Report Update: Low Morale and COVID-19, Part 1 (November 2021)

The following report reflects my goal to continue sharing data from my ongoing survey exploring how COVID-19 has impacted library employees who were already dealing with low-morale before the development of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. My last general quantitative and qualitative reports were offered in September 2020.

Here are the quantitative results as of November 2, 2021 (review qualitative results):


  • 82% are female; 9% male; 7% non-binary/third-gender; 2% prefer not to say
  • 75% are Caucasian; 9% are Hispanic/Latino; 7% are African American; 7% Asian/Pacific-Islander; 4% Multi-racial; 1% Native American/Indigenous; 3% prefer not to say
  • 35% are experienced librarians/archivists; 34% are new librarians/archivists; 31% are mid-career librarians/archivists
  • 48% work in public libraries; 40% work in academic libraries; 2% work in special libraries
  • The most common ways participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include*:
    • Administrators have canceled all library programs and/or events (52%)
    • Administrators have reduced library hours (51%)
    • Campus has stopped face-to-face classes and moved to online courses (47%)
    • Administrators have reduced or curtailed in-person library services (46%)
    • Administrators have stopped all in-person services (38%)
    • Administrators have reduced in-person staffing (33%)
  • The lowest quantitative responses to how participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include:
    • Administrators have added or expanded in-person services (9%)
    • Administrators have expanded library hours (6%)
    • Administrators have added library staff (2%)
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (80%)
    • System abuse (62%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (77%)
    • Supervisors/managers (47%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (80%)
    • Leadership (71%)
    • Staffing & Employment (61%)
    • Human Resources Limitations (54%)
    • Librarian/LIS Perceptions (43%)
  • 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.
  • 79% 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:
    • 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) – 80%
    • 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) – 79%
    • Vocational awe (the weaponization of LIS values/library value or librarian stereotypes/identity; job creep, mission creep – Ettarh, 2017, 2018) – 72%
    • Job Precarity (“contractual, ambiguous, insecure, unprotected, and poorly paid labor/work/employment.” – Brons, Riley, Yin, & Henninger, 2018) – 50%

*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

Maslach, C. (1982). Burnout: The cost of caring. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.


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