A Purpose.

Welcome to Renewals, a blog discussing low morale in academic libraries. This blog supports my work 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 systemic abuse or neglect in the workplace. While my 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 academic 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,

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

 

 

 

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Report: Low-Morale Experience Assessment Survey

I am in the third week of my Library Juice Academy course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries.” I asked students enrolled in the course to participate in a quick Low-Morale Experience Assessment survey, just so we could get a quick gauge on what the landscape is.

Course attendees agreed I could share the anonymous results. There are thirteen folks enrolled in the class, and the survey reflects the responses of ten participants. Survey participation was optional.

  • 90% agree they have experienced low-morale according to the 2017 Kendrick study definition.
  • 40% indicate their low morale experience is occurring in their current workplace.
  • There is a tie on length of respondents’ low-morale experiences: 40% indicate more than three years; another 40% indicate one to three years.
  • 80% indicate that the perpetrators are library colleagues (60% indicate library administrators; 60% indicate library supervisors or managers).
  • 90% indicate they experience(d) verbal/written abuse; emotional abuse is at 80%; negligence is at 80%; systemic is at 60%.
  • Uncertainty & Mistrust (90%), Leadership Styles (90%), Staffing/Employment (80%), and Library/Librarian Perceptions (60%) are major contributors to the LME.
  • 100% of respondents indicate feelings of anger; 80% of respondents indicate Disillusion and Sadness; 70% indicate Worried; 60% indicate Depression, Skepticism, and Despair.
  • 60% have developed physical health conditions as result of the LME, including hypertension, shingles, headaches/migraines, and various muscle aches and pains.
  • 50% have developed mental health conditions as a result of the LME, including anxiety and (increased) depression.
  • 80% have noticed/experienced a decrease in work productivity; a three-way tie of 70% of participants have also noticed/experienced decreases in professional engagement, increased procrastination, and a desire to change careers. 60% have noticed/experienced a decreased willingness to collaborate; and 50% have noticed/experienced increased lateness (to work).

These results give a useful snapshot of the low-morale experience as perceived by colleagues currently dealing with this phenomenon. Thanks to them for offering and agreeing to share this data.

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Report: Strategies for Reducing/Resolving Low Morale

Around the same time I began collecting data for the Low Morale Spot-Check survey, I also created another survey to ask people who have dealt with low morale to share their strategies for reducing the occurrence of low morale or its effects.  In short, this survey takes a closer look at how people engage in mitigation methods.

As a reminder, mitigation methods are conscious and deliberate behaviors low-morale victims perform to reduce or resolve their experience. These actions directly affect workplace abusers and/or address enabling systems of low morale (Kendrick 2017).

It’s taken a while to gather a decent bit of feedback – after almost eight months of collection, I’ve received 30 responses. Here are the results at press time:

  • 93% of respondents have experienced low morale
  • 78% have experienced emotional abuse
  • 75% have experienced negligence
  • 75% have experienced system abuse
  • 71% have experienced verbal or written abuse
  • 63% have engaged in mitigation methods

Mitigation methods were highly individualized but can be broadly categorized: 

  • Using formal reporting channels or reporting up the formal chain-of-command
  • Documenting abuses
  • Confronting the abuser(s) directly
  • Finding another job
  • Creating connections with other departments in the library or on campus
  • Taking specific offered training or using techniques shared in trainings
    • Emotional Intelligence
    • Diversity,
    •  Interpersonal communication
  • Consulting resources to create or implement communication or behavior tactics

I also asked what factors/outcomes made their mitigation method(s) successful. Some responses:

A person who is documenting abusive behavior shared, “I feel empowered having the evidence I need to make my situation better. Other staff are doing the same, so collectively we will have a body of information to bring to the table. It still feels awful when you’re being abused, but I know it won’t be forever.”

Another person who involved Human Resources noted, “I think involving HR with each incident helped my co-worker understand that, while everyone else (including our director) may tolerate her behavior–I would not. She stopped losing her temper around me, but it did continue with other co-workers. In the long term, I think my standing up to her helped far more than I ever anticipated…”

The survey remains open if you’d like participate. Periodically, I’ll share updates or thoughts and ideas as more responses come in.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

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Update: Low Morale Spot-Check Survey Results

Earlier this year I shared the initial results of my quick survey on low-morale concerns and experiences. The goal of the survey is to keep on-the-pulse on what’s going on with people who are currently experiencing low morale, and to offer people a place to share anonymously their immediate concerns about their low-morale experience or offer feedback about the study.

In the time since I first shared results, I’ve presented the low-morale study at the Azalea Coast Library Conference (Wilmington, NC) and the British Columbia Library Association Conference (Vancouver, BC, Canada). I’ve also presented two webinars (North Carolina Library Association and Georgia Library Association).  In October, I’ll be teaching a course to help aid in low morale recovery. 

As a reminder, my study defines low morale as the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or negligence in the workplace (Kendrick 2017).

The following results reflect 95 responses (up from the original 56 responses in March 2018). 

  1. Ninety-nine (99) percent of respondents have witnessed or experienced low morale in academic environments.
  2. Fifty-two (52) percent of respondents are “front-line” employees (i.e., not supervisors, managers, department heads, or administrators); 21% are managers; 7 % are administrators.
  3. Eighty-one (81) percent of respondents indicate that their current workplace has low-morale issues.

Broad issues and causes of low morale were indicated. They include the issues from the last update, and there are upticks in reports of:

  • Authoritarian/toxic leadership and associated behaviors, including sabotage, information hoarding, lying, and favoritism
  • Cultural shifts in the library, including generation gaps and changing job roles and associated expectations
  • Administrative negligence from campus officials
  • Verbal abuse, including fighting and combative behavior
  • Poor staffing or the use of poor staffing as a weapon (including inequities in staffing due to status; e.g. scheduling part-time employees on “undesired” duties more than full-time employees).

The survey remains open if you’d like participate. Periodically, I’ll share updates or thoughts and ideas as more responses come in.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

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Enabling Systems of Low Morale in PoC Academic Librarians

[This content was originally published on July 2, 2018 at The Ink On The Page.]

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If you’re following this blog – or my work in general – you’re aware that I’m currently working on data analysis for my PoC Low Morale study.  After I closed the interview phase, I asked my colleague (and friend) Ione Damasco to join me on this project. 

During the past few months, we’ve been working intensely: reading, re-reading and coding swaths of qualitative data from over a dozen racial and/or ethnic minority librarians working in North American academic libraries.  

We have learned that our results will not change the trajectory of low morale – instead, what is markedly different are the number of Enabling Systems of the experience for this group of LIS professionals. 

The original Enabling Systems (ES) of the low-morale experience (which also affect PoC librarians) are:

  • Uncertainty & Mistrust
  • Leadership
  • Faculty Status/Tenure & Promotion
  • Human Resources Limitations
  • Contagion
  • Staffing & Employment

The data show there are ten(!) more ES that affect this group in addition to the ones listed above. These ES are interconnected, and the five major systems span aspects of racism, Whiteness, diversity, work-life landscapes, and social psychology. You can learn more about the Diversity-related Enabling System here.

At this time, I think our paper will focus on reporting the major (and summarizing the minor) ES, along with associated physical, emotional, and/or career impacts and possibly, implications for recruitment and retention. 

We hope to submit the article for review by the end of this summer or in early fall. Please look forward to it.

[UPDATE 8/9/18: Further data analysis has shifted the number of ES from ten to seven. Some of what were previously analyzed as ES are now categorized as separate impact factors, and others were subsumed into broader ES. In the original study there are two other impact factors besides ES: Insidious Experience Development and Contagion. So, in short, not only are PoC Librarians dealing with additional ES; they are also contending with added other continua during the experience.

Additionally – because the voices of PoC librarians and their experiences are so often de-centered or devalued, we have decided to include a report of the low-morale experience for this group along with a report of all impact factors (including ES) results. The draft is long, but we believe it is imperative to share the commonality and differences of the low-morale experience for this group.

The draft of the results have been written and will be validated by study participants soon; we are on-course for a Fall 2018 draft submission to our editors. Let me know if you have any questions!

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Curated: The “Lost in the Stacks” Interview.

Earlier this year in mid-March, I was interviewed by the folks at “Lost in the Stacks,” a radio show that airs on the Georgia Institute of Technology’s (GT) student-run WREK station. The show features alternative rock-and-roll music that relates to the show’s topic. In between sets, you’ll hear my discussion with hosts Charlie Bennett and GT librarian Marlee Givens. 

The episode is the show’s 376th and is titled “It Could Happen To You.” Be sure to listen all the way to the end if you want to know a little more about something that “Trigger”s my happiness.

Enjoy: http://lostinthestacks.libsyn.com/episode-376-it-could-happen-to-you

Just want to hear the interview (no music)?: Here you go!

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