Librarians, Make Happy Work!

As a librarian new to Colorado this year, I was thrilled to attend CALCON in October and meet many new people from all over the state who love their work in–and with–libraries as much as I do.

CALCON was such a positive experience for me, from networking to attending keynote sessions, to attending the quick and enlightening lightning sessions. My most inspirational session had to be the
first: Social Super Glue: How to Improve Your Library’s Workplace Culture with Kris Boesch. While Boesch doesn’t work in libraries, her session on how to “make happy work” was especially poignant to me.

Librarians and library staff are public service workers who often take on much of the challenges and stress their patrons face each day. We can become overwhelmed by negativity and pass it on. Boesch pointed out how crucial it is to have happy staff in a library, because happy employees make 26% fewer mistakes than unhappy employees, and unhappy employees can cost $30,000 more a year for a library to employ. This is due to a decrease in productivity, contagious negativity, bad customer service, turnover, safety
incidents, and a difficulty in recruiting new staff. On the other side, a happy employee is more productive, shares their happiness, shows better customer service, and makes less mistakes with fewer absences than even an average employee.

As a branch manager, I realized how much of an impact one person’s happiness can be on the entire staff. That’s due to the fact that full-time people spend an average of 2,000 hours of their life at work each
year. Imagine what it’s like for a department of 5 (10,000 hours) or 20 (40,000 hours). It’s my job to not only for me to focus on my own happiness, but also to make a happy and positive environment for all of my staff.

Where do we begin?

Empathy. Respect. Kindness. Curiosity. Understanding our purpose.

From here, I created an action plan to “make happy work” at my library. My actions include:

1.) Acknowledging the successes and struggles of others

  • It makes an impact on people when they realize that their work
    is noticed by others. By acknowledging their lives, we’re acknowledging that
    they matter.

2.) Coming from a place of curiosity in conversations

  • By beginning a conversation or interaction with the intention of
    learning something, you’re creating an atmosphere of respect and interest. This
    is very simple, yet powerful. How often do we come into a meeting with a
    preconceived notion of what we expect to get from it? By merely leaving
    judgment at the door, you open endless opportunities to learn from those around

3.) Leading a “Rose, Bud, Thorn” exchange at the beginning of a meeting, which encourages staff to think more deeply about how work is going and share it with the team.

  • Ask your staff or colleagues these things:
    • What is your rose (What is
      the highlight of your day/week/month?)
    • What is your bud? (What
      are you looking forward to?)
    • What is your thorn? (What is
      your challenge? What is going wrong?)
  • I have already attempted this in meetings, and IT WORKS. The time in a meeting for sharing went from one sentence answers to thoughtful conversations that staff all participated in.

Boesch’s keynote was the perfect introduction to CALCON, because it inspired me to think about the significance of my staff’s happiness each day. I came from many sessions with program ideas, new leadership skills, ways to increase the library’s relationship with the community, and the expertise of
new people. However, if my staff aren’t happy, then everything I learn and implement won’t work how I intend, and we’ll never reach our goals. It’s up to each of us to work on our own happiness and help our colleagues and patrons be happy.

As Boesch highlighted, “The secret to success is simply a decision.” And, I am committed to being happy and helping those around me make happy work.