Report: The Renewal Colloquium for Alaska Library Association (February 2022)

Late last month, the Alaska Library Association held their 2022 annual conference. I was invited to facilitate a Renewal Colloquium for registered attendees. The session was one of the most well-attended over the course of the four-day virtual conference. 


This report shares selected attendee data generated from the event’s pre-work activities and evaluation survey.

Pre-Colloquium Questionnaire Highlights

  • Library Type
    • 41% Academic
  • Represented areas of practice
    • 17% TIE: Reference & Instruction; Other
  • Career length
    • 55% 10 years or more
  • Topic Interest
    • 40% Emerging countermeasures and best practices to reduce/interrupt low morale
    • 30% Behavioral and cultural norms that enable low-morale experiences

Goals for attending the Colloquium

  • “I want to recognize behaviors of mine, or situations under my control, that may contribute to the lower morale of my staff.”
  • “Finding strategies for working with and improving the performance of a particularly unhappy and burned out employee in my department. “
  • “[L]earning to ‘press pause’.”
  • “A strategy for saying no or working toward changes when morale is too low to meaningfully or successfully contribute to a project.”
  • “Maintain the high morale in our library even in hard times and on hard days.“
  • “How to make meaningful work in the library at the past-mid-point of my career.“

Low-Morale Experience Survey Highlights

  • Have you experienced low morale?
    • 80% Yes
  • Length of low-morale experience
    • 39%  1- 3 years 
  • Perpetrators of abuse
    • TIE: 17%  Library administrators; Library supervisors or managers
  • Types of workplace abuse experienced:
    • 30% Negligence
  • Feelings experienced during low morale:
    • 17% Sadness; 16% Frustration
  • What contributed to low-morale experience?
    • 17% Uncertainty & Mistrust; 12% Leadership Styles
  • Behaviors noted/considered:
    • TIE: 18% Decreased professional engagement; Decreased work productivity
    • 16% Desire to change careers

Colloquium Evaluation Report Highlights

Things learned or more clearly defined:

“I like how you explained the idea of collective care which I have done somewhat with colleagues, but it was a lot of work to help others as I went through my own stresses. I feel I have lots of reading to do now!”

“I know our organization has low morale, and I was definitely aware of burnout but I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the other terms/factors associated with low morale and it made a lot more sense and has helped me understand all the layers that can contribute to low morale and that I may need to address more than my burnout to get back to a place where I enjoy work.”

“The concept of ambiguous loss was helpful.”

“It was really helpful to know that I’m not alone and to be able to share my feelings with other librarians.”

Share how attending this Colloquium may influence your daily or long-term library practice:

“I really need to do some anonymous surveying of my staff, or have a mutually trusted third party take answers and relay feedback. Need to learn more about what my leadership style actually *is*.”

“I feel empowered. I am going to address things that have been bothering me, I am ready to stand up for myself. And also show compassion for the bullies in my workplace. I am determined to continue being authentic, kind, and clear. I am also going to find time for my creative practices.”

“I’ll definitely be practicing putting moral courage into my daily routine, as well as making sure that I greet my colleagues each morning and work to combat bystanderism.”

“I want to look at my own leadership and my own difficulties during the pandemic because I know they made me less effective and more negligent.”

Recovery plans (personally or at work):

“Try to communicate more clearly with my boss when there are issues, and think about things I used to do that brought me joy that I have stopped doing – and try to start them up again.”

“Therapy! I will ask my questions a little louder, document everything, and keep holding space for my colleagues and I to have a safe psychological place to be.”

“I sometimes focus too much on the limiters that can’t be changed, instead of focusing on what I CAN do within those limitations. I loved the lists of what we CAN do on an individual level, and carrying out some of those practices is what I plan to do.”

Topics recommended for discussion/consideration:

“Some folks are struggling with hyper vigilance due to uncertainty about their physical as well as psychological safety. Is there anything we can do to combat that, or is that on a different plane altogether?”

“The idea of: you got out of this bad situation, now, how do you recover? You touched on it a tiny bit, but this could be an entire session.”

“This was amazing. Thank you.”

Ready to host a Renewal ColloquiumLet’s plan your event!


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