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

In March 2020 I shared qualitative and quantitative data from my ongoing survey exploring how people who were already dealing with low-morale before the development of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States have been impacted by COVID-19.  As a result, this report 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 September 24, 2020 (review quantitative results):


  • 85% are female; 8% male; 6% non-binary/third-gender
  • 70% are Caucasian; 13% are Latino/Hispanic; 8% Asian/Pacific-Islander; 8% African-American; 5% Multi-racial; 2% Native American/Indigenous
  • 38% are new librarians/archivists; 32% are experienced librarians/archivists; 29% are mid-career librarians/archivists
  • 54% work in academic libraries; 40% work in public libraries
  • The most common ways participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include*:
    • Administrators have canceled all library programs and/or events (51%)
    • Campus has stopped face-to-face classes (55%)
    • Administrators have reduced library hours (49%)
    • Administrators have stopped all in-person services (40%)
  • The lowest quantitative responses to how participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include:
    • Administrators have added or expanded in-person services (5%)
    • Administrators have expanded library hours (3%)
    • Administrators have added library staff (<1%)
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (81%)
    • System abuse (58%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (75%)
    • Supervisors/managers (47%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (78%)
    • Leadership (70%)
    • Staffing & Employment (56%)
    • Human Resources Limitations (48%)
    • Librarian/LIS Perceptions (43%)
  • 41% 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.
  • 77% 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) – 77%
    • 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) – 74%
    • Vocational awe (the weaponization of LIS values/library value or librarian stereotypes/identity; job creep, mission creep – Ettarh, 2017, 2018) – 71%
    • Job Precarity (“contractual, ambiguous, insecure, unprotected, and poorly paid labor/work/employment.” – Brons, Riley, Yin, & Henninger, 2018) – 48%

*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

Brons, A., Riley, C., Yin, C., & Henninger, E. (2018). Catalog cards from the edge: Precarity in libraries. Presented at the British Columbia Library Conference. 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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