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Looking for Joy in All the Wrong Places: CCLI 2023

A research guide collecting links and information about joy in the library workplace

Informed Consent

Your responses provided during this workshop may be collected, without any identifying information, and may be used in future research and/or publications.

If you do not wish your responses to be collected, please abstain from providing them.

Participation is voluntary and optional, and you may stop participating at any time. If any identifying information is provided, it will be removed from the researchers’ records.

We are grateful for your presence, whether you choose to provide responses or not.

This workshop has been certified as exempt from the specific regulations and requirements in Title 45, Part 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations by the Institutional Review Board of CSU Maritime Academy.

Workshop Links

Link to Padlet with sections for each of the three prompts asking for your contributions: Joy in the Workplace Padlet

Link to New York Times Joy Workout

CCLI 2023: California Conference on Library Instruction | Friday, June 2, 2023, University of San Francisco

Image of Kitty & Margot


Katherine (Kitty) Luce, Instruction and Web Services Librarian, CSU Maritime Academy

Margot Hanson, Science Librarian, Saint Mary’s College of California

Workshop Abstract

What does joy mean? Could it come from the workplace? Should it?

This session reviews current research surrounding joy and well-being in workplaces, inviting participants to consider their own organizational culture.

The literature on toxicity and low morale in library workplaces is extensive. Neoliberalism, trends towards a care economy, and ramifications of the COVID pandemic place considerable demands on library workers and exacerbate existing inequities. Top-down efforts to improve well-being can be ineffective or self-serving. Recent literature outside the library field describes the need to make work joyful, reflecting workplaces’ joylessness, barriers to changing the work itself, and our desire for transcendent delight. This session identifies exacerbating trends such as positive psychology’s false hope, the mythology of self-care, and management approaches that offer snacks instead of real change. Improving workers’ autonomy and interpersonal connections can impact well-being, but can such changes bring the alluring concept of joy within reach?

Workshop Slides

Public Zotero Library

We have a public Zotero library collecting information we used in this workshop, and a few other suggested readings and relevant materials.

public zotero group

Workshop Prompt 1: What Does "Joy" Mean to You?

When we asked workshop participants what the word "joy" meant to them, the most frequent words in their responses (N=27) were (removing prepositions and other minor or connecting words): feeling (6); work (4); sense (4); happiness (4); and connection (4). We hadn't asked about joy as it connected to work, but some participants were clearly thinking about joy at work, while others focused on joy's spontaneity and transcendence.

Workshop Prompt 2: What Should Every Workplace Do?



For the second response prompt, we asked workshop participants: "Of all the places you’ve worked so far, name one or more aspects you’d like to see repeated everywhere."

Some themes: connection with other people, within and outside the workplace, including a sense of collective resistance; respect, trust, autonomy and boundaries; not being the only POC in the workplace;  having tools for work, such as adequate budgets, protection from "poop rolling down the hill, and interaction with colleagues. Action, humor, playfulness.

Workshop Prompt 3: What would you include in a handbook on creating authentic joy in the workplace?


For the third response prompt, we asked workshop participants: "What is at least one specific element you would include in a handbook on creating authentic joy in the workplace?"

Themes: Connection; finding joy in action and resistance; strong connections with others for collaboration and resistance; understanding the role of white supremacy, and incorporating theory and lived experience of BIPOC in efforts to promote joy; boundaries in limiting work creep; anti-capitalism; valuing and expressing appreciation of workers; "breaking your job" so joy and creativity can exist; the role of management in protecting workers and advocating for, but not attempting to create, joy.

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