Creativity at Work

Everyone Was An Artist in Kindergarten” is a nice, short reminder that “[c]reativity is as much about the ability to come up with ideas as it is about the courage to act on those ideas.”

I kind of lied about not knowing what I enjoy in librarianship, but it’s kind of hard to explain because, honestly, it’s not specific to LIS. My sister, who is majoring in child development, said what I like is “creating environments,” which is early childhood educator speak for setting up learning spaces.

Last summer, I took a class on user experience, one that I didn’t get a chance to take in graduate school, after I completed half of the Hyperlinked Library MOOC in Fall 2013. I started a brand new job, and it was too hard to complete all the modules, but they left a deep impression on me.

I hands down really believe in “thinking like a startup.” I have tried a lot of different things in the library at my campus without concern for whether they actually will work (these things don’t cost money). And trust me, I have failed a lot, but it’s through failure that you realize what will or won’t work. You just have to try, work through your ideas with others who might not really get what you’re trying to do, and have the tenacity to keep trying.

I remember one of the student assistants asking me what the goal was when I started our first campus game night in Fall 2014. “We’re just going to hangout, and get to know people.” I didn’t think lots of people would come, but, hey, we have no campus life besides one student club. What have we got to lose? As it turns out, the students I approached to plan a game night were thrilled. The first time we put one on, we had faculty and the dean attend and play games! The dean played Cards Against Humanity with students, and she had fun. Although we didn’t get any faculty the second time, people asked how it went the next day. We only have about 15 students each time, but for a campus with no campus life and one that’s located off a highway, it’s great.

Another thing I started that I worried might not work were interactive posters outside the library doors across from the open computer lab. Every two weeks, I make a banner out of butcher paper, ask a question, and then I supply Post-It notes and washable markers for students to write responses. It’s so low-tech, but, much to my delight, students participate. I did learn that the plainer the Post-Its the better, though; cool colors get stolen. I did have some people who liked to report the inappropriate responses and gather them up with a note at my desk or have a word with me, but that’s the part where you just smile and say thank you. (Inside, you get a little crazy and imagine yourself ripping the pieces into teeny tiny little pieces and flinging them like confetti…)

I also got a little bit of backlash against providing Starbursts and Crunch Bars during finals week because there were a few candy wrappers on the ground, but it was one of those moments where I just had to say it was just for the week, and it was pretty easy to just throw them away. (I can only handle so much, guys.)

For me, being able to be creative in my work is really important. I didn’t really realize how important this was, but when I look back on school assignments and projects I liked the most, it involved making something, mostly visuals or something related to art (this was before STEM and STEaM times). I also realize that why I really loved one of my first library jobs as a bilingual story time teller was the thematic planning. During Halloween one year, I put together a black and white story time that included a shadow puppet show and a chalk and construction paper craft. I only worked 14 hours a week in that position, and I prepped my little heart out for that program.

Even though I sometimes wonder about the value of the extra details I place on interactivity and participation when things don’t go right, I have to remind myself that some people do notice. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the history/political science professor approached me about setting up a Constitution Day quiz in the Library. It’s a 15-question Scantron that students put into a large glass jar at the check-out desk; those who score the highest are placed into a drawing for a Starbucks gift card. You can also bet that I put together a Constitution Day book display.

As someone who was naturally good at the school thing and who is an academic librarian, I do get nervous that my dream doesn’t necessarily include publishing scholarly literature (part of it is that I don’t have a specific research area of interest). I just don’t really see myself doing that kind of scholarly life, and I think I have been struggling with how the reconcile that in the midst of all this great work former classmates are doing in their lives.

While my spring semester was a little rough, the highlight of my fall semester was the dean indicating that my greatest asset is creativity during my second-year review. I suppose I am doing something right.

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