My library is offering an XML workshop for staff, even those of us who don't work in archives or cataloging. This is a very cool idea (um, if you're a library nerd), and I love that departments are offering basic training in their skills to those outside the area where it seems directly applicable. These things can surprise you; I was a serials cataloger for a few weeks before I started working in reference and instruction, and I found that knowing a little bit about cataloging helped me come up with some non-stupid OPAC tricks later on.
Anyway. For this XML class we're working with actual digitized archival documents that need metadata. I'm finding that this is a real motivator for me to do a good job and actually learn what I'm doing, even during a very busy week when otherwise
I wouldn't feel very engaged with the material. I've discovered the same thing in a web design class I'm taking in library school. We're designing websites for real-world clients, and I recruited our client -- a good friend of mine who at this writing really needs a better website. (Hopefully if you read this a few weeks from now there will be a lovely home page at that link.) The fact that we're learning, and creating, something that has a real-life application makes all the difference in the world; I care a lot more about the work I'm doing.
Why on earth should I be surprised to realize this? I talk constantly about making my library teaching directly relevant to what students really need for their classes if I want to actually reach them with the material. It makes me hope that I've unconsciously realized some more good teaching principles from the student side of the equation.