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

A lot of library administrators work from home and have no firsthand knowledge of what it is like to work in an actual library during a pandemic. I work at a library branch that is located in a Covid-19 hotspot. I am terrified every day because many customers are mentally ill with no understanding of Covid and therefore do not wear masks or social distance. Trying to explain the virus and the importance of masks and social distancing has proved futile. Also helping customers on computers and with copy machines is difficult to manage and most attempts to maintain proper social distancing often fail. Customers get frustrated and sometimes very angry when you cannot help them properly. They sometimes yell at you. I take care of family members, so I especially live in fear of getting the virus and then passing it along to my elderly mother.

Sudden micromanagement, needing to provide weekly reports to supervisor of work completed for the week when this information was previously not requested (feels like a lack of trust). Lack of communication from supervisor concerning pandemic and health (mental and physical) of workers.

A lot of emotional labor required – asking for personal stories and vulnerability to instill “trust” for cohesive team work but systemic problems remain the same or are dealt with in a way that I don’t feel support or stability in job. But my trust and vulnerability is still expected.

Classes cancelled yet library staff expected to be at work.

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

Dean is taking a “wait and see” approach at a college where we have the most confirmed cases. Many of us have children now at home. College is more concerned about providing services than looking our for health and safety. (Leadership)

I think that the Whiteness of the profession has been an issue but COVID-19 is exposing it. It seems that the pressure to be productive comes more from our White colleagues and it is hard to fight that when you are the only Black librarian on your campus. I feel like it is a constant fight. I feel like librarians are trying to prove that they are relevant, but now is not the time for that. (Whiteness, LIS Perceptions)

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)

Librarians as a whole were traumatized and bullied by the Head Librarian prior to this and that hasn’t stopped. Head using the pandemic to remove power from faculty over infantilizing matters like attendance. Furloughs and employment fragility hung over everyone’s head by UL and directors. Attempts by faculty to actively support BLM and recruit diverse librarians scorned in writing by Head, who used response to threaten signatories’ jobs. Director’s happy talk and privilege and forced collegiality is grating…*she* cries when other people are laid off but her complicit behavior and inability to stand up to her boss enables her to receive title changes and perks (Leadership; Diversity Rhetoric)

There have been changes to the promotion process, but due to the lack of official communication from library HR and library leadership, we have to learn about these changes through word-of-mouth. People are worried about their jobs, and library leadership does not seem to care. HR is no help and is actually part of the problem. Library leadership is a club, and if you’re not in the club, you’re out of luck.(Promotion & Tenure; Leadership; HR Limitations)

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was open, flexible and problem-solving. I sent an email regarding what might make the library experience better for customers and spent a lot of time on writing it. A library administrator emailed me back that we were already doing everything I suggested. That’s when I began to shut down. I knew I did not have any administrative support. Now, I just try to get through each day. I am definitely shutting down and trying to tune out to protect myself. The administration changes plans, programs, etc. every day, and I can no longer keep up.

We need to lead by example, and close to show we are taking this seriously – not encourage people to come out and visit by remaining open.

The staff at my library are bullet-fodder for the pandemic. Literally the only thing they care about are the customers. I can’t work like this, and now with their newfound censorship of all things inclusive, I can’t even run the safe space for customers I did before. I am looking for a new job, and I don’t think I will ever work in a library again. I loved the work. I really did. I was so excited when I got this job. But it’s one of the worst things that has ever happened to me.

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 apart 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.

I’m scared.

In the last few days I have realized that the situation is much worse than I recognized. We have been trying to get our director to pay attention to our concerns. I am worried about myself and colleagues who are describing experiences similar to mine. Although we see “your health and safety are top priority and you must take care of yourself” messaging, it appears to be performative. Thank you for undertaking this work.

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