Report: Academic Library Low Morale Spot-Check Survey Results (March 2018)

[This content was originally published on March 5, 2018 at The Ink On The Page.]

It’s been about six months since the release of my original low morale study. Since then, I’ve presented a two-part ACRL webinar, and I’m gearing up to present the study results at regional and international LIS conferences. 

While interacting on social media or presenting/discussing the study, I’ve asked folks to take a quick survey on their low morale concerns and experiences. My goal for creating the survey was to get a gauge on what is going on with people who may be currently experiencing this phenomenon. I also wanted to offer a place to anonymously share immediate concerns about the low-morale experience or feedback about my study.

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).

To date, I’ve had 56 responses. Here are the results so far:

  1. 98% of respondents have witnessed or experienced low morale in academic environments.
  2. 46% of respondents are “front-line” employees (i.e., not supervisors, managers, department heads, or administrators); 20% are managers.
  3. 73% of respondents indicate that their current workplace has low-morale issues.

As expected, there is a wide range of concerning issues and causes of low morale; the most common responses were iterations of:

  • Long-standing histories of toxic environments stemming from authoritarian leadership or residual/ongoing results of actions from individual persons or groups that have been allowed to (continue) contaminate(ing) the library’s culture (i.e., festering);
  • Administrative negligence, including not disciplining abusive middle managers/supervisors, poor library advocacy, and poor communication skills;
  • Emotional abuse, including micromanaging and gossiping; and 
  • Burnout (lowered motivation to work, overwork, etc.)

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

If you would like to hear more about my study and don’t have access to Part I or Part II of the ACRL Webinar Series (registered attendees only), I will be hosting a free North Carolina Library Association webinar next week. I will also present my findings at the Azalea Coast Library Association Conference (Wilmington, N.C.) and the British Columbia Library Association (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada) Conference in April and May, respectively. 

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




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