Somewhere just south of the autographed Brisco County Jr. glossy photo, maybe behind a collectible librarian "action" figure and underneath a child's homemade art project, there may be a placard that reads, "A cluttered desk is the sign of an intelligent mind."
Or at least there should be.
Laura Barnes, a librarian for the Prairie Research Institute, with liaison responsibilities to the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, and the executive director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable, has been using her U. of I. office space for inspiration for 20 years.
"I just like having stuff to look at while I'm at work," she said. "If it's something odd or it just looks good, I bring it in. Things have just accumulated over the years, but I think it makes work more interesting."
She said her proclivity for collecting was influenced by her father, Bob Reid, a U. of I. journalism professor whose central academic message was "Be A Curious George." It wasn't long before Reid's students and colleagues started giving him Curious George memorabilia for his office. Reid died in 2004.
"He always had all these things in his office," she said. "I guess that just rubbed off."
Barnes said she goes through the occasional cleaning binge, though during busy times the paperwork overtakes the office and things must be rearranged. She's moved offices twice during her tenure, requiring additions or subtractions to her collection.
As for work, most times she employs the "ordered piles" method of office organization, a trait often associated with geniuses.
"I cleaned up a little when I heard you were coming over because it had been about three years since I really reorganized everything," she said. "It's been kind of nice being able to use my desk again."
The librarian action figure may be the best of her collectible conversation starters - the action coming from a pointing figure and electronic, noncombative "shushing" sound that activates with the push of a button.
But she is most proud of the homemade artwork created by her daughter, which is scattered throughout the office. The daughter is now a junior in high school, but one can trace the development of the aspiring graphic artist just by combing Barnes' office walls.
"She has a great eye for combining patterns and colors," she said. "I also have a few pieces of pottery here that I painted, but I can't draw to save my life."
Other pieces in her office collection include educational campaign posters from the American Library Association (one noting that "librarians are heroes every day"); a poster of Wrigley Field; various newspaper cartoon clippings; a collection of "funky" writing pens; and a large assortment of figurines, Lego creations and toys.
There also are photos of the pet rabbits she and her family have adopted through her association with the House Rabbit Society (http://www.rabbit.org), a volunteer organization that promotes spaying and neutering rabbits, advocates bringing them indoors to live as companion animals and campaigns against using them as prizes or gifts.
"My bunny is for life, not just for Easter," she said, repeating the organization's motto.
Visual stimulation also plays a role in her work. Her current Great Lakes grant has an extensive work plan, which led Barnes to create a brightly colored task checklist that hangs on the wall in front of her desk. The chart helps to organize myriad project tasks while simultaneously compelling her to drop the Legos and get to work. She said the checklist wouldn't have the same impact if viewed only on a computer monitor.
"It's a physical thing that I can see when I'm sitting at my desk," she said. "I don't have to pull anything up on the computer and I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I check something off."
Brain food Heather Gillett, a graphic designer in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences advancement office, shows off the Zombie Outbreak Shelter that she keeps in her office … just in case. It’s filled with people snacks and dog treats – and decidedly lacks zombie-enticing brains.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
If, in an apocalyptic version of the future, zombies ever do overrun campus, Heather Gillett's office would be a good place to hunker down.
Gillett, a graphic designer in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences advancement office, has created her own, closely guarded "Zombie Outbreak Shelter" - a metal office cabinet that doubles as a snack center for human hunger pangs (which usually occur at about 3 p.m.).
"I've got Life Savers and candy and other treats that I like to give out to kids or anyone who comes into the office," she said. "We're a pet-friendly office, so I even have dog biscuits in there."
Gillett has only been in the office for a year, after working 15 years for a local private-sector company. In that time she has transformed the atmosphere to one that reflects her personality.
The Zombie Outbreak Shelter was inspired by the movie "Zombieland," which she recently saw and became a fan of. Although Gillett loves Halloween and never misses the opportunity to create and dress in an original costume, she said she normally isn't a fan of the zombie genre. "Zombieland" changed her perspective because of its use of typography in the action.
Gillett, considered the "office bug wrangler," can put her squeamishness aside in other areas as well - catching and releasing any spider or intrusive pest that may pop up in the building. She said she rarely kills an insect intruder.
"It really depends on the creepiness of the bug," she said.
Her office decor includes a family-photo montage arranged in a large frame, a large Alma Mater poster she designed and created, a caged bird hanging from the ceiling, a Magic 8 Ball that she regularly consults, and several references and homages to llamas - which by default became her favorite animal after a Parkland College promotion and a report about llamas that her daughter wrote for school.
Suddenly, it seemed, llamas were popping up everywhere in her life.
"I know more about llamas than most people should," she said.
Gillett said that her office decorations, some of which change with the season, are more than just fun - they help her relax and open up her mind when she's developing a creative project for one of the 70 departments within LAS.
"The variety helps keep things fresh," she said. "I just try to keep my office comfortable and fun. I'd like a couch but I don't know where I'd put it."