Report Update: Low Morale and COVID-19, Part 2 (March 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:

Critical questions and emails to directors and supervisors go ignored regarding the ability to work from home or what to do about our care-giving responsibility to dependents, young and old since the library is remaining open despite a week of class cancellations. University colleagues on planning/events committees gaslight committee members (like myself) who raise concerns about potential campus closure and suggest that events should at least move online. These toxic colleagues refuse to plan to take major events online because they are in denial about the seriousness of COVID-19 and hope things will improve so that Spring 2020 campus-wide events can still move forward. Being that sole, unsupported voice of reason in the email discussions and meetings is isolating, stressful, and makes me doubt objective facts. I feel alone.

Library management says employees with certain statuses may ask to work from home. Age is not a category. I am a few weeks shy of 70. I take public transportation. Two or three trains one way. I cannot social distance on the way to work. I am in a high risk group on account of age. I am being ignored. Next week’s reference schedule is business as usual. Angry and scared.

We have been told that the most important thing is supporting faculty and students, not taking care of ourselves.

There has been practically no communication of plans or policies that will be put in place even though staff have shared that they are experiencing stress, anxiety, and fear around the pandemic. A plan for reduced hours was put onto the library website and staff were not given any advance notice or communication except for seeing it on the website with the rest of the general public. Staff are told they are being “too dramatic” or getting “too upset” when we ask about closing. Almost every neighboring library system has closed but admin refuses to discuss why they have decided to remain open. The library director laughs when staff ask for information.

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

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)

The administration doesn’t care about the libraries. They don’t know what we do or who we serve. They don’t consider that one infected library employee could potentially infect dozens of users during one shift or one infected user attending an event or using a computer could infect dozens. (Leadership; LIS/Librarian Perceptions)

Faculty are allowed to work from home but all staff are required to come in. Some staff may have accommodations or take PTO but the lowest paid people and those who have chronic illnesses or just started don’t have much if any PTO. Faculty do not support staff but expect them to be here for all normal things. There is the perception and expectation that the library must always remain open for all regular hours even in snow storm or now, a global pandemic. (Tenure & Promotion/Faculty Status; LIS/Librarian Perceptions)

The absence of communication from school administration led to rumor, speculation, and panic from students and their parents. (Leadership; Uncertainty & Mistrust)

When asked about when we can start enabling telecommuting and social distancing there was no answer because Human Resources had not determined how to handle this (although we have been planning for multiple weeks now). (Human Resources Limitations)

Other thoughts or concerns about your low-morale experience and its relationship to your library’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

I have got to find a new job. This crisis has simply demonstrated that the organization is unable to handle communication. The situation is unprecedented but other units on campus are coping and communicating in a much more efficient manner.

I am especially concerned about student employees and hourly workers who cannot work from home.

Libraries should be taking lead, but we are far behind. I suggested creating a lib guide for university. No one else thought of it, which was disappointing. People are siloed off.

Despite all of these annoyances, I do feel some of the pressures to stay open may be coming from outside of our library. But I do want to see our administrators stand up and advocate for all of us. I think it may change in the next week or so, so I’m hopeful.

Thanks for interrupting the resilience and there-for-the-community narratives of libraries. I truly believe we can do more to support folks online, and the majority of libraries should be closed shortly.

[This event] has underlined how little our municipality values the library, or understands the services we provide.



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