These wonderful animals live in the Pemberville, Ohio Public Library. They're the work of Laurel Rakas, the Coordinator of Children's Services there since 1996.
"We get boxes of books that are padded with this wrinkly, brown paper," she wrote. "We used to throw the paper out, which drove me crazy. I always wanted to do something with it."
So, she did.
"In 2020, our summer reading program theme was 'Imagine Your Story.' I thought, I can look at this packing paper and imagine it as something else. Then, we asked other libraries in our system for their paper and, boy, did we get a response! We were inundated with paper!"
As the raw material came in, her menagerie grew. And the reaction from visitors was immediately positive. "People have been very complimentary. I love to hear the response from children who have never been in before. They're full of wonder. It's been very gratifying."
Laurel is not paid to create art, but she seized an opportunity to make something out of nothing because it was important to her.
As a result, she's made her workspace a more interesting place to be.
Her paper creatures have surprised and delighted countless Library visitors.
She's led by example, quietly encouraging kids to stretch their imaginations and look for possibilities, even when they might not be readily obvious.
Laurel may have even inspired her co-workers to undertake their own art projects or learn new skills.
And down the road, who knows? Her creations may attract more good P.R. from area newspapers and via social media. She might even be able to auction off her animals for the benefit of the Library.
What if your company followed Laurel's lead?
How might the freedom to create or take on passion projects impact your culture? Your employees' engagement? Their loyalty?
What if they could experience the pride Laurel takes in her paper sculptures? What if they could generate that same type of positivity? In other words, what if you prioritized finding different ways to help your people shine?
By the way, Laurel's project is ongoing. "This year's reading program theme is 'Oceans of Possibilities.' I'll be building some sea creatures and I'm planning a kelp forest that will hang from the lights."