Mentioned: lived experiences of toxic leadership

Walker and Watkins offer a qualitative study resulting in a model of toxic leadership informed by those who follow toxic leaders. The original study is cited as part of a global concern among those concerned with improving leadership in various workplaces. 

Review the article (possible paywall).

Report Update: Low Morale and COVID-19, Part 2 (September 2020)

This is the second of a two-part report summarizing the latest results of my ongoing survey on the impact of COVID-19 on ongoing low-morale experiences. This second part centers qualitative data. Please view the first part focusing on quantitative data.

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

A lot of library administrators work from home and have no firsthand knowledge of what it is like to work in an actual library during a pandemic. I work at a library branch that is located in a Covid-19 hotspot. I am terrified every day because many customers are mentally ill with no understanding of Covid and therefore do not wear masks or social distance. Trying to explain the virus and the importance of masks and social distancing has proved futile. Also helping customers on computers and with copy machines is difficult to manage and most attempts to maintain proper social distancing often fail. Customers get frustrated and sometimes very angry when you cannot help them properly. They sometimes yell at you. I take care of family members, so I especially live in fear of getting the virus and then passing it along to my elderly mother.

Sudden micromanagement, needing to provide weekly reports to supervisor of work completed for the week when this information was previously not requested (feels like a lack of trust). Lack of communication from supervisor concerning pandemic and health (mental and physical) of workers.

A lot of emotional labor required – asking for personal stories and vulnerability to instill “trust” for cohesive team work 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.

Classes cancelled yet library staff expected to be at work.

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

Dean is taking a “wait and see” approach at a college where we have the most confirmed cases. Many of us have children now at home. College is more concerned about providing services than looking our for health and safety. (Leadership)

I think that the Whiteness of the profession has been an issue but COVID-19 is exposing it. It seems that the pressure to be productive comes more from our White colleagues and it is hard to fight that when you are the only Black librarian on your campus. I feel like it is a constant fight. I feel like librarians are trying to prove that they are relevant, but now is not the time for that. (Whiteness, LIS Perceptions)

We will be understaffed because we have several staff member who will have to stay home because compromised immune systems and needing to care for children because school is closed. Admin has no plan for how the library will function while being understaffed. (Staffing & Employment)

Librarians as a whole were traumatized and bullied by the Head Librarian prior to this and that hasn’t stopped. Head using the pandemic to remove power from faculty over infantilizing matters like attendance. Furloughs and employment fragility hung over everyone’s head by UL and directors. Attempts by faculty to actively support BLM and recruit diverse librarians scorned in writing by Head, who used response to threaten signatories’ jobs. Director’s happy talk and privilege and forced collegiality is grating…*she* cries when other people are laid off but her complicit behavior and inability to stand up to her boss enables her to receive title changes and perks (Leadership; Diversity Rhetoric)

There have been changes to the promotion process, but due to the lack of official communication from library HR and library leadership, we have to learn about these changes through word-of-mouth. People are worried about their jobs, and library leadership does not seem to care. HR is no help and is actually part of the problem. Library leadership is a club, and if you’re not in the club, you’re out of luck.(Promotion & Tenure; Leadership; HR Limitations)

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was open, flexible and problem-solving. I sent an email regarding what might make the library experience better for customers and spent a lot of time on writing it. A library administrator emailed me back that we were already doing everything I suggested. That’s when I began to shut down. I knew I did not have any administrative support. Now, I just try to get through each day. I am definitely shutting down and trying to tune out to protect myself. The administration changes plans, programs, etc. every day, and I can no longer keep up.

We need to lead by example, and close to show we are taking this seriously – not encourage people to come out and visit by remaining open.

The staff at my library are bullet-fodder for the pandemic. Literally the only thing they care about are the customers. I can’t work like this, and now with their newfound censorship of all things inclusive, I can’t even run the safe space for customers I did before. I am looking for a new job, and I don’t think I will ever work in a library again. I loved the work. I really did. I was so excited when I got this job. But it’s one of the worst things that has ever happened to me.

I am a new library assistant; I graduate this May and was looking forward to a bright future with my library organization. However, if this is how my organization is going to treat me, I don’t see this organization being apart of my future. I am paying attention to the organizations who are giving their employees leave with pay–those are the organizations I want to work for as a librarian; an organization that believes in the safety and security of their employees during these health crises.

I’m scared.

In the last few days I have realized that the situation is much worse than I recognized. We have been trying to get our director to pay attention to our concerns. I am worried about myself and colleagues who are describing experiences similar to mine. Although we see “your health and safety are top priority and you must take care of yourself” messaging, it appears to be performative. Thank you for undertaking this work.

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Report Update: Low Morale and COVID-19, Part 1 (September 2020)

In March 2020 I shared qualitative and quantitative data from my ongoing survey exploring how people who were already dealing with low-morale before the development of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States have been impacted by COVID-19.  As a result, this report and future report concerning this survey’s data will only reflect the responses of participants who answer(ed) “Yes” to the query: “Are you currently experiencing low morale (defined as ‘exposure to repeated, protracted exposure to workplace abuse/neglect’ – Kendrick, 2017)?”

Here are the quantitative results as of September 24, 2020 (review quantitative results):

n=333

  • 85% are female; 8% male; 6% non-binary/third-gender
  • 70% are Caucasian; 13% are Latino/Hispanic; 8% Asian/Pacific-Islander; 8% African-American; 5% Multi-racial; 2% Native American/Indigenous
  • 38% are new librarians/archivists; 32% are experienced librarians/archivists; 29% are mid-career librarians/archivists
  • 54% work in academic libraries; 40% work in public libraries
  • The most common ways participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include*:
    • Administrators have canceled all library programs and/or events (51%)
    • Campus has stopped face-to-face classes (55%)
    • Administrators have reduced library hours (49%)
    • Administrators have stopped all in-person services (40%)
  • The lowest quantitative responses to how participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include:
    • Administrators have added or expanded in-person services (5%)
    • Administrators have expanded library hours (3%)
    • Administrators have added library staff (<1%)
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (81%)
    • System abuse (58%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (75%)
    • Supervisors/managers (47%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (78%)
    • Leadership (70%)
    • Staffing & Employment (56%)
    • Human Resources Limitations (48%)
    • Librarian/LIS Perceptions (43%)
  • 41% 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.
  • 77% 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) – 77%
    • Burnout (“a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do ‘people work’ of some kind”- Maslach, 1982) – 74%
    • Vocational awe (the weaponization of LIS values/library value or librarian stereotypes/identity; job creep, mission creep – Ettarh, 2017, 2018) – 71%
    • Job Precarity (“contractual, ambiguous, insecure, unprotected, and poorly paid labor/work/employment.” – Brons, Riley, Yin, & Henninger, 2018) – 48%

*Check out Lisa Hinchliffe’s work tracking COVID-19 academic library closures.

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

Brons, A., Riley, C., Yin, C., & Henninger, E. (2018). Catalog cards from the edge: Precarity in libraries. Presented at the British Columbia Library Conference. Retrieved from https://core.ac.uk/reader/161652150

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/

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

Maslach, C. (1982). Burnout: The cost of caring. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

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Mentioned: Trauma-informed practice during COVID-19

This past Spring on her blog, Bryce Kozla discusses the impetus for creating and presenting a webinar titled “Being trauma-informed during a pandemic,” which she led this past April for an online conference.

In addition to setting boundaries for discussion of the webinar content, Kozla also underscored that BIPOC communities have been more heavily impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Renewals site is mentioned as a resource for people who are interested in or need support.

View the post (or head directly to the recorded webinar).

Mentioned: Technical labor

Lischer-Katz discusses the invisible labor of technical service work in libraries, specifically digitization work. He chronicles the mental and physical labor that is required for this work, highlighting the significant coordination required of both faculties to complete such work.

The original low morale study is highlighted in Lischer-Katz’s discussion on expanding his study, noting that future studies could include how the invisibility and value of that labor impacts library workers engaged in technical work.

Read the article (paywall).

Recorded Presentation: Library Responses to COVID-19: Impacts on Ongoing Low-morale Experiences

In June 2020, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine invited me to reprise my #LIBREV(olution) presentation, so I shared updated data from my  Low Morale Experience/COVID-19 (Coronavirus) survey.  At the end of the session, attendees asked great questions from the role of anti-racism activity in reducing low morale in libraries to how to bring attention to low morale in an organization when fear of retaliation is a factor.

Mentioned: Prestige and labor in LIS

Seale and Mirza discuss links between professionalism, credentialing, and precarious labor in academic librarianship and highlight how broader influences of neoliberalism, Whiteness, and concerns centering gender play in the formation of prestige and the implementation or subversion of labor in LIS.

The original low morale study is mentioned within the context of neoliberalism and how low morale is invoked through budget cuts in service of innovation.

Read the article (paywall)

Interview: @mindfulinlis

Enjoy my interview (originally released in May 2020) with Amanda Leftwich, the founder of @mindfulinlis. I share the markers of low-morale experiences and discuss best practices for leaders (that means you – with or without a title) to reduce workplace abuse and neglect in their workplaces.

Mentioned: Reducing burnout in Communities of Practice

Brown and Settoducato summarize the points of their LOEX workshop, sharing the context and challenges that predicated their need to address burnout in their organization. They discuss ideas of self-care, contextualize the influences of vocational awe and neoliberalism on burnout, and briefly share some countermeasures they enacted at their organization.

The 2017 low morale study is mentioned as an concerning marker of their organizational culture and a guide for recognizing the impacts of low morale on employee health and well-being.

Read the article.