It should be no surprise to the readers of this blog that librarians are passionate. Even the most common librarian stereotypes depict us as passion-driven people (cardigans, cats, what not). But more often than not, time, workload demands, and the office environment dampen our drive. Thankfully, there are tactics library administrators and leaders can use to mitigate these darker moments of our professional lives. Paul Alofs, author of Passion Capital, offers a number of ways to create a passionate work culture in an article for Fast Company (h/t G. Hardin). These three are my personal favorites:

2. Communicate.

“Once you have the right people, you need to sit down regularly with them and discuss what is going well and what isn’t. It’s critical to take note of your victories, but it’s just as important to analyze your losses. A fertile culture is one that recognizes when things don’t work and adjusts to rectify the problem.”

In my experience, we are too quick to sweep communication problems under the rug and, perhaps, in slower technological times it was possible to wait for issues to resolve themselves. But we have the tech and the tools to create quick and easy (and relatively inexpensive) fixes to our communication problems. The first step to solving any issue is admitting we have a problem, but we can’t do that without easy-to-access channels of communication.

7. Create the space.

“In cutting-edge research and academic buildings, architects try to promote as much interaction as possible. They design spaces where people from different disciplines will come together, whether in workspace or in common leisure space.”

I’ve talked about this before. We need fewer cubicles and more break rooms (with better coffee).

8. Take the long view.

“We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in five years. The culture needs to look ahead, not just in months but in years and even decades.”

Jenica Rogers recently spoke about this at the CARL 2012 conference and it continues to stick in my brain. We need to think strategically in relation to where we want to go, not where we are now. There is no way we can know what the future of libraries will look like, so let’s focus on creating one we will enjoy working within.

Check out the full article.

From Back to Work, Ep. 58, about 56 minutes in:

“The incentive that you want to give people is to do the right thing… It’s [your] job to enable people to do their best work, to protect them from people who would try to undermine that, and to make sure that they have the tools and resources they need to get it accomplished without anybody screwing with them… A [good] leader is somebody that you trust to do the right thing.”

Merlin Mann is my hero.


What if, as academic library organizations, we radically empowered our employees? What if, instead of leading our organizations through individuals or select groups, we lead through the collective energy of our staff? What if we created spaces for the free flow of information where the best of ideas could quickly take shape and immediately be integrated into our service models?

These were some of the questions I asked while watching the video above by Gabe Zichermann, author, consultant, and creator in gamification studies.

I’ve been thinking more and more about ways to use technology to improve large academic library systems that, in short, allow them to function more like small libraries: to be nimble, open, and innovative (rather than sluggish, exclusive, and obstructive). Here are some of the points from Gabe’s talk that speak to that:

  1. Games and game-like systems provide a constrained system for expressing creativity, which has been shown to inspire more creativity than unconstrained systems
  2. Gamification is about creating a process and not about badges or simply turning work into a game.
  3. Feedback. Feedback should be systematic and immediate. See Gabe’s comments on improving annual reviews (15 minutes in).
  4. Friends. Adults love social activities just as much as children. See Gabe’s comments on the company gym (20 minutes in). Also, teams must be authentic to work.
  5. Fun. People will work for free (and enjoy it) given the right motivations and circumstances. Cf. the “creds” system on StackOverflow. (Me: As academics, the idea of “creds” should appeal to us!)
  6. Don’t ignore the potential for hidden creators. Cf. the tutorials developed by Codecademy users (19 minutes in)
  7. You cannot legislate game-play or simply hire people who have game-play potential. It must be inspired from the ground up.

Most importantly, the things that motivate people are:

  1. Status
  2. Access
  3. Power
  4. Stuff

… in order from most meaningful to least meaningful. Also, from least expensive to most expensive interestingly.

As organizations, we often focus our creative energies on ways to improve the library experience for our users and ultimately this is our goal. But what if we took more time to reflect upon how we run our organizations and how we can both inspire our employees to do more (and better) and how we can create spaces where that inspiration is nurtured and encouraged? My prediction is that by creating these spaces and processes, we will ultimately need to spend less time seeking out ways to improve our services, since many of the solutions will naturally present themselves through new ways of communicating and work.

I would love to hear from you, dear reader, about any libraries academic or otherwise that have used gamification models to improve professional development, communication, and/or problem solving.