Report Update: Academic Library Low Morale Spot-Check Survey Results (March 2020)

In 2018, 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 internationally and domestically about this phenomenon, published a second low morale study, earned a grant to continue more studies, and taught three sessions of my low morale course, which aids in recovery from workplace abuse/neglect.

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 131 responses (up from 95 responses in August 2018). 

  1. 99% of respondents have witnessed or experienced low morale in academic environments.
  2. 54% of respondents are “front-line” employees (i.e., not supervisors, managers, department heads, or administrators); 21% are managers; 7% are administrators.
  3. 81% of respondents indicate that their current workplace has low-morale issues.

Broad issues and causes of low morale were indicated. Following are excerpts from survey respondents (Can you name the Enabling Systems the following excerpts highlight?):

  • Use of the promotional system to settle scores against front-line employees.”
  • Tenured librarians are “untouchable” and face no consequences for their behavior that breeds the culture of low morale.
  • “Neglect from superiors, no clear-cut responsibilities for staff, few full-time options that are long term, no benefits for part-time staff, lack of knowledge regarding librarianship in superiors, nonexistent work culture.”
  • “Neglect by university officials; no interest [from] them in our purpose. Some issues within the library — resistance to change by admin, fear of younger enthusiastic employees.”
  • “[D]eauthenticity, neglect of librarians of color, especially the one who’s been around the longest (me), lack of recognition and advancement to management, history of abuse that as not dealt with (the abusers have retired).”
  • “Excessive workload expectations, not replacing staff lost due to attrition; lack of support for work-life balance; lack of support for research activities required for tenure.”

And an encouraging note:

Thank you for helping me see that system abuse and negligence count as triggers…. I am also really grateful for what you have done in this article to help me understand myself and my colleagues. You have shone a light on a dark place–God bless you!

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


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