Report Update: BIPOC, Low Morale, & COVID-19 (February 2021)

Last April I shared Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)- centered results of my ongoing survey on the impact of COVID-19 on low-morale experiences. As a follow-up – and in tandem with a recent Renewal Presentation I hosted for the African-American Medical Librarians Alliance (AAMLA) – I am sharing updated data to highlight the responses and experiences of racial and ethnic minority respondents (n=103 – about 28% of the total participant pool). Quantitative and qualitative data are shared below.


  • 82% are female; 10% male; 9% non-binary/third-gender
  • 28% are Hispanic/Latino; 23% are African-American; 27% Multi-racial; 20% Asian American/Pacific Islander; <1% Native American 
  • 49% are new librarians/archivists; 34% are mid-career librarians/archivists; 26% are experienced librarians/archivists
  • 53% work in academic libraries; 46% work in public libraries
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (63%)
    • System abuse (61%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (50%)
    • Supervisors/managers (38%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (68%)
    • Leadership (56%)
    • Staffing & Employment (48%)
  • 45% 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.
  • 68% 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) – 53%
    • 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:

A lot of emotional labor required – asking for personal stories and vulnerability to instill “trust” for cohesive teamwork 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.

Some staffers (65+) are still working remotely while others of us (younger, but high risk) have been asked to return at least half time in person. Attendance is low at our libraries so it isn’t a staffing need. Just pressure from our county. Those of us with children haven’t been given any additional assistance. No requirements for staff or patrons to wear masks puts even more psychological stress on staff.

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

Have been working at a pay level & classification far below the skills and output I display at job, for years. The need to reevaluation of classification was denied and even though I’ve taken on more skilled work outside my job description since Covid began. (Staffing & Employment)

A strong undergirding force behind admin abuses of frontline staff was a culture of toxic positivity where any criticism, no matter how legitimate, any questions, no matter how genuine and any expression of any concern whatsoever was seen as “toxic” and insubordinate. This created a culture of “yes women” surrounding the library director, where others in leadership were afraid to speak up to fear of retribution. This trickled down to drain morale of all staff. Threat of job loss or withholding of merit increases were real. People were regularly being written up for speaking up, creating a culture of silent complicity.. (Leadership; 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:

Due to my systems inactions in the wake of enlightened views on anti-blackness in America and my system’s inability to control its own decisions regarding the pandemic, I have considered both leaving the profession or applying for new library systems where they support my identity as a black librarian and the global need to reduce Covid. I shouldn’t have to think about this in the middle of a PANDEMIC but my physical and mental health are at stake. Every day is a constant struggle.

Vocational awe is a huge issue. We are expected to give more and get less (either support or compensation) because we are ‘the last bastion of democracy’.

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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