Report: BIPOC, Low Morale, & COVID-19 (April 2020)

Late last month I shared quantitative and qualitative results of my ongoing survey on the impact of COVID-19 on low-morale experiences. As a follow-up – and to support the data I shared during this month’s two BIPOC in LIS Mental Health Summits – I am revisiting the data to highlight the responses and experiences of racial and ethnic minority respondents (n=67 – about 31% of the total participant pool). Quantitative and qualitative data are shared below.


  • 82% are female; 30% male; 1% non-binary/third-gender
  • 22% are African-American; 21% are Multiracial; 10% Hispanic/Latino; 1% Native American 
  • 33% are mid-career librarians/archivists; 24% are experienced librarians/archivists; 13% are new librarians/archivists
  • 55% work in academic libraries
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (72%)
    • System abuse (60%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (50%)
    • Supervisors/managers (37%)
    • Campus administrators (25%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (48%)
    • Staffing & Employment (27%)
  • 33% 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.
  • 51% 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) – 52%
    • Vocational awe (the weaponization of LIS values/library value or librarian stereotypes/identity; job creep, mission creep – Ettarh, 2017, 2018) – 48%


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

As one of the only Asian Americans on staff, it’s been glaringly obvious that no one has approached or even directly acknowledged how I and others like me are doing. There have also been racist incidents on campus directly blaming Chinese as the cause of the disease. We’re moving forward with a lot of service plans to protect the physical health of our staff, which is good, but there has been no acknowledgement of the mental toll and fear that some of us are personally experiencing.

No plan. Last minute changes. Forced to make local decisions knowing there’s a possibility of getting punished later. Uncertainty of staff getting paid.

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

We already have low trust in our organization and the delay in communicating a plan of action created additional mistrust in our leadership and anxiety in staff. (Uncertainty & Mistrust; Leadership)

We’re also staying open, though some non-public-facing departments are being allowed to work remotely already. Our public service staff are still having to report in person, so far. Our library has been labeled as “essential,” which is putting a lot of people–specifically in public services–at risk, while others can either not report in or isolate themselves without worry. (Staffing & Employment)

Please share any other thoughts or concerns you have about your low-morale experience and its relationship to your library’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

I have consistently been failed through two levels: chair and dean. I feel singled out.

I am glad this happened because I realized that I am at the wrong institution. I need to leave soon.

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 a part 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.

There seems to be a fear from library admins that if we completely close, the library would be seen as non-essential in the next budget cycle. This is putting staff in jeopardy.

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 


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