Report Update: BIPOC, Low Morale, & COVID-19 (June 2022)

Last April I shared Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)- centered results of my ongoing survey on the impact of COVID-19 on low-morale experiences. This report discloses updated data highlighting the responses and experiences of racial and ethnic minority respondents (n=116 – about 25% of the total participant pool). Quantitative and qualitative data are shared below.


  • 82% are female; 9% male; 3% non-binary/third-gender
  • 40% are Hispanic/Latino; 26% are African-American; 16% Multi-racial; 16% Asian American/Pacific Islander; 5% Native American 
  • 30% are new librarians/archivists; 30% are mid-career librarians/archivists; 26% are experienced librarians/archivists
  • 48% work in academic libraries; 44% work in public libraries
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (72%)
    • System abuse (64%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (72%)
    • Supervisors/managers (47%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (53%)
    • Leadership (47%)
    • Staffing & Employment (41%)
  • 46% 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.
  • 68% 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) – 78%
    • 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) – 75%
    • Vocational awe (the weaponization of LIS values/library value or librarian stereotypes/identity; job creep, mission creep – Ettarh, 2017, 2018) – 71%


Please share your experience(s) of increased abuse/neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic:

I am new to my position (started in January) so I am having to remind my colleagues and administration that I am still new and need to be trained on systems and services. With all of our work being moved online, some of my colleagues have a fear of training people because then other people can do their jobs and they wont be able to justify their position. This has resulted in me not being trained for the work that i was supposed to learn and leaving only a “select” few to do the required work when it should be everyone’s jobs. I have to set up my check-in’s with my supervisor and I feel like I am bugging people for work.

Boundaries set have become more fluid because our campus has gone virtual/online. I feel increased pressure to respond to emails sent/received beyond my “work time.”

I had to go in to work as the Person in Charge while my supervisor called in sick every day while our admin was deciding to close the library. I had the pressure as his assistant supervisor to pick up the slack during this stressful time.

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

I feel like vocational awe is going to land us all in therapy or suffering from long term effects. I say this because some folks believe it is a badge of honor to put our lives at risk. While this disease does not discriminate, BIPOC are usually more high risk. I feel like this will never be acknowledged and whiteness definitely plays a part in ˜business as usual”. (Whiteness)

The feeling that there is a scarcity of resources when there is enough work to go around. There is also the feeling that you have to have a domain and being cross functionally trained will make current positions (as they exist) obsolete. (Staffing & Employment)

Please share any other thoughts or concerns you have about your low-morale experience and its relationship to your library’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Regarding resilience narratives – we lost a good amount of staff and can call on subs anymore but they keep adding back hours. Now we are forced how to keep building open (almost back to our pre-pandemic hours) with fewer people.

I have some colleagues who are still arguing the library should be open and we should continue providing face-to-face reference services, but most of us recognize that as ridiculous vocational awe. It feels generational as the people making that argument are closer to retirement age.

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

Ettarh, F. (2018). Vocational awe and librarianship: The lies we tell ourselves. In The Library With The Lead Pipe. Retrieved from 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: