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

It’s been about two weeks since I launched my survey tracking COVID-19’s (Novel Coronavirus) impact on ongoing low-morale experiences. Check this Tweet thread for nascent results, which reflected all participants at that time (n=46).

This study focuses on people who were already dealing with low-morale before the discovery and development of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.  As a result, this report and 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 March 29, 2020; see qualitative responses.


  • 85% are female; 7.6% male; 6% non-binary/third-gender
  • 82% are Caucasian; 10% are Latino/Hispanic; 5% Asian/Pacific-Islander; 4% African-American; 1% Multi-racial; <1% Native American/Indigenous
  • 34% are Mid-career librarians/archivists; 33% are experienced librarians/archivists; 32% are new librarians/archivists
  • 72% work in academic libraries; 24% work in public libraries
  • The most common ways participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include*:
    • Campus has stopped face-to-face classes (67%)
    • Administrators have canceled all library programs and/or events (51%)
    • Administrators have reduced library hours (43%)
  • The lowest quantitative responses to how participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include:
    • Administrators have stopped all in-person library services (19%)
    • Administrators have added or expanded in-person services (4%)
    • Administrators have expanded library hours (3%)
    • Administrators have added library staff (1%)
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (75%)
    • System abuse (58%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (73%)
    • Campus administrators (55%)
    • Supervisors/managers (42%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (78%)
    • Leadership (71%)
    • Staffing & Employment (57%)
    • Human Resources Limitations (49%)
    • Librarian/LIS Perceptions (45%)
  • 36% 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.
  • 75% 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) – 79%
    • Vocational awe (the weaponization of LIS values/library value or librarian stereotypes/identity; job creep, mission creep – Ettarh, 2017, 2018) – 72%
    • 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) – 67%

*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

Ettarh, F. (2018). Vocational awe and librarianship: The lies we tell ourselves. In The Library With The Lead Pipe. Retrieved from 

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from

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


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