LibVoices hosts Amanda M. Leftwich, Jamia Williams, and Jamillah R. Gabriel interviewed me about how I decided to become a librarian. I also share ideas about the implementation of equity, diversity, and inclusion values, work-life balance, and how ego helps workplace abuse and neglect continue.
“Wants keep you stuck. They are a part of self-supposition: “I’m supposed to be this/that../have X. ..You’re striving. Striving is perfectionism. Striving will kill you.” – Kaetrena Davis Kendrick
This interview was originally released in May 2020. Listen now.
Title: 3 Ways to Practice Civility
Presenter: Steven Petrow
In May 2020, I offered a presentation as part of the #LIBRESILIENCE/#LIBREV(olution) free online conference. The presentation, titled “Library responses to COVID-19: Impacts on ongoing low-morale experiences,” offers information about the low-morale experiences and shares data from my open survey centering library responses to COVID-19 and those responses’ impact on already established low-morale experiences. You may view the presentation below, and thanks to conference organizer Callan Bignoli for her work.
Ginger Williams’ thesis (Valdosta State University) explores the impact of mentoring on the career development and job satisfaction rates of academic librarians. Her work discusses types of mentoring and reveals suggestion for the practice of mentorship. The thesis also includes suggestions for further areas of study, wherein she questions a possible mentorship need: guidance through experiences of low morale or vocational awe.
Read the thesis (possible paywall).
In April 2020 I joined National Network of the Libraries of Medicine representative Bobbi L. Newman, along with co-panelists Jenn Carson, Madeleine Charney, Fobazi Ettarh, Amanda Leftwich, and Eamon Tewell to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on library employees and best practices for counteracting these impacts.
No doubt some of these names are familiar to you if are interested in issues of library morale and library employee advocacy. Ettarh is the creator of the concept of vocational awe, and Tewell’s work includes the critique and interrogation of neoliberalism in libraries – I often mention his work with Berg and Galvan discussing resilience narratives. Amanda Leftwich is founder of the social media space @mindfulinlis,
Enjoy the thought-provoking panel discussion, found below.
Lisa Peet, Library Journal‘s News Editor, interviewed me about my low morale study on public librarians, including the data that surprised me the most and how I take care of myself when doing this deep research.
Read the interview.
You can also read my 2019 Library Journal interview about my racial and ethnic minority low morale study.
Fyn, Kaufman, Hosier, and Weber uncover factors that influence academic librarian turnover in their mixed methods study. Work environment, compensation and benefits, and personal factors were revealed to be the highest causes of dissatisfaction. Additionally, the data show that participants were “most dissatisfied with the morale in the library, followed by the library administration, and the culture of the library.”
The original low morale study is mentioned in their literature review, noting role ambiguity and workplace well-being.
Access the article.
Kate Dohe, Erin Pappas, and Celia Emmelhainz cite the declassification of the US Office of Strategic Services’ Simple Sabotage Field Manual, which shares how individuals can purposely interrupt organizational goals. Making comparisons to contemporary workplaces and industries that are constantly undergoing change, they assert how library culture and those displeased with organizational change unwittingly or willfully sabotage library organizations. They also share how individuals can pushback against saboteurs.
The 2017 low morale study is mentioned within the context of ongoing research on the impact of various types of dysfunction in library workplaces.
View the presentation and paper.
The inaugural session of my Library Juice Academy course, “Reimagining Workplace Empowerment: Reducing Low Morale for Minority Librarians,” is now in its third week. Students enrolled in the course were asked to participate in a quick Low-Morale Experience Assessment survey so we could get a quick gauge on what the landscape looks like for the cohort.
There are ten people enrolled in the class, and they hail from from public and academic libraries in North America. The following results reflect the responses of seven participants (survey participation is not required). A majority of course attendees agreed I could share the aggregated results.
- 100% identify as members of a racial or ethnic minority group.
- 100% agree they have experienced low-morale according to the 2017 Kendrick study definition.
- 42% indicated their low morale experience is occurring in their current workplace.
- 57% indicate their experience has lasted one to three years.
- 86% indicate that the perpetrators are library colleagues; 71% indicate library administrators.
- 86% indicate they experience(d) system abuse; 71% tied at experiencing emotional abuse and negligence; and 57% experience(d) verbal/written abuse.
- Leadership Styles (71%) is a major Enabling System. Also showing up at 57% each were Uncertainty & Mistrust, Staffing & Employment, Diversity Rhetoric, Career & Environmental Landscapes, and Politics.
- 86% indicated that they’ve felt like they had to “prove” themselves as library employees because they were a member of a racial or ethnic minority group (Stereotype Threat).
- 43% have made decisions to deauthenticate during their low-morale experience.
- 100% of respondents indicate feelings of Anger; there is a two-way tie at 71% for feelings of Despair and Shame; and there is a six-way tie at 67% for feelings of Disillusion, Sadness, Depression, Worry, Skepticism, and Regret.
- 71% have developed physical health conditions as result of their LME, including hypertension, diabetes, fatigue, weight loss, and possible chronic headaches.
- 71% have developed mental health conditions as a result of their LME, including depression.
- 71% have noticed/experienced a desire to change careers and a decreased desire to collaborate; 57% of participants have also noticed a decrease in professional engagement.
These results give a real-time snapshot of the low-morale experience as perceived by colleagues currently dealing with this phenomenon. I appreciate their willingness to allow me to share this data with the public.
In Public Libraries Online, Amy An’s feature article acknowledges the negative lived realities of public library work – including dysfunction, incivility, and bullying. She links these negative workplace behaviors to the larger scope of LIS values and ultimately shares how internal marketing can be leveraged to assess and improve public library organizations’ climates – including training and policies.
The original low morale study (2017) results and outcomes regarding impacts on daily library practice are shared.
Read the article.