Report: Low Morale at Unionized Library Workplaces – Part 1 (August 2022)

Throughout my studies, librarians mentioned that either they were working in an organization with a union – or that their library’s workforce were contemplating starting a union. Additionally, there has been increased efforts from library workers who seek (or have successfully gained) labor organizing and/or collective bargaining rights and recognition.

My previous studies also hinted at or directly shared some understanding of the roles unions may (not) play during low-morale experiences. In my 2019 study, an African-American librarian summarized her union arbitration process:

“[My abuser] was a good actress, and she knew, you know, how to push their buttons so that I could be the one that looked like the big, bad, Black lady, and she could play the innocent, you know, little, young White department head. . . . I had said to the [union representative] after we met that [my abuser] had really spun this situation. And he got really angry and told me that he heard from her a lot of apologizing and that I was too tough and that I probably wouldn’t like him for saying that.” 

Last fall I launched a data collection project to learn more about if and how low-morale experiences manifest and/or are addressed in unionized library workplaces. This report shares results as of June 2022 and will remain open. 

Here are the quantitative results of the report, which reflects 26 responses:

  • 81% are currently experiencing workplace abuse/neglect (low morale);
  • 52% indicate their low-morale experience has lasted between 1 -3 years;
  • TIE: 42% are mid-career librarians/archivists (6-10 years’ experience); 42% are experienced (more than 10 years’ experience);
  • 62% work in academic libraries
  • 89% are union members
  • 68% share that their abusers are library administrators
  • 64% share that their abusers are supervisors or managers
  • 52% did not report the abuse to their union representative
  • Of those who did report:
    • 32% reported system abuse
    • 24% reported verbal/written abuse
    • 12% reported emotional abuse

Part 2 shares qualitative results. This survey remains open, and I will report results periodically. 


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