Mentioned: Critical librarianship at work

Feretti discusses the development of critical librarianship. particularly as it relates to information literacy pedagogy, while recognizing that the development of critical libraianship in the literature and in the library instruction classroom has not been reflected in library colleagues’ daily interactions. As such, Ferretti argues that contemporary critical librarianship feels performative. 

The original low morale study (2017) and the study centering racial and ethnic minority academic librarians (with Ione T. Damasco, 2019) are mentioned in Ferreti’s closing statement underscoring the need for empathy and associated states of courage, which would move critical librarianship from theory to action.

Read the article.

For the Good of the Order – A Mental Health Awareness Month LIS Collaboration

Events (4)

In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, Renewals is partnering with mindfulinlis founder Amanda M. Leftwich to lead For the Good of the Order, a collaborative LIS well-being event.  Every Wednesday in May, join Renewals and mindfulinlis for five minutes to take some time in community and slow down for short renewal and awareness practices. We’ll see you on Instagram Live at 12:15pm ET/ 11:15am CT / 10:15am MT / 9:15am PT. 

Follow Renewals on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow mindfulinlis on Instagram and Twitter.

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Report: The Renewal Colloquium at the Rochester Regional Library Council (April 2021)

Last week I led a virtual Renewal Colloquium hosted by the Rochester Regional Library Council. About 60 people registered, and approximately 40 people attended the live event.

Event attendees are offered an opportunity to take two surveys: 

  • Pre-Colloquium Questionnaire (basic demographics and impetus for joining the event)
  • Low-Morale Experience Survey (exploring basic markers of a low-morale experience)

At the end of the Colloquium, I distributed a evaluation form. Following is a selection of data (quantitative queries show majority responses only)

Pre-Colloquium Questionnaire Highlights

  • Represented areas of practice
    • 33% Reference & Instruction
  • Career length
    • 60% 10 years or more
  • Topic Interest
    • 41% Emerging countermeasures and best practices to reduce/interrupt low morale

 Low-Morale Experience Survey Highlights 

  • Have you experienced low morale?
    • 75% Yes
  • Length of low-morale experience
    • 43% 1 – 3 years
  • Perpetrators of abuse
    • 24%  Library administrators
  • Types of workplace abuse experienced:
    • 32% Emotional
  • Feelings experienced during low morale:
    • 14% Frustration
  • What contributed to low-morale experience?
    • 16% Leadership Styles
  • Behaviors noted/considered:
    • 16% Decreased professional engagement
    • TIE: 15% Decreased willingness to collaborate; Increased procrastination; Decreased work productivity

Seminar Evaluation Report Highlights

Topics recommended for discussion/consideration:

“How to deal with situations when you feel like you can’t walk away.”

“[M]ore about self-compassion and setting/enforcing boundaries.”

Things learned or more clearly defined:

“[W]hat different types of abuse look like in the workplace. That negligence is abuse. examples of self-preservation tools.”

“The concept of taking care of yourself was defined much more clearly and made me think of times when I didn’t put myself and my mental health ahead of my work. I have a lot I still need to work on but this session was a much-needed step in the right direction.”

“[V]ocational awe…very useful.”

Share a specific skill or goal you hope to get closer to or realize as a result of attending this Colloquium:

“Investigating pathways to stop rumination.”

“Develop skills as a trauma-informed leader.”

“As a result of attending this colloquium I realized that I cannot just hang-out in my current position (even if it is tenured) because the institutionalized neglect is not acceptable to me. A change of administration is not going to solve the issue if the other frogs are happily lounging in the boiling water… Thank you. I have languished while weighing options before, as I am geographically bound due to family. Your presentation made it clear, even if a reduced salary is involved, I need to get out. Which won’t mean other people have won, merely that I will have saved myself.”

Recovery plans (personally or at work):

“Look into daily practices I can put in place to shore myself up against low morale. Attending this workshop helped me to realize I need to build positive habits on my good work days as well as my bad work days, so that I’ll have tools already in place and in practice when bad days happen at work.”

“Set boundaries, and to speak more clearly.”

“This time is really difficult for me. I’m not sure what I can or will do.”

Thank you to the Colloquium attendees, and a special thanks to Laura Osterhaut, RRLC Executive Director, for her invitation and support during the planning and during the event.

Ready to host a Renewal Colloquium? Let’s plan your event!

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Three Years Up

Today marks Renewals’ three-year anniversary (yesterday was the three-year anniversary of Renewers – Renewals’ connected Facebook community). I recognize that these events also are happening at one year into the COVID-19 Pandemic, and I am hopeful that national and global vaccination efforts will mean communities will be able to safely reconvene soon. In the meantime, Renewals spaces and communities  – along with related research and professional development opportunities – continue to solidify and expand.

Renewers, the online Facebook community, now has over 1,000 members, and I also created social media spaces on Instagram and Twitter (315 & 744 followers respectively at press time). I’ve presented my work on general and BIPOC-centric low-morale experiences through various keynote addresses at virtual conferences – most recently, I offered the opening keynote at the inaugural Conference on Academic Library Management (CALM); additionally, I completed my Leaving Low Morale study (I’m still considering where to submit the manuscript) and my study of  public librarian low-morale experiences was published earlier this year in Partnership: The Canadian Journal for Library and Information Research and Practice. Currently I am analyzing data from my formal leader low morale study. Since the formal U.S. Federal acknowledgement of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I’ve been tracking how library organizations’ responses to the Pandemic have impacted ongoing low-morale experiences. The survey remains open, and I’ve presented results and/or discussed mental and physical impacts in a variety of venues:

This coming Friday (March 26), I’m slated to present the latest results of my survey at the BLOSSOM conference, hosted by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.

Several interviews about my low-morale research and approach were published, including The Librarian Parlor, The Professional Development Digest (BCALA), Library Journal, and Infobase. Podcasts are resurging, and social media “lives” are increasingly popular, so I’ve also shared my ideas on low-morale countermeasures with LibVoices and @mindfulinlis

Last year I continued teaching my low morale courses on the Library Juice Academy platform (“Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries” and “Reimagining Workplace Empowerment: Reducing Low Morale for Minority Librarians”), which were offered in January and May 2020. 

During this third year, I expanded my professional development/facilitation offerings by launching the Renewal Presentation and the Renewal Colloquium. These shorter but still intentional offerings allow for pointed attendee inquiries and offer opportunities for individuals and organizations to explore if the more intensive Renewal Workshop or Renewal Seminar could be useful for them. In 2020 and in 2021, I have hosted (or am slated to host) a mix of Renewal events with the following organizations:

  • Academic Library Association of Ohio (October 2020)
  • Weber State University – Stewart Library (November 2020)
  • Clemson University Libraries (November 2020)
  • African American Medical Librarians Alliance (February 2021)
  • Rochester Regional Library Council (April 2021)

More opportunities to work with library membership/professional organizations and libraries of all kinds are solidifying, and it is my desire to continue public speaking on the range of data points that my research uncovers where workplace abuse and neglect are concerned. 

I am thankful that my research gives me the opportunity to offer voice and context to the realities of contemporary library employees and their workplaces, and I will continue to improve. Please look forward to it.

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

All Best,

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Report Update: Job-Hunting during Low-Morale Experiences – Part 2 (March 2021)

This report update offers quantitative responses of my survey on job hunting during low-morale experiences. These responses include signs on how the COVID-19 Pandemic is impacting job hunting during workplace abuse/neglect, which has increased during this public health emergency.

If you haven’t started looking for a job yet, how have your job search concerns impacted your daily work?

“Have had low morale for quite some time, but had thought it would improve at current job. Only recently realized I really need to move on, and the job search concerns are definitely impacting my productivity.”

“I spend time looking at job ads; I then spend time worrying about the “what ifs”–what if I get a job offer? what if I take it? what will that mean for my marriage? (husband is also an academic–and it’s difficult to find work in the same state, let alone the same institution.) Instead of focusing on my work, these are my worries. Since leadership has changed, and because I’ve been able to work form home during the pandemic, I’ve temporarily stopped looking for work, but if the interpersonal problems begin to fester again (and there are signs,) I will begin to look again.”

“Low grade worry over potentially jumping from the frying pan into the fire and getting into a similar low morale situation at another institution.”

How have offers and/or rejections impacted your daily work?

“The offer told me I’m competent and capable at what I’m permitted to do, so maybe there’s a future for me at another second-rate library. The rejections increased my workload, because it’s obvious I need to train to do 21st century tasks and drum up business for them, but my boss still expects me to generate interest in unpopular, outdated tasks.”

“Feeling helpless and hopeless. I try to find away to keep up the appearance of happiness; but my depression really takes a toll on the inside. It just seems that the bar is raised so high for me as a older Black woman. It is especially frustrating when I see that some Librarians of non-color skillsets are no better than mine. And yet, they were able to land a job.”

“Rejections (especially the close calls) have pushed me to try to focus on accomplishments that highlight my strengths/marketability.”

How have the offers and/or rejections impacted your perceptions of the library profession?

“Our profession is irredeemably ageist. I’ve applied to 72 jobs over the past three years. The majority went to young people right out of library school or with less than 5 years experience. Employers fangirl “potential“ and dismiss experience as “too expensive“ (ha!—they don’t know how little I’m paid here) or “can’t change, won’t change.“”

“Confirmed the presence of white supremacy in academic librarianship.”

“I am considering leaving the library profession: high educational requirements & stress does not justify low salaries; disheartened with the low quality of library leadership – in unionized environments, incompetent managers and directors are protected and limit the upward mobility of new or mid-career librarians; little to no innovation and contrary to our profession, very little use of metrics and research to inform strategic planning – “gut” perceptions are used instead (laughable, and this in [REDACTED]); elimination or downsizing of library staff & departments rampant as they are replaced by external products or processes.”

“I’ve become very concerned with how gossip focused we can be in our field. It’s made me very aware that the whole idea of “fit” is bullshit. “Fit” perpetuates abusive work places and lets abusers stay in power for too, too long. It lets toxic workplaces become the norm and drive good people away from the field.”

Considering your job hunt activities (or desire to begin looking for a new job), how has your low-morale experience affected your perceptions of career mobility?

“I am considering applying for non-supervisory positions, when I’m ready to do so in a year, so that I can focus on the work alone and not have to care about anything else.”

“Unless you’re willing to move to a job, it’s hard to find something that will be a good fit. I finally moved back near family after three years away, and I don’t want to have to give that up for a job.”

“That’s literally why I’m quitting. My university library (REDACTED) stripped all academic librarians of faculty status. We’re at-will as of [Summer 2021]. We will no longer be eligible for promotion to the next rank (as there will be no rank) AND we’re still required to do research and publish. All the same requirements, no job security, no career mobility in terms of rank. Why would I stay in academia? I can go work for myself and then at least feel in control in terms of decision making. To be clear, this was planned and in the works before COVID.”

Feel free to share other concerns, advice, or ideas about job hunting during low-morale experiences.

Really hoping to land in a place where people build each other up and has diverse personalities and backgrounds, but collaboration and direction is exciting and new ideas are embraced.”

“There are lots of non-library jobs that use skills relevant to library work. Don’t box yourself in- trying a new field or type of role can really open things up!

I never considered leaving libraries until the pandemic hit. While I’m still looking at library jobs, I’m considering other options for the first time in years. Our (public library staff) calls for help and safety in the pandemic revealed shocking ignorance of what public libraries do, among elected officials as well as highly placed appointed bureaucrats. Some won’t listen to us, and others aggressively interpret our concerns as whining and hating on patrons. We are only valued inasmuch as we make them look good. I went into public service because I didn’t want to be a tool for someone else’s profit, and yet I feel like that’s exactly where I ended up. And yet, I’m single and need to sustain my income but can’t move due to other family obligations, so I don’t have a lot of choices even in the best of times.”

“When I start to think it’s a waste of time, I find it useful to go ahead with submitting an application in order to learn what other libraries are looking for and to pump myself up. In the application process of selling myself, I tell myself that I am worth hiring. It’s a sort of self care exercise.

The survey remains open. I will periodically publish updates. 

View quantitative results.

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Report Update: Job-Hunting during Low-Morale Experiences – Part 1 (March 2021)

In December 2019 I released a short survey about job hunting during low-morale experiences. The goal of the survey is to explore the impact and outcomes of the job-seeking process while also dealing with the cognitive, mental, emotional, and physical health tolls of workplace abuse and neglect. This work eventually became the impetus of my study on leaving low-morale experiences. I shared some initial quantitative data in Spring 2020, and this post shares the latest information from this effort.

Here are the quantitative results of the report, which reflects 153 responses:

  • 97% are currently experiencing workplace abuse/neglect (low morale);
  • 40% indicate their low-morale experience has lasted between 1 -3 years;
  • 66% are currently looking for a new job as a result of their low-morale experience;
  • 84% are searching for work in other libraries;
  • Those who haven’t yet started looking note the following concerns:
    • 82%: presence of workplace dysfunction or low morale at potential workplaces
    • 62%: relocation
    • 69%: salary
  • Of those who have been looking for work, 73% have had between 1 and 3 interviews.

Part 2 shares qualitative results. This survey remains open, and I will continue reporting results periodically. 

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Report: The Renewal Presentation for AAMLA (February 2021)

Earlier this month, I facilitated a Renewal Presentation as part of the African American Medical Librarians Alliance Caucus (AAMLA)’s “Radical Wellness & Self-Care for Information Professionals” series. I’m thankful the group invited me to take part in these important conversations, which also included a focus on mindfulness, fitness, nutrition, mental health, and more.

During the presentation, I offered a review of the 2019 low-morale study (focusing on ethnic and racial minority academic librarians, which I completed with Ione T. Damasco). Attendees had an opportunity to take two surveys: 

  • Pre-Presentation Questionnaire (basic demographics)
  • Low-Morale Experience Survey (exploring basic markers of a low-morale experience)

At the end of the Presentation, I also circulated a evaluation form. Following is a selection of data from the event (quantitative queries show majority responses only)

Pre-Seminar Questionnaire Highlights

  • Represented areas of practice
    • 49% Reference & Instruction
  • Career length
    • 57% 10 years or more

 Low-Morale Experience Survey Highlights 

  • Have you experienced low morale?
    • 58% Yes
  • Length of low-morale experience
    • TIE: 30% 1 – 3 years
  • Perpetrators of abuse
    • 58%  Library supervisors or managers
    • 50% Library administrators
  • Types of workplace abuse experienced:
    • 68% Emotional
    • 63% Negligence
    • 50% Verbal/written
  • Feelings experienced during low morale:
    • 89% Frustration
    • 76% Anger
    • 65% Sadness
    • 62% Depression
    • TIE: 59% Disillusion; Worry
  • What contributed to low-morale experience?
    • 72% Leadership Styles
    • 67% Uncertainty & Mistrust
  • Behaviors noted/considered:
    • 72% A decrease in work productivity
    • 69% Increased procrastination
    • 64% A decrease in professional engagement
    • 61% A decreased willingness to collaborate
    • 58% A desire to change careers 
  • Physical and mental health conditions:
    • “Weight gain, sleeplessness (due to anxiety)”
    • “Negative effects on Type II diabetes (stress made it more difficult to control)”
    • “It has exacerbated my existing depression.”
    • “Depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.”
    • “I have developed anxiety but I have not been diagnosed with it because I haven’t gone to the doctor due to COVID.”

Presentation Evaluation Report Highlights

  • Concepts more clearly defined:
    • 95% Enabling Systems
    • 80% Impact Factors
    • 80% Resilience Narratives
    • 75% Development of low-morale experiences
    • 75% Vocational Awe
  • Skills or goals you’re considering as a result of attending this event:
    • 75% Boundaries
    • 60% Assertive communication
    • 60% Mindful inquiry
    • 50% Informal leadership
  • Recovery plans (personally or at work):
    • 68% Exercise
    • 63% Creative or spiritual engagement
    • 58% Dismantling Enabling Systems

Other impactful evaluation responses:

“As an LIS educator, [I’ll be] addressing low morale in my courses to prepare students to recognize it, protect themselves, and push back on structures that create low morale.”

“…I’m also trying to mitigate some of the negative responses you named that I was practicing unconsciously.”

“[I’ll be working on] identifying emotions. Right before this session I had [a meeting with a formal leader] and described so many of the emotions people feel with low morale. It is a weight off my back being able to name the feeling. Thank you.”

Ready to host a Renewal event? Contact me for a customized prospectus.

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Report Update: BIPOC, Low Morale, & COVID-19 (February 2021)

Last April I shared Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)- centered results of my ongoing survey on the impact of COVID-19 on low-morale experiences. As a follow-up – and in tandem with a recent Renewal Presentation I hosted for the African-American Medical Librarians Alliance (AAMLA) – I am sharing updated data to highlight the responses and experiences of racial and ethnic minority respondents (n=103 – about 28% of the total participant pool). Quantitative and qualitative data are shared below.

Quantitative

  • 82% are female; 10% male; 9% non-binary/third-gender
  • 28% are Hispanic/Latino; 23% are African-American; 27% Multi-racial; 20% Asian American/Pacific Islander; <1% Native American 
  • 49% are new librarians/archivists; 34% are mid-career librarians/archivists; 26% are experienced librarians/archivists
  • 53% work in academic libraries; 46% work in public libraries
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (63%)
    • System abuse (61%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (50%)
    • Supervisors/managers (38%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (68%)
    • Leadership (56%)
    • Staffing & Employment (48%)
  • 45% of respondents indicate that outside of concerns about COVID-19,  physical health conditions have developed or worsened as a result of their library’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 68% of respondents indicate that mental health conditions have developed or worsened as a result of their library’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • During their library’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, participants have also experienced/dealt with:
    • Resilience narratives (e.g., “do more with less,” “lean in;” “have grit,” “it’s your job to fix/fill in system gaps” – Berg, Galvan, & Tewell, 2018) – 53%
    • Vocational awe (the weaponization of LIS values/library value or librarian stereotypes/identity; job creep, mission creep – Ettarh, 2017, 2018) – 48%

Qualitative

Please share your experience(s) of increased abuse/neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic:

A lot of emotional labor required – asking for personal stories and vulnerability to instill “trust” for cohesive teamwork but systemic problems remain the same or are dealt with in a way that I don’t feel support or stability in job. But my trust and vulnerability is still expected.

Some staffers (65+) are still working remotely while others of us (younger, but high risk) have been asked to return at least half time in person. Attendance is low at our libraries so it isn’t a staffing need. Just pressure from our county. Those of us with children haven’t been given any additional assistance. No requirements for staff or patrons to wear masks puts even more psychological stress on staff.

Please share your experience(s) encountering Enabling Systems as a result of your library’s response to COVID-19 pandemic:

Have been working at a pay level & classification far below the skills and output I display at job, for years. The need to reevaluation of classification was denied and even though I’ve taken on more skilled work outside my job description since Covid began. (Staffing & Employment)

A strong undergirding force behind admin abuses of frontline staff was a culture of toxic positivity where any criticism, no matter how legitimate, any questions, no matter how genuine and any expression of any concern whatsoever was seen as “toxic” and insubordinate. This created a culture of “yes women” surrounding the library director, where others in leadership were afraid to speak up to fear of retribution. This trickled down to drain morale of all staff. Threat of job loss or withholding of merit increases were real. People were regularly being written up for speaking up, creating a culture of silent complicity.. (Leadership; Staffing & Employment)

Please share any other thoughts or concerns you have about your low-morale experience and its relationship to your library’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Due to my systems inactions in the wake of enlightened views on anti-blackness in America and my system’s inability to control its own decisions regarding the pandemic, I have considered both leaving the profession or applying for new library systems where they support my identity as a black librarian and the global need to reduce Covid. I shouldn’t have to think about this in the middle of a PANDEMIC but my physical and mental health are at stake. Every day is a constant struggle.

Vocational awe is a huge issue. We are expected to give more and get less (either support or compensation) because we are ‘the last bastion of democracy’.

Works Cited 

Berg, J., Galvan, A. & Tewell, E. (2018). Responding to and reimagining resilience in academic libraries. Journal of New Librarianship, 3(1). Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2J29Lwf

Ettarh, F. (2018). Vocational awe and librarianship: The lies we tell ourselves. In The Library With The Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2018/vocational-awe/ 

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