Play to Learn…Learn to Play

In the past several weeks, as I’ve worked with staff to plan Boulder Public Library’s first-ever Staff Learn-and-Play Day, I have to say I’ve learned a lot myself.  I have learned that often, as adults, we seek permission to play–even when the play will result in new learning, creating stronger teams or more innovative results. I am a real believer that we all learn in different ways at different times in our lives. I have come to the idea that perhaps the best way to “make space” for many learning styles is approaching it through the portal of play. I’ve often said that play takes the pressure off and allows us to explore possibilities. Play can also manifest itself in more Zen-like ways: allowing ourselves to sit and absorb new thoughts that challenge the norms or allowing ourselves the chance to scratch our heads and reflect before heading into decision making mode. I think that allowing ourselves the freedom to play with ideas and different ways of expression and learning allows us to ultimately know more about ourselves. And how important and powerful is that? I was recently rather seriously questioned on why I wanted to include the word “play” in Boulder Public Library’s Staff “Learn & Play Day.” I have to admit that I have run in circles-of-like-understanding on this matter for so long that I had to shake myself slightly to understand why this question would surface. Then I realized that the good word is not completely on the street. Play perhaps still connotes “goofing off.” I forgot some people still think that way, honestly. We adults are still being encouraged to show up with agendas in hand, ready for the worst case scenarios.  This is not my approach nor do I want it to be. The word play has a sense of freedom and independence to it. Freedom and independence lead to discovery. Discovery to learning.   And so this is how my planning and envisioning for Learn-and-Play Day 2008 is evolving. I’m happy to say that Helene Blowers, library innovator and play-supporter, will be joining us to offer her spin on the importance and meaningfulness of play. We’ve also planned for a few surprises and delights on this day. Let the play–and learning–begin!



  1. Sounds like a great day. I’d like to know they type of things you are getting the staff to explore and how you are setting yup the day. During a past learning 2.0 program I administered a particular staff member said that the word “play” should be taken out of the program because all theh staff were “professionals” . Bit sad whe you become too professional to play!

    Can’t wait for the post telling us how the day went.

  2. Oh! So it’s not only me who is working to “justify” the word “play?!” That is so odd and interesting. If anyone needs to play, I’d say that it is “professionals.” In the abstract, I have planned the day to be offer 2 types of “tools”– 1) tools for inspiration (to intrigue and inspire staff to see beyond the daily tasks and to encourage them to explore other possibilities and 2) actual experiences with the “tech tools” to give them real experience playing and learning.
    So, this means that there will be real experiences during the day for staff to put some imagination into action. We’re doing an altered book project exhibit of staff work, there will be Wii stations set up, a “Tech Trove” for staff to handle some new gadetry and bringing in some strong voices (Helene Blowers, James Ascher, Matthew Hamilton) to encourage us to see beyond our immediate borders.
    How does this sound? I am so sizzed about this day!

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