Report: The Renewal Colloquium for Washington Research Library Consortium (May 2022)

Last week I facilitated The Renewal Colloquium for the Washington Research Library Consortium‘s plenary meeting. This meeting discussed the trajectory of low-morale experiences with a focus on how the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted these experiences. I also introduced Pauline Boss’ concept of Ambiguous Loss and how it has affected library employees.

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

Pre-Colloquium Questionnaire Highlights

  • Library Type
    • 87% Academic
  • Represented areas of practice
    • 23% Reference & Instruction; Other
  • Career length
    • 68% 10 years or more
  • Topic Interest
    • 37% Emerging countermeasures and best practices to reduce/interrupt low morale

Low-Morale Experience Survey Highlights 

  • Have you experienced low morale?
    • 56% Yes
  • Length of low-morale experience
    • 36% Eighteen months or more
  • Perpetrators of abuse
    • 28%  Campus administrators; 24% Library administrators
  • Types of workplace abuse experienced:
    • 36% Negligence 32% System
  • Feelings experienced during low morale:
    • 12% Frustration
  • What contributed to low-morale experience?
    • 15% Uncertainty & Mistrust; 15% Staffing & Employment
  • Behaviors noted/considered:
    • 18% Decreased work productivity
    • 17% Decreased professional engagement
    • TIE: 15% Increased procrastination; Decreased professional development

Goals for attending the Colloquium

  • I would like to be able to identify the causes and conditions of low morale.”
  • Recognizing the signs of low morale earlier, so that interventions can be put in place before the situation has ‘boiled over.’”
  • “I’m interested in wrestling with some of the big, deep questions that need to be asked and reflected upon to create transformational change of structures, systems, cultures, and mental models that are rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism.”
  • “…the pandemic isn’t over! Regardless of mask mandates and the itching desire to get back to what life looked like prior to March 2020. I would love to walk away with some tools to empower me being mindful of the loss, grief, and experiences of librarianship moving forward.”
  • “I want to be able to help those I supervise with low morale as I suffer from it as well.“
  • “I would like learn about strategies or changes that will help me feel less burnt out and more excited about my work.”
  • “A better understanding of what I and others are currently going through.”

Please share any other details you’d like about your experience during the Pandemic

  • “Lack of empathy from university administration with the insistence that everything is okay, when it is not. Employees and resources were cut by 30% in Summer/Fall 2020 with no acknowledgement of how that affected those cut, and those who kept their positions.”
    • “Life was/has been on hold during the pandemic. Uncertainty lead to fear of change, therefore career stagnation.”
    • “It was very aggravating that despite the fact that there is mask mandate in effect at our library, many of the students do not wear masks and the university administration did not want to try to enforce it with small fines or some other penalty.”
    • “I’m actively looking for positions in organizations I feel support their employees better.”

Colloquium Evaluation Report Highlights

Things learned or more clearly defined:

“I really enjoyed this experience. Empathy is so important and I want to thank Kaetrena for helping me narrow my [research focus]. Everything she stated aligned with my lifestyle and core beliefs concerning empathy. This was amazing :).”

“Resilience narratives–specifically within the context of how it’s implied that a failure to perfectly adapt to severe conditions is our fault, rather than being due to the severity of those conditions.”

“Seeing the [live collective] responses showed that we are not alone re: how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all…”

“The discussion about our leaders’ roles in low morale environments (that leaders have a role, but that they often can’t fix everything on their own) was powerful recognition of the complex systems we work in. It’s easy to look to leaders for solutions, and leaders often want to provide them. Yet, it’s more complicated.”

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

The importance of understanding the reverse side/downside of a well-developed or overused skill or work style. Kaetrena provided herself as an example that was quite relatable.”

“Mostly I’m grateful I was able to leave a prior toxic environment, especially since my new workplace has some better systems and structures in place to prevent/guard against a number of the problems I had in my previous job.”

“I think I need to reassess some of the ways in which my staff and I work together, as well as in which my supervisor and I work together.”

Recovery plans (personally or at work):

“I want to get back into some of my creative endeavors that have been dormant, though I haven’t been able to muster the energy or ideas to actually follow through on that desire, so I’m trying to be patient with myself in the hope that those things will come back again with time…”

“Shift to focusing on my family. Long term: planning on leaving the profession.”

“I need to reach out. My isolation and silence is taking its toll on my mental/emotional health and now on my physical health too.”

Topics recommended for discussion/consideration:

“Self-Awareness perhaps, but that could lead down another rabbit hole easily.”

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


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