12 Activities of Christmas: Library Staff Challenge

As we lead up to Christmas, we’ve given over this post to Sarah Hyland and Katie Skellett, who have been forcefully injecting Christmas cheer across Library and Collections staff, who have worked hard across 2020 to get services up and running, buildings back open and reading materials available online.

“We probably don’t need to say this but what a year it has been! Normally we would be decorating the offices and you wouldn’t be able to see people or books for tinsel and Christmas trees.  We would also be having staff parties, Christmas cracker relays and sharing delicious Christmas treats that the bakers amongst us had whipped up.  This year is obviously a bit different but the University Library and Collections Staff Development Group still wanted to try to do something to bring colleagues together.  We wanted to share a bit of Christmas cheer and help to make people feel festive – wherever they are just now.  So, we came up with the “12 activities of Christmas”.  It started on Monday 30th November and ran until Tuesday 15th December – culminating in a virtual Christmas quiz party!”

“Each day saw a new challenge that teams were asked to post to online.  All colleagues from across the Service were asked to “like” the posts that they enjoyed the most and to engage in a bit of Christmassy chat.  We also randomly fired off some festively-themed “fastest fingers first” questions throughout each day so teams could earn additional valuable points.”

Some of us have picked out some of our challenge highlights below – if you’re involved in staff development activities, or looking to raise team spirits in challenging times, we’d love to hear what you’ve been doing as well!

Kelly: Challenge number 8 asked us to ‘snap a (happy) Christmas’. I LOVED this challenge, all about what makes Christmas, well, Christmas for all of our lovely colleagues. As a pretty sociable person, who hasn’t been in the library office since March, I’ve really been missing the human interaction; this challenge was a really personal one which helped me feel close to all of the staff who I’m no longer seeing on a daily basis. We got to see pictures of special family moments, photos from the past and present – food, pantomimes, children, magic… a real reminder that the true meaning of Christmas (as well as the birth of Jesus) is all about memories and connection – and not the material gifts.

Tim: The daily challenges have been great fun! The best way to describe the experience is a cross between Taskmaster and The Apprentice – and scoring system on a par with QI (nobody really know how it works but are too scared to ask). One of the stand out challenges for me was Challenge 3 which was to make a virtual Christmas card. As a team we were going to have to do this remotely. After a bit of thought we went for making our own GIF. Although we had never done this before we managed with a bit of research online and scrolling through snowy pictures of Durham on my phone we managed to create something. So not only did we manage to meet the daily challenge but I learnt a new skill as well.

The results of some other teams was brilliant and one in particular is still making me laugh. (Ed: would that be this one, Tim?)

Ben: This has been a lot of fun. The first thing we were asked to do was to review your favourite festive film. I was keen to pick something slightly different, so I opted for Die Hard 2: Die Harder (an oft overlooked Christmas movie, owing to the sizeable shadow cast by the first Die Hard movie!). I include a snippet of the review:

“The finale involves McLane blowing up an aeroplane full of bad guys. Nothing says ‘peace on earth and mercy mild’ like that. God and sinners are, indeed, reconciled”

There was also the challenge to tell your best (family friendly) Christmas cracker joke. This was as good as I could manage:

Q: What do you call a snowman with a rippling six-pack?

A: The abdominal snowman!

I have to add, the “fastest fingers first” questions that could pop up at any point throughout each day on Teams were a source of pure adrenaline. I took to keeping my headphones in all day so I’d be sure to catch the ‘ping’ when one appeared (a little tip for my colleagues there…) [Ed: shame that didn’t result in many points there Ben!]. I’d furiously Alt-Tab to Teams and try to remain calm despite THE ADRENALINE whilst working out fiendish equations such as:

“Take the year Santa Clause: The Movie was released, subtract the number of GOLD RINGS (impossible not to shout that bit) and add the number of horses pulling the sleigh in “Jingle Bells”.

And if you got in first for the win…well, I tell you – there’s no feeling like it!

Over the final few weeks before Christmas, when everyone has been working incredibly hard to ensure services remain running and preparations for the new year to come continue, these challenges have offered a welcome respite to many of us – a few minutes a day or of an evening to focus on something different, to learn new skills, to engage with colleagues from other teams we may not have seen for many months. It may have sometimes proved challenging – I was in more than one meeting where my Teams notifications suddenly went haywire as another quickfire question was published asking people to guess how many baubles were on a tree, or how many chocolates were left in tub… but it has always brought a smile to people’s faces, and not a little but of competitiveness…

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our colleagues and friends across the Library and Collections Service, the University and beyond!

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