Report Update: Academic Library Low Morale Spot-Check Survey Results (January 2022)

Since 2018, I’ve been gathering and reporting information on the up-t0-the-moment concerns academic librarians have been considering during their low-morale experiences (you may review previous reports here, here, and here). A secondary purpose of this data collection project is to offer people a place to share anonymously their immediate concerns about their low-morale experience or offer feedback about the study. The survey remains open – please participate (are you a public library employee? Here’s your spot-check survey)!

As a reminder, low morale as the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or negligence in the workplace (Kendrick 2017).

The following results reflect 150 responses (up from 131 responses in March 2020). These quantitative statistics seem to stay relatively stable:

  1. 99% of respondents have witnessed or experienced low morale in academic environments.
  2. 54% of respondents are “front-line” employees (i.e., not supervisors, managers, department heads, or administrators); 21% are managers; 6% are administrators.
  3. 82% of respondents indicate that their current workplace has low-morale issues.

The following data, a response to the query, “What issues of low morale are you concerned with?” show a depth and breadth of issues faced by library employees who are dealing with low morale in academic library workplaces; you can see abuse types (emotional, system, oral/written, neglect), as well as related frameworks (e.g., burnout; resilience narratives) and various Enabling Systems (e.g., Human Resources limitations):

  • “Bullying, verbal abuse, unclear expectations and direction – as well as more insidious/broader issues like how library staff can practice good self-care, and how libraries can be more thoughtful about initiatives that align with librarianship’s core values in ways that are achievable and don’t just ‘pile on’ already overburdened staff. (Whew, that was a lot)”
  • “Co-worker creating hostile work environment. Co-worker gets away with it.”
  • “Upper management not caring. Also, newer staff being overworked almost as soon as they arrive — I’ve even seen junior colleagues reaching out to get not-yet onboarded new hires onto their work teams. I also see a lot of discussions happening in private around this topic — we need to surface the issues locally rather than talk around them.”
  • “Bullying, relational aggression, sexual transgressions, lack of discipline, weak authority for managers, absenteeism, burn out, perfectionism.”
  • “All of them. The article could have been written about me.”
  • “We need to know how to better resolve conflict and have open discussions instead of turning everthing into a personality conflict! We need to improve civility and stop bullying and mobbing in our workplaces.”
  • “In previous jobs, the concern was about the folks in charge – the university librarian, library director and assistant director, etc. Currently, the worry is more about funding, budget cuts, staff layoffs, etc. There are so many things we can’t control, yet they affect people’s lives!”

Periodically, I’ll share updates or thoughts and ideas as more responses come in.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from


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