project space, student responsive goals, time for research and time to have fun.

Sometimes it can be hard to fit creativity or fun into a busy day, a library run on hierarchies or a branch limited by funds. However I’m sure everyone out there is doing something, even if it’s small. Our section has played with Kindles, EcoBook and as of next week an iPad for ebook reading.

Can you comment me what you’re doing?

I went looking online and found this article:

Michael Casey & Michael Stephens, “The Transparent Library Let’s All Lighten Up”, Library Journal, 2008, Vol. 133 Issue 13, p24

It talks about some quick, cheap ways to ensure fun continues in your library space, and calls on everyone to “Laugh. Explore. Play. Try new things. Give a little. Share a lot”. It also points out that fun can engage your library members as well as improve staff morale. A book launch in our children’s book section in our Education Library was a good example of this – we actually saw a large group children in that area exploring the collection together : – )

The above authors suggest Flickr fun site for jazzing up your signage. It’s got me thinking – there must be a genuine learning need I can use as an excuse to put signage on a dice shaped box …

Another article:
Ilene F. Rockman, 2003, “Fun in the workplace”, Reference Services Review, v.31(2), pp.109-110
outlines themes you may have already experimented with:

  • Sports tournaments (lawn bowling in the reserve room, miniature golf in the reference room, slalom book truck races in front of the library during intersession, shelving competitions in the book stacks).
  • Dress-up-days (wonderful purple Wednesdays, library T-shirt day, “hat-o-ween” – rather than dressing in costume to celebrate Halloween, everyone wears a hat).
  • Award ceremonies (Golden Shelf Award for the best example of returning books to the stacks in the shortest amount of time, Golden Mouse Award for outstanding contributions to computer customer service).
  • Contests (“Messy desk contest”, judged by the “neat freaks” in the library, “Say the secret word” contest at the Circulation Desk where staff dress up in “Groucho” glasses and patrons win prizes for saying the “secret” word).
  • Recreational activities (Friday afternoon concerts, or “sock hops”).
  • Food-related events (“Chili cook-off competitions”, including an empty crock-pot for the “virtual” chili entry).
  • Learn-at-lunch sessions (ballroom dancing lessons).

and handily [for me] sets them in an academic library context. Outside of UTS playing with games days and QR codes I haven’t read a lot about allowing fun in the academic library space, and I’d love to have some research to back up suggestions for MPOW. Lawn bowling in the reserve room is fantastic, aisles already set up there! Some of us did a run at messiest desks online through our twitterstream this year, post @malbooth and @flexnib showing off their pristine cleared desks virtually.

Ilene points out that “When we recognize the importance of humor, fun, teamwork, and camaraderie, we send a powerful message to our employees and patrons. We show that we value people, as well as the work” (p110). I think so many of our aims in the academic library world are focussed on preserving things, and whilst that is valuable in the end for some people, it would be good to bring some direct people focussed actions into our aims as well.


8 Responses to “Fun in your workplace?”

  1. Mal Booth June 26, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    I think fun at work is very important, but it has to be genuine fun. (I know that sounds strange.) I think we’re pretty good at it at UTS and we used that to help make our planning day actually enjoyable and creative this year. You could read the fun in all the tweets we were encouraged to send. We don’t have a formal fun program or make a big song and dance about it. It just happens and it is properly recognised and encouraged because it is beneficial. I think it helps that we are not that precious about our Library and its resources.

    • Ruth Baxter June 27, 2010 at 8:08 am #

      I do know what you mean. It’s about people feeling free to join in, and to create, rather than being told to do something like “Everyone must dress up”. I think the atmosphere that has evolved at UTS is great. I’m slowly exploring the idea of how you can create that internally, in an area with a little less history. Something I should have mentioned we do do, is decorations for work areas in Dec. There is a cup, relaxed judging and an excuse for people to go and visit other branches. It allows more sense of people’s individual creativity to come out in a team environment. Many staff find this a burdensome idea if enforced, however as an opt in only exercise it has grown.

  2. harps June 27, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Follow the link to the Blogalogue – I have a great job, because I get to play and have fun on the web and engage the customers.

    Just check out the footy tipping bears!

    • Ruth Baxter June 27, 2010 at 11:31 am #

      Looks like a library service with an active sense of fun.

  3. Penny June 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    This is something I really feel quite passionate about. We spend so much time at work so why should we not have moments of play and fun. I really enjoy this TED talk about fun & play

    and this one

  4. Kelly June 28, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    I’m always trying to think of ways to inject more fun in the workplace because I believe our workplace is way too serious. But it’s very hard to do. I work in a government department and we are supposed to project professionalism at all times and it’s almost as if, if we show any sign of being ‘human’, we are not doing our jobs. Sometimes I am envious of people who work in public libraries and school libraries who seem to be able to get really creative and actually have some fun, but here it’s actually frowned upon.

    • Ruth Baxter June 28, 2010 at 11:13 am #

      Oh I know the feeling! It’s hard in academic libraries too for the same reason. Sometimes you can start to change the culture by involving yourself in related events. If your dept has a link to a community event you can dress up a corner of the library in info about that day, then the second time you do it you can wear a matching hat, before you know it everyone is laughing. Also if your dept has a group of children that are linked in some way, you can invite them to the library, or play a video of them in the library and then everyone thinks it’s ok to have fun amusing things. It’s only as grown ups that this idea that serious = professional comes in. Good luck! Let me know if you get anything going. I’ll try and remember to blog if we do more stuff.


  1. Inspire the weary troops! | Libraries Interact - June 27, 2010

    […] Ruth wondered how we can bring fun into our workplaces, and took an evidence based approach to finding out! […]

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