Renewals Reach: Staff moods in European libraries

In his article, “Einige Anmerkungen zur Stimmung des Personals am Arbeitsplatz Bibliothek” (“Some comments on the staff mood in the library workplace”), Dr. Karsten Schuldt, a researcher at the Swiss Institute for Information Science (HTW Chur),  summarized three scenarios that cause negative moods to develop in library employees:

  1. Denial of workplace issues or access/employee problems by library managers or administrators; 
  2. No access to professional development; no channels for advancement/promotion; and/or
  3. No hope that poor situations will improve; people don’t know the real problems of working with too little staff or resources; the library “looks” ok so it must be “ok.”

Read more here (the original article is in German, and I think the Google Translate service does a decent job converting the article to English.)

 

Finished. And Ready to Begin.

The official last day of my Library Juice Academy course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries,” was yesterday.  In the next few days, I’ll be reviewing last assignments and computing final “grades” (it’s a Pass/Fail course). I’m reading my students’ final responses and I am so very happy for them – they’ve learned a great deal about their experience, themselves, and their power and capability for positive change. 

I’m taking this space to thank Library Juice Academy for allowing me a platform to host this course. I also want to share how very proud I am of the course. My pride comes from how the students have used and applied my content by taking it much, much further than I ever could have dreamed. Their discoveries, their perspectives, their decisions, their actions, and their plans for the future where reducing low morale is concerned make me so excited for the positive cultural shifts that will come to our workplaces soon. 

I am so grateful they allowed me to be their guide.

In the coming weeks, I will share data and other items generated or curated by the class community. 

It is my hope that the course — which will improve not only as a matter of its first trial, but as a result of the feedback of my inaugural roster — will be offered again. When it is, I will also announce it via Renewals. I hope you will join me then.

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Launching Soon: A New Low Morale Study

My next study – focusing on the low morale experiences of North American employees working in corporations and nonprofit organizations – has been approved by my Institutional Review Board. 

The participant invitation will be available soon – watch this blog for more details.

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Renewals Reach: DLF Working Group on Library Labor Value

The Digital Libraries Federation (DLF) has a Working Group (WG) on Labor in Digital Libraries, Archives, and Museums. The WG’s sub-group, Valuing Labor, met in Fall of 2017 and discussed several aspects of their charge, including 

  • faculty status of librarians,
  • Workplace climate tools,
  • Student employees,
  • Impacts of strategic planning on employees, and 
  • Labor right-sizing

The 2017 low morale study was cited as a resource for the group’s work. Review the meeting notes.

Report: Low-Morale Experience Assessment Survey (October 2018)

I am in the third week of my Library Juice Academy course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries.” I asked students enrolled in the course to participate in a quick Low-Morale Experience Assessment survey, just so we could get a quick gauge on what the landscape is.

Course attendees agreed I could share the anonymous results. There are thirteen folks enrolled in the class, and the survey reflects the responses of ten participants. Survey participation was optional.

  • 90% agree they have experienced low-morale according to the 2017 Kendrick study definition.
  • 40% indicate their low morale experience is occurring in their current workplace.
  • There is a tie on length of respondents’ low-morale experiences: 40% indicate more than three years; another 40% indicate one to three years.
  • 80% indicate that the perpetrators are library colleagues (60% indicate library administrators; 60% indicate library supervisors or managers).
  • 90% indicate they experience(d) verbal/written abuse; emotional abuse is at 80%; negligence is at 80%; systemic is at 60%.
  • Uncertainty & Mistrust (90%), Leadership Styles (90%), Staffing/Employment (80%), and Library/Librarian Perceptions (60%) are major contributors to the LME.
  • 100% of respondents indicate feelings of anger; 80% of respondents indicate Disillusion and Sadness; 70% indicate Worried; 60% indicate Depression, Skepticism, and Despair.
  • 60% have developed physical health conditions as result of the LME, including hypertension, shingles, headaches/migraines, and various muscle aches and pains.
  • 50% have developed mental health conditions as a result of the LME, including anxiety and (increased) depression.
  • 80% have noticed/experienced a decrease in work productivity; a three-way tie of 70% of participants have also noticed/experienced decreases in professional engagement, increased procrastination, and a desire to change careers. 60% have noticed/experienced a decreased willingness to collaborate; and 50% have noticed/experienced increased lateness (to work).

These results give a useful snapshot of the low-morale experience as perceived by colleagues currently dealing with this phenomenon. Thanks to them for offering and agreeing to share this data.

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Report: Strategies for Reducing/Resolving Low Morale

Around the same time I began collecting data for the Low Morale Spot-Check survey, I also created another survey to ask people who have dealt with low morale to share their strategies for reducing the occurrence of low morale or its effects.  In short, this survey takes a closer look at how people engage in mitigation methods.

As a reminder, mitigation methods are conscious and deliberate behaviors low-morale victims perform to reduce or resolve their experience. These actions directly affect workplace abusers and/or address enabling systems of low morale (Kendrick 2017).

It’s taken a while to gather a decent bit of feedback – after almost eight months of collection, I’ve received 30 responses. Here are the results at press time:

  • 93% of respondents have experienced low morale
  • 78% have experienced emotional abuse
  • 75% have experienced negligence
  • 75% have experienced system abuse
  • 71% have experienced verbal or written abuse
  • 63% have engaged in mitigation methods

Mitigation methods were highly individualized but can be broadly categorized: 

  • Using formal reporting channels or reporting up the formal chain-of-command
  • Documenting abuses
  • Confronting the abuser(s) directly
  • Finding another job
  • Creating connections with other departments in the library or on campus
  • Taking specific offered training or using techniques shared in trainings
    • Emotional Intelligence
    • Diversity,
    •  Interpersonal communication
  • Consulting resources to create or implement communication or behavior tactics

I also asked what factors/outcomes made their mitigation method(s) successful. Some responses:

A person who is documenting abusive behavior shared, “I feel empowered having the evidence I need to make my situation better. Other staff are doing the same, so collectively we will have a body of information to bring to the table. It still feels awful when you’re being abused, but I know it won’t be forever.”

Another person who involved Human Resources noted, “I think involving HR with each incident helped my co-worker understand that, while everyone else (including our director) may tolerate her behavior–I would not. She stopped losing her temper around me, but it did continue with other co-workers. In the long term, I think my standing up to her helped far more than I ever anticipated…”

The survey remains open if you’d like participate. Periodically, I’ll share updates or thoughts and ideas as more responses come in.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

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Renewals Reach: Wellness Models for Librarians of Color

Earlier this year, Amanda Leftwich presented a short talk at the PoCinLIS Summit at Loyola Marymount University. Her presentation summarizes the six dimensions of wellness, barriers to workplace wellness for people of color (particularly women), and offers a new model for PoC Librarians to respond to such barriers.

View the presentation

Report Update: Academic Library Low Morale Spot-Check Survey Results (August 2018)

Earlier this year I shared the initial results of my quick survey on low-morale concerns and experiences. The goal of the survey is to keep on-the-pulse on what’s going on with people who are currently experiencing low morale, and to offer people a place to share anonymously their immediate concerns about their low-morale experience or offer feedback about the study.

In the time since I first shared results, I’ve presented the low-morale study at the Azalea Coast Library Conference (Wilmington, NC) and the British Columbia Library Association Conference (Vancouver, BC, Canada). I’ve also presented two webinars (North Carolina Library Association and Georgia Library Association).  In October, I’ll be teaching a course to help aid in low morale recovery. 

As a reminder, my study defines low morale as the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or negligence in the workplace (Kendrick 2017).

The following results reflect 95 responses (up from the original 56 responses in March 2018). 

  1. 99% of respondents have witnessed or experienced low morale in academic environments.
  2. 52% of respondents are “front-line” employees (i.e., not supervisors, managers, department heads, or administrators); 21% are managers; 7 % are administrators.
  3. 81% of respondents indicate that their current workplace has low-morale issues.

Broad issues and causes of low morale were indicated. They include the issues from the last update, and there are upticks in reports of:

  • Authoritarian/toxic leadership and associated behaviors, including sabotage, information hoarding, lying, and favoritism
  • Cultural shifts in the library, including generation gaps and changing job roles and associated expectations
  • Administrative negligence from campus officials
  • Verbal abuse, including fighting and combative behavior
  • Poor staffing or the use of poor staffing as a weapon (including inequities in staffing due to status; e.g. scheduling part-time employees on “undesired” duties more than full-time employees).

The survey remains open if you’d like participate. Periodically, I’ll share updates or thoughts and ideas as more responses come in.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

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Enabling Systems of Low Morale in PoC Academic Librarians

[This content was originally published on July 2, 2018 at The Ink On The Page.]

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If you’re following this blog – or my work in general – you’re aware that I’m currently working on data analysis for my PoC Low Morale study.  After I closed the interview phase, I asked my colleague (and friend) Ione Damasco to join me on this project. 

During the past few months, we’ve been working intensely: reading, re-reading and coding swaths of qualitative data from over a dozen racial and/or ethnic minority librarians working in North American academic libraries.  

We have learned that our results will not change the trajectory of low morale – instead, what is markedly different are the number of Enabling Systems of the experience for this group of LIS professionals. 

The original Enabling Systems (ES) of the low-morale experience (which also affect PoC librarians) are:

  • Uncertainty & Mistrust
  • Leadership
  • Faculty Status/Tenure & Promotion
  • Human Resources Limitations
  • Contagion
  • Staffing & Employment

The data show there are ten(!) more ES that affect this group in addition to the ones listed above. These ES are interconnected, and the five major systems span aspects of racism, Whiteness, diversity, work-life landscapes, and social psychology. You can learn more about the Diversity-related Enabling System here.

At this time, I think our paper will focus on reporting the major (and summarizing the minor) ES, along with associated physical, emotional, and/or career impacts and possibly, implications for recruitment and retention. 

We hope to submit the article for review by the end of this summer or in early fall. Please look forward to it.

[UPDATE 8/9/18: Further data analysis has shifted the number of ES from ten to seven. Some of what were previously analyzed as ES are now categorized as separate impact factors, and others were subsumed into broader ES. In the original study there are two other impact factors besides ES: Insidious Experience Development and Contagion. So, in short, not only are PoC Librarians dealing with additional ES; they are also contending with added other continua during the experience.

Additionally – because the voices of PoC librarians and their experiences are so often de-centered or devalued, we have decided to include a report of the low-morale experience for this group along with a report of all impact factors (including ES) results. The draft is long, but we believe it is imperative to share the commonality and differences of the low-morale experience for this group.

The draft of the results have been written and will be validated by study participants soon; we are on-course for a Fall 2018 draft submission to our editors. Let me know if you have any questions!

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