A Purpose.

Welcome to Renewals, a blog discussing low morale in North American libraries. This blog supports my original research on this topic and also serves as a point of reference and resource for those who have faced or are currently experiencing low morale in academic library environments. This space is also for anyone who is concerned about preventing workplace abuse. By the way, because of my study’s definition of low morale, I use the terms workplace abuse, workplace neglect, and low morale interchangeably.

Participant data in my study revealed that low morale is the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and system abuse or neglect in the workplace. While my original study focuses on academic libraries, the general response to my research has alerted me that the trajectory and outcomes of the experience may also apply to other library environments. I hope this outlet is also helpful to anyone to whom this applies.

My first few blogs reflect content I originally published at The Ink On The Page, a project I began last year. As this space develops, I will include original content focusing on my 2017 study,  my forthcoming study centering on the low -morale experiences of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians, and other ideas and projects that spring from these works.

I have also created an online community for  librarians who are familiar with low morale (Renewers).  Along with this space, I hope Renewers are able to recognize, reduce, and resolve their experiences, return to a fuller sense of joy, and recapture purpose in their careers and communities of service. Moreover, I’d like to offer this space for sustained constructive dialogue on this important topic – let’s connect, create strategies, and fulfill positive outcomes for the long-term improvement of our profession.

All Best,

RenewBlogSigTrans

P.S. You can keep up with my other research and news here!

 

 

 

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ACRL 2019 Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award Acceptance Speech

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Kaetrena Davis Kendrick is presented with the ACRL 2019 Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award by John Elliot (EBSCO) at the 2019 ACRL Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo credit: ACRL, 2019.

[This blog was originally published at The Ink On The Page]

Following are my remarks after being presented with the 2019 Association of College & Research Libraries 2019 Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award.

Good morning everyone! I hope you’re having a great conference. I sure am!

I am unbelievably honored to be recognized with year’s Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award. This award begins with nomination from our peers, so I’m infinitely thankful to those who did so on my behalf. They are folks who have provided guidance and support of my career for a long time, and I am grateful for their confidence in me. I’d like to thank ACRL: the ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award Committee and ACRL President Lauren Pressley, whose ears I fear may be still recovering from the trauma of my screams of joy upon hearing I was named for this honor. I’d also like to thank GOBI Solutions from EBSCO for their support of librarians and of this award.

I began my career at a large academic library in a rapidly growing metropolis; while there, I was never really sure of the impact of my work on library users. A few years later, I continued my career at a small academic library in the University of South Carolina system, where I sharpened my campus outreach and research skills.

Currently, I am at an even smaller campus in the USC System in Lancaster. We currently have an FTE just over 1,300. Those questions about my impact on users are now clearly answered almost daily, and my research efficacy continues to grow. However, we are a small library in a rural area; thus, any constraints of funding, staffing, resources, and so on, are more deeply felt at libraries like mine – particularly at Lancaster, where we have been operating without a library director since 2015. Many of the things I’ve spearheaded stem from my wish to offer our students access and exposure to the same things they would encounter at larger institutions, and to let them know they are welcome via a sense of community. I am thankful for the opportunity to be creative and effective in my daily practice of academic librarianship, which I believe this award recognizes and validates.

Recently, I have been talking with our colleagues about their organization’s cultures – in particular, about workplace morale. This research has plainly revealed the intersections of ethics, leadership, organizational culture, collegiality, and well-being in our profession, and sparked in me a desire to serve my colleagues and co-workers where the reduction or eradication of workplace abuse and neglect is concerned. Today and moving forward, I invite you to join me in helping prioritize library employees’ professional and personal well-being as they relate to the larger LIS field and in our daily practice.

I’d like to acknowledge and thank the other librarian who works with me. Her name is Rebecca Freeman. She stands with me daily as we co-lead Medford Library.  We co-lead it – I do not do anything by myself.

Thank you to my entire family, and especially parents: My mother, Athena Davis and my father, Timothy Davis, who have encouraged my curiosity, love of language, reading, and learning, and respect for education – in any form – from an early age. I also want to thank my partner, Brenton Kendrick, and my little one, Ethan (who are here today). I am honored that they share my life with me. They also bring me positive energy, joy, comfort, and so much love. They are who I live for, and for whom I do all that is good and correct.

I will continue to improve.

Thank you.

The Dust of Disengagement

I think probably what was affected was the professional development aspect of it, you know the collaborative relationship that I had with [my abusive colleague] – and we did a lot of collaboration. And so [after she threw me] under the bus… I had very little contact with her, so there was less — there was not the collaboration that there had been before. I would do what she asked me to do or she would do what I asked her to do, but it was definitely a minimal kind of effort on both of our ends. I don’t remember whether I was pursuing professional stuff at that time or not. Probably not. – Low morale study participant  (Female, acquisitions librarian)

[The abusive interaction I suffered] put a little more space in the relationship between myself and the institution…where I felt like I was not as willing to do extra things, because it wasn’t worth it. If I’m going to do– if I’m going to give more, if I’m going to volunteer for something in which I’m not receiving compensation, that has to have value for me. And what that interaction did was it changed the relationship of you know, ‘I’m not going to put myself out as much because obviously I’m not being valued, and the work I’m doing is not being valued.’ – Low morale study participant (Female, reference & instruction librarian)

I have found it very hard to care about my work. And I’ve been a librarian for [over three decades]. I love what I do. But it’s hard to care about it when you feel like anything you do is going to be held against you.  – Low morale study participant (Male, acquisitions librarian)

I got a dinner break, so I would just take really long dinner breaks… ideally we get an hour for dinner, but since we don’t punch a clock, it’s kind of up to us when we get back to work. And I’d put off getting back to work… you know, I would stretch [my lunch break] to two, two and a half hours… – Low morale study participant (Female, cataloging and metadata librarian)

These significant statements from the 2017 low-morale study data highlight one of the major cognitive responses to low-morale: reduced professional engagement. The statements expose the multifaceted ways it can manifest: 

  • cessation of person-to-person interactions
  • reduction of collegial collaborations
  • apathy towards core daily work
  • increased work avoidance/ unethical work behaviors

Kahn defines disengagement as “the uncoupling of selves from work roles; in disengagement, people withdraw and defend” (1990, 694). As the low-morale experience continues, these and other behaviors become consciously entrenched. One participant discussed a behavior that seems encompass the problem of disengagement. During our talk, we coined it planned procrastination. See how it plays out below: 

I’m waiting for people to come and ask me [for help]. I’m not being proactive and reaching out. I’m spending more time at my desk working on other things that are not work related…if you ask me to do something, I’ll get it done right before deadline — I’m not going to get it done ahead of time, which sometimes bites me if I’ve got too many things that are all coming due at the same time, but meh…. [I]f I’ve got multiple things that are due, I’ll look and pick which one is the lowest priority — which is based on a combination of what it is and who it’s for — and I’ll go to that person and go ‘hi, I’ve had a couple of other things come up. Can I get you this tomorrow or in the next 48 hours’ or you know, look for an extension. Which usually I’m able to get. – Male, acquisitions librarian

Disengagement showcases the layers of feelings and inertia low morale engenders as sufferers consciously settle into their disassociation from co-workers, the profession, and/or their workplace.  In the exchange above, we see how  anger and ambivalence caused by workplace abuse and neglect can spur passive-aggressiveness and subterfuge. The immediate impact is that others’ work is negatively impacted, in turn slowing down the long-term goals of the library organization.

Porath’s and Pearson’s work on civility highlights that long-time exposure to rudeness in the workplace results in increased apathy (2012), and similar results are shared in discussions about workplace bullying in higher education spheres (Hollis 2015).

Was disengagement part of your experience? Did it manifest in any of the ways shared above, or was it different? Did you capitulate to the other extreme to try to “right your wrongs” of disengagement? 

Works Cited

Kahn, W. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, 33(4):692-724. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Xyk53w

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878.

Hollis, L.P. (2015). Bully university? The cost of workplace bullying and employee disengagement in American higher education. Sage Open, (April – June): 1- 11. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2XAakBH

Porath, C.L., & Pearson, C.M. (2012). Emotional and behavioral responses to workplace incivility and the impact of hierarchical status. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42(1): 326-357.

One Year Up.

Today marks one year since I created Renewals, and yesterday marked one year since I created the related online Facebook community, Renewers, which now includes over 200 members.

During the past year – and via these spaces – my work on low morale has continued. I’ve done several presentations and a panel session, and I have more scheduled this year. I’ve also augmented my initial focus: while I’m keeping my eye on academic libraries, I’ve also begun working with public librarians and the general workforce, gaining grant support to do so. Additionally, I hope my work on racial/ethnic minority academic librarians will be published later this year.

In 2018, I created and taught a course for Library Juice Academy, titled, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries.” In May of this year, I’m slated to teach a second session of that course. 

As I continue my work, I’m really thankful for the support and interest I’ve received so far. I will identify more ways to empower library employees who are facing workplace abuse or neglect, so please look forward to what I have in store.

In addition to this blog, you are welcome to keep up with my speaking engagements and other work here.

All Best,

RenewBlogSigTrans

 

Enrollment Open for Low Morale Course

“…the Library Juice class helped me tremendously… It gave me the words I needed to talk about what was happening to me. Thank you Kaetrena!” – October 2018 course participant

The second session of my course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries,” is now open for enrollment. The asynchronous course begins May 6 and runs through May 31, 2019. This course is hosted via Library Juice Academy.

NOTE: this course is open to anyone facing low-morale while working in any library environment.

First course: student-generated coursework from the first session (here and here)

First course: student-generated reading list

First course: student evaluation results.

Register now.

Webinar: Deauthenticity in PoC Academic Librarianship

[This content was originally published on February 18, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

Last year the North Carolina Libary Associations’ Roundtable for Minority Ethnic Concerns (NCLA REMCo) invited me to join their Cultural Conversation’s slate.  Below is the webinar I led, titled “Exploring (de)Authenticity: Impact on PoC, Implications for Practice.”

The webinar reflects a joint effort between me and the racial/ethnic minority academic librarians who offered me data on their experiences. I discuss my concept of deauthenticity, how it manifests in the racial/ethnic minority academic librarian low-morale experience, and share the results of the informal survey, which remains open.

Tweet-dux: Stereotype Threat and Deauthenticity in the PoC Low-Morale Experience

[This content was originally published on February 18, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

On Twitter, I’ve been threading some results of my latest low morale study (done with Ione Damasco), which centers the experience of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians. It is my hope that this work will bring into clearer view the additional emotional labor that librarians of color bear while dealing with abuse and neglect in American library workplaces. 

The following thread introduces the impact of stereotype threat and summates my earlier discussion about the concept of deauthenticity in the PoC low-morale experience. 

  1. Stereotype threat is “a situational predicament in which individuals are at risk, by dint of their actions or behaviors, of confirming negative stereotypes about their group. It is the resulting sense that one might be judged in terms of a negative stereotype that is ‘in the air’” (Inzlicht & Schmader, 2012, 5-6).
  2. Minority academic librarians’ historic exposure to and awareness of race, culture, or ethnic stereotypes—along with their understanding that White colleagues were also aware of such stereotypes and the implicit or explicit associations with their ability to successfully execute the skills, knowledge, and abilities required of academic librarianship—were often linked to participants’ desire to preemptively offset White colleagues’ seemingly low expectations.
  3. Stereotype threat responses included behaviors they hoped would distance them from negative stereotypes: workaholism, culture-carrying (consciously working to positively represent an entire race, culture, or ethnic identity), vocational awe, and resilience cycles.
  4. A [participant] said, “I’m always in a position where I feel like I have to prove to myself, and that people are automatically—instead of assuming that I have expertise, it’s like I have to prove why I’m even there and worthy to take on these positions and prove my expertise.”
  5. During low-morale experiences, minority academic librarians traverse deauthentication, a cognitive process to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments.
  6. Deauthentication results in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of (1) the influence of ethnic, racial, or cultural identities, and (2) the presentation of natural personality, emotional responses, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more.
  7. Deauthentication decisions help avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and these decisions ultimately create barriers to sharing whole selves with colleagues and/or clients.
  8. A participant noted: “[when] I walk in the door [of my workplace] . . . when I’m with [my White female colleagues], I’m really usually super quiet with them. I don’t speak up. And when I do, I make sure that I speak with very perfect English, and I have to enunciate…I mean, it’s like—I mean, I don’t have a thick accent, but I, you know, you can hear my [language] accent, sometimes, right? But when I walk in this door, I am—80% of me is left behind. I don’t bring in a lot of my culture and stuff.”

Take the deauthentication survey.

View the deauthentication webinar (presented by the North Carolina Library Association’s Roundtable for Ethnic Minority Concerns)

Works Cited

Inzlicht, M. & Schmader, T. (2012). Stereotype Threat. Oxford: Oxford University Press.