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Report Update: Low Morale and COVID-19, Part 2 (November 2021)

This is the second of a two-part report summarizing November 2, 2021 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:

These past few weeks have been yet another example of a total lack of support for library workers at my place of work. The needs of employees are only being considered on an individual basis instead of systemically, and some library workers (for example, circulation staff) are being asked to sacrifice their own well-being for some kind of imagined public “good.” Those workers who fall into higher risk categories are subject to additional monitoring and policing beyond anything experienced in previously in the workplace, and are feeling targeted for prioritizing their own health during a global pandemic. The needs of faculty and students are being treated as much more important than the needs of anyone working at the library, and suggesting a different approach that respects all employees seems to be considered heretical.

We are the only library open within a 30 mile radius. All schools are closed, and we have people crossing state lines to come in. It’s impossible to keep social distance. Our director hasn’t given us any indication that we will close. We are stressed and concerned and no one is checking on us.

The HR manager was the abuser. She did not help the library navigate the CDC recommendations, but instead, forced her anti-mask opinions on us, and then got abusive when we disagreed with her. The library users were in some ways more respectful toward staff than before the pandemic (no vandalism or theft), but were more uncivil with an onslaught of uninformed opinions about masks, the virus, race, politics, etc. We had one patron whom after being informed of our mask policy, left a rude message in a Word document on one of the public computers, claimed she was kicked out of the library (which she was not), and then posted it on social media and disparaged the library in political circles. And, just remembered, one Library Administrator called a staff member insane when the staff member was clearly having tremendous stress about letting people back in the building.

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

There is extreme uncertainly among staff members – many questioning if they want to stay in the field, or return to work, It’s so sad. Our ability to stay in contact has been officially curtailed because our institution-wide email was discontinued. (Uncertainty & Mistrust)

My library’s dean has required every library personnel to develop a telecommuting plan, neglecting that such things do not comply with library faculty’s collective bargaining agreement. She has continually crossed over this HR boundary regarding library faculty work. (Leadership Styles; Human Resources Limitations)

The President of our university has spoken in virtual town hall meetings (all faculty and staff invited) about keeping the library open through this crisis. She has said that library staff may need “help” and has asked for other university staff to step up and volunteer to help staff the library. This is upsetting on two levels: 1) She is missing the point. We are not asking for help in doing our jobs; we are asking for permission to do our jobs remotely like most everyone else on campus. 2) This request speaks to her ignorance of the role of librarians. We do much more than sit at a desk and check out items to patrons. (Leadership; Librarian Perceptions)

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