Raft of ducks afloat in Library

Colorful collection grows out of staffers' simple award for excellence

By Aline McKenzie


A good library employee keeps track of things.

That’s why Barb Nunn knows that she has exactly 252 ducks at her desk.

Big ducks, little ducks, ducks in Christmas and Easter outfits, pirates, cops, soldiers,
a UT Longhorns duck, one in a tux and another in a tiara and  one sporting a Star of David.

Barb Nunn has added "keeper of ducks" to her duties as senior administrative associate in the Library.

Oh, and a penguin. Why not?

“I’ve got all of the seasons, and most of the professions, especially the medical ones,” said Ms. Nunn, a senior administrative associate in the
UT Southwestern Library.

Her job officially entails managing the administrative unit of the facility, but the yellow mass of ducks makes her stand out in the office.

The collecting habit began about three years ago, before Ms. Nunn began working at the library. A large rubber ducky had become an “Award of Excellence” given to worthy library staffers.

“It’s highly coveted,” she said. “The person who last had it bestowed upon him or her gets to choose the next recipient.

“Our former deputy directory sent campaign e-mails telling all the great and wonderful things he’d done, so that the prestigious rubber ducky would be bestowed upon him — things such as putting paper in the copier without being asked or reporting a light bulb out, using the proper procedure.”

Before she began her library job, Ms. Nunn worked in accounting. She learned about the ducky and decided on a prank — she gathered a small group of duckies of her own, and on her first day in the office, nonchalantly unpacked them and placed them around her desk.

“I just said, ‘Oh, this is just a collection that I have,’ not letting on that I knew about the award,” she said.

But once you start with a group of duckies, you’re doomed to get more, she learned. People began giving her more, and she also added more of her own to the collection.

Her co-workers are generally tolerant of the quirk – several have a few ducks of their own, including one dressed in armor made from the pieces of a vegetable steamer.

They draw the line, however, at her activating the stuffed AFLAC insurance duck, which quacks the company’s name over and over. And over. And over.

Ms. Nunn also has won the official ducky for her work in providing orientations for new staffers.

The ducky is recognized as official university property, complete with bar code and catalog number. Library staffers in the past could check it out and take it out on the town. It’s been to a dentist, a urologist, a concert, a holiday party for which it wore a Santa suit, lunch at the Dallas Museum of Art and other events.

It has also been photographed with university officials, including former President Dr. Kern Wildenthal.

So is it possible to get tired of ducks?

“I don’t discourage additions,” Ms. Nunn said. “I certainly don’t want any of the ducks of the world to remain orphans.”