Reserved: The Renewal Colloquium @Massachusetts Library Association Conference (May 2022)

On May 23, I’ll be leading The Renewal Colloquium during the Massachusetts Library Associations annual conference. The event will take place after the Opening Keynote/Spotlight Session where I’ll center low-morale experiences in public libraries (view the associated study). 

Reserved: The Renewal Colloquium @Washington Research Library Consortium (May 2022)

I’ve been invited to this year’s Washington Research Library Consortium plenary meeting to facilitate a special session of  The Renewal Colloquium focusing on the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on library employees. The virtual plenary is slated for May 18 at 1PM EST.

Learn more about the WRLC, which serves ten member libraries in metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. 

Renewals Reach: Identity, Emotional Labor, and Service

In their chapter, “We’re not libraries; we’re people: Identity and emotional labor in providing face-to-face service in libraries,” Hernandez and Oberlies explore LIS service norms and how they clash with library employees who work in public services. They also share the results of a survey they distributed to gather information about the distribution of emotional labor across several demographic indicators. 

Read the chapter.

Red Flag: Work Dread

In my studies, participants frequently discussed increasing feelings of anxiety and/or increases in symptoms of physical ailments as they began preparing for work (say, on Sunday night) or as they got closer to the workplace during their commutes. I call this work dread, and it is one of the early physical indicators of abuse or neglect. 

As you browse the participant commentary below, keep in mind how trauma responds in the body – even before we are cognitively aware of what is happening (or even if we try to downplay what is happening). Bessel van der Kolk reminds us that “the memory of trauma is encoded in the viscera, in heartbreaking and gut-wrenching emotions, in autoimmune disorders and skeletal/muscular problems…” and that “[t]he more people try to push away and ignore internal warning signs, the more likely they are to take over and leave them bewildered, confused, and ashamed.” If you are experiencing work dread, don’t ignore the signs.

“…There was times I was, you know, had a knot in my stomach when I was driving to work. There were – I started dreading Sunday nights ‘cause it’s like, what’s Monday going to bring? What’s the day going to bring? Is she Happy [Person]? Is she Bitchy [Person]? …and I really noticed it, too, when, in the summer we work really weird hours, so I started realizing, like, the weeks that I knew she was going to be off for a whole week, I had like no stress. I would come to work, have a great time with my co-workers, I wasn’t worried about Sunday night, you know, and that’s when I started realizing the impact it was having on me physically.”Low morale in Academic Librarians study participant (public services), circa 2016

“You know, overall, the impact was I dreaded coming to work, you know… I would kind of like, physically feel it. [Laughs] I would get that knot in my stomach, you know?  It was just one of those things, and I was gripey – more apt to complain about having to go to work, not looking forward to going to work. And I would have anxiety, and I would feel like I had to do stuff, you know. I always had to be on task or I had to always be checking my email. Because after a while of being told that I had to be on email every moment of every day and unable to escape the situation, I just started giving into that, you know?” – Low morale in Academic Librarians study participant (cataloger), circa 2016

“I would go home and feel like ‘oh, do I really want to go back to work the next day.’ [Laughs]. ‘Cause I was, I’m usually someone who enjoys work so that was kind of a new feeling, like ‘uh, I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to be like,’ and sometimes – this is maybe too extreme, but just kind of like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and what’s the newest frustrating thing we’re going to encounter,’ [Laughs]”Low morale in Academic Librarians study participant (instruction), circa 2016

“…it was an issue of low morale because, you know, where I used to enjoy coming to work, I would dread it. I mean, once I got there, I was ok, but, you know, you always knew there was going to be something, and you know, there always was.”Low morale in BIPOC Academic librarians study participant (manager), circa 2018

Works Cited

van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score. New York: Penguin Books.

Report Update: Job-Hunting during Low-Morale Experiences – Part 2 (March 2022)

This report update reveals qualitative responses of my job hunting during low-morale experiences data collection project. You can view earlier qualitative responses here and here.

If you haven’t started looking for a job yet, how have your job search concerns impacted your daily work?

“I feel stuck, like I’ll be stuck at my current job, and I’ll be miserable for years. This makes me question how much of the work I’m currently doing actually matters.”

“It takes so much energy to apply to jobs that I find myself exhausted all the time..”

“It’s really hard to stay motivated but I’m taking some continuing education courses to keep my spirits up. It’s helping me feel like I’m learning new things in the meantime..”

How have offers and/or rejections impacted your daily work?

“The rejections made me feel like the people who were bullying me were right about me. The offer (and new job) made my low self esteem more apparent and that’s impacting me daily.”

“Yes – the offer I received buoyed me up tremendously! It has affirmed that I *am* a good, capable, important worker…”

“The rejections are hard, but getting an offer and not being able to take it because of COVID concerns (moving out of state during nonessential travel ban) has been soul-crushing. Now I have even less motivation at work than before or to find a new job. I’m concerned another will never come around.”

How have the offers and/or rejections impacted your perceptions of the library profession?

“I was amazed at how many places are currently recruiting for someone in my position. I’m still being headhunted right now. In a way it makes me more worried about leaving – that I may not be able to live up to what I look like on paper.”

“I’m okay with the offers and even the rejections, but being “ghosted” by two systems feels demoralizing and dehumanizing.”

“Mostly I just think the problem lies with me, not LIS.”

Considering your job hunt activities (or desire to begin looking for a new job), how has your low-morale experience affected your perceptions of career mobility?

“The pandemic has certainly made things feel less mobile, and, it feels more risky to take a new job if seniority matters for layoffs. The pandemic, like all crises, has also laid bare values, competencies, and priorities, which makes career mobility feel very serious: in some cases, potentially life-threatening. That is, I have to leave this job or it could be injurious to my body and/or mind.”

“I’m thinking about leaving the field before I even use my degree.”

“Sometimes I look for jobs but I wonder if being at the institution I am currently has stunted my growth and therefore now limiting my opportunity to advance. I think maybe I need to try harder where I’m at but then the cycle repeats itself. I was a new librarian and I missed the opportunity for mentorship and now I’m scared to be stuck in limbo..”

Feel free to share other concerns, advice, or ideas about job hunting during low-morale experiences.

“In other low morale times, sometimes just browsing job openings has been enough to make me step back and appreciate what I have.”

Trying to resist the temptation to take anything else just to get out of here. I’ve been taking the time to talk to staff at other institutions to avoid potential red flags.”

“I’ve spent a LONG time now in a toxic, low-morale setting and I worry that I won’t find anything better, but I also worry that if I *do* find something better, I’ve learned a lot of bad coping habits from current situation.”

My biggest concern is recovering from my burn out. I do not want to bring it into a new position and I believe finding the energy to be enthusiastic in an interview as well as in a new job would be hard. I am not a visibly excited person, so forcing it has been extra hard.”

The survey remains open. I will periodically publish updates. 

CClicense

Four Years Up

It’s Renewals’ four-year anniversary (yesterday also marked the four-year anniversary of Renewers – Renewals’ connected Facebook community, and the second-year anniversary of Renewals’ Twitter and Instagram accounts).  This update also finds us heading into a third year of the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, Renewals’ communities have grown, its mission has been clarified, research has been published, and new data collection projects, continuing education efforts, and the identification of targeted services have developed during the past year. 

Renewers, the online Facebook community, now has over 1,500 members, (Twitter: 1,221; Instagram: 620). In August of 2021, the Renewals website was redesigned to highlight its mission and values:

  • Mission: Renewals reconnects people and organizations to their purpose, creates empathetic strategies, and centers positive and wholehearted outcomes for the long-term improvement, integrity, and humanity of our workplaces.
  • Values: Empathy  & Compassion; Authenticity & Self-Respect; Courage & Dignity; and Creativity & Well-Being.

The website redesign also clarified facilitation opportunities available through Renewals (The Renewal Presentation, Colloquium, Seminar, and Workshop).

Soon after last year’s update, I learned that my public librarian low morale study was was named winner of the 2020 Partnership Article Award for its “originality, relevance and timeliness to the profession, contribution and impact on the profession, and quality.” New research was also published – the Leaving Low Morale study I referenced in last year’s update was published in Alki in July 2021. While I’ve completed data collection and began data analysis for my formal leader study, I’m currently in epoché, and I anticipate reintegration of the data by the end of the year. In the meantime, I shared some of my thoughts and findings on an episode of Library Leadership Podcast. While working on these formal studies, I’ve also continued gathering and reporting data on various aspects of low-morale experiences. This year I added two projects: 

Since the formal U.S. Federal Government’s acknowledgement of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I’ve been tracking how library organizations’ responses to the Pandemic have impacted ongoing low-morale experiences. The survey remains open, and I’ve presented results and/or discussed mental and physical impacts in a variety of venues or platforms, including:

Also, I’ve been asked to discuss these studies and associated countermeasures, especially as we enter the third year of the Pandemic: in May 2021, I was interviewed by Dr. Nicole A Cooke as a guest for The Skillset Podcast for a series on Collective Care. Associated with this topic, I also participated in a Association of Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) conference presentation.

During this fourth year, I led several Renewal professional development/facilitation events: 

I also shared general research data at ALA CORE and the 2021 NCLA/SELA Conference. I’m slated to present several Renewals events in 2022, so please follow this blog for updates.

My data has been very clear in showing that people who face low morale are seeking career clarity and/or support as they navigate within or transition from dysfunctional workplaces. To that end, in late January I formally launched career services for this unique group of workers. Click the following links to learn more. 

I increasingly look forward to expanding my research and support tools in these areas, and as always, I will continue to improve. Please look forward to it.

As a final note, I’d like to share that March 21 is not only the anniversary of Renewals – it is also my maternal grandmother – Lillian (Dennis) Delaney Edney’s – birthday. She passed away earlier this year, and this post is dedicated to her life, her support and guidance of my education, her modeling of the points of my ongoing mission, and her love and care.

In addition to this blog, you are welcome to keep up with my speaking engagements and other work here.

All Best,

RenewBlogSigTrans

CClicense

Report Update: Job-Hunting during Low-Morale Experiences – Part 1 (March 2022)

Since December 2019, I’ve been collecting data about job hunting during low-morale experiences. The project explores how people who are contending with negative impacts of workplace abuse and neglect navigate job-seeking processes.  While this survey sparked my now published study on leaving low-morale experiences, I am continuing the survey. You can see the initial report and a report from Spring 2021  (be sure to follow the “Part 2” links to both reports, as well). This post shares the latest information from this effort.

Here are the quantitative results of the report, which reflects 185 responses (up from 153 in 2021):

  • 96% are currently experiencing workplace abuse/neglect (low morale);
  • 41% indicate their low-morale experience has lasted between 1 -3 years;
  • 65% are currently looking for a new job as a result of their low-morale experience;
  • 82% are searching for work in other libraries;
  • Those who haven’t yet started looking note the following concerns:
    • 84%: presence of workplace dysfunction or low morale at potential workplaces
    • 70% : salary
    • 64%: labor of job searching (e.g., writing cover letters, updating resumes, gathering references, etc.)
    • 55%: relocation
    • 51%: distance (commute)
  • Of those who have been looking for work, 70% have had between 0 and 3 interviews.

Part 2 shares qualitative results. This survey remains open, so please participate if you are dealing with low morale and have started seeking new employment.

I will continue reporting results periodically.  If you’re considering a transition from a toxic or dysfunctional workplace, consider Renewals’ Career Services.

CClicense

Renewals Reach: Stress measures for tenure track librarians

Cameron, Pierce, and Conroy’s study centers tenure-track academic librarians and measures work-stress levels and connections to organizational support systems. The report validates links between lack of support and employee stress, and offers an interesting finding regarding connections between professional confidence and stress. Their work cites the 2017 low morale study.

Access the article (possible paywall).

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. 

4534701ba43b0019dfb2464dc6e3835a

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!

CClicense

Report Update: How Deauthentication Impacts BIPOC Academic Librarians’ Library Practice (February 2022)

This report offers an update of the qualitative data in my open survey focusing on the impact factor of deauthentication,“a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients.” (Kendrick 2018). 

Please consider participating in the survey;  and review the original report of this qualitative data.

The following selected qualitative data are responses to the one of the survey’s last questions, “How has deauthentication affected your library practice?” 

  • “I’d honestly have to process this further. I checked nearly every box and I’m wondering who I am at work. I do know it’s stifling. Like a straight jacket. It’s a self imposed reduction of my own voice.”
  • “Deauthentication has increased my personal stress working in libraries. Having to consider how my presentation is read by colleagues and patrons adds extra work to my already busy portfolio.”
  • “Not as confident in self/workplace decison making. Not as easy to create bonds with coworkers, feel left out. I refuse to change clothing habits–cultural norm at workplace is pants and flats. I prefer dresses and heels and have heard rumblings of others thoughts which make me self conscious. Its even worse when managers send someone else home to change clothes for an occasion instead of asking someone already prepared.”
  • “I am more deliberate with how I communicate with everyone. Being a black woman I don’t want to be perceived like I am angry so I feel like my range of emotion has to be limited. More aware of just being especially around faculty members.”
  • “I’ve reduced my conversations on racial diversity. Too many eye rolling and sighs.”
  • “Feelings of being stifled and unable to have critical conversations around race and racism without social recuperation. Also constantly questioning my place here, the work that I do, and if I fit in and is actually contributing to the mission and vision.”
  • “I don’t feel like I’m truly myself which in turn doesn’t make me authentic for my students.”
  • Less engagement, purely work related discussion. I would not share anything outside of my work life. I’m constantly worrying about worse discrimination – Yes. That happened. The world is filled with educated people that do not behave like human. I had to do that just to protect myself.”
  • “It has allowed me consider moving the peg up a notch in my career goals since it gets my foot in the door academically. Then my hope is to work the system enough to make a change in the treatment of POC in library and information practices.”

In these commentary, we see nods to the additional enabling systems that BIPOC employees deal with as they face low morale in their library workplaces, including Diversity Rhetoric, Whiteness, and White Supremacy. Read more about these additional Enabling Systems.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR

CClicense