Red Flag: Resilience Narratives

Resilience narratives place individuals in charge of filling in or taking responsibility for system failures (Berg, Galvan, & Tewell 2018). People who are faced with such narratives often hear colloquialisms like “do more with less,” or, upon sharing their workplace concerns about lack of resources or support, are admonished to have “grit.” When resilience narratives are enacted on low morale victims, they often (are made to) feel guilty for asking for support or their requests for assistance may be weaponized against them. Resilience narrative data show up in all of my low morale studies, as indicated below (Note: for public librarians dealing with low morale, resilience narrative exposure is elevated to an impact factorsee study).

“[I]t was our new chief academic officer. You know, the one saying, ‘if the student assistants don’t make enough progress at the end of the day, then you all are expected to stay however late you need to into the night and make sure that daily quota is met,’ and that, to me was just like…you know, this is not, you know – I don’t know, it made me think of the movie Norma Rae [Laughs], you know, where you have these workers who are just treated like property, without any consideration for their well-being, because you just want the work done, you know – and since you want it done, it’s going to be done, regardless of the cost. Certainly not what I think the environment in higher education is supposed to be – the work environment.”Low Morale in Academic Librarians study participant (administrator), circa 2016

“…[W]e went through the whole search process and then they cut it and expected us to be open 24 hours with student workers. Unsupervised student workers… We had to start immediately ‘how are we going to do these hours.’ We had to hire new students and train them, and so it sort of put us into sort of like, panic mode – like, we’ve got to put out this fire because we need to hire someone last week to get them trained to do this in a couple of days, you know? So it kind of put where we almost didn’t have time to react because we had to hit the ground running, you know? Like, we were so busy, too, trying to compensate for it, that we that we had to hit the ground running.”Low Morale in Academic Librarians study participant (media information services), circa 2016

“The problem is that administration doesn’t support it. Like they support us but we have to ban these, the people. We ban them from the library but then what administration does is they’re like, ‘Well, you know, maybe you shouldn’t have banned them for this amount of time. You know. What did you do differently?’ I was like, ‘I was called a [expletive], what did you expect me to do?’ You know?”Low Morale in Public Librarians study participant (Spanish outreach services), circa 2019

Works Cited

Berg, J., Galvan, A, & Tewell, E. (2018). Responding to and reimagining resilience in academic librariesJournal of New Librarianship, 3(1): 1- 4.


Report: The Renewal Colloquium for Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (December 2021)

Two weeks ago, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) held their Continuing Education Forum and invited me to lead a  Renewal Colloquium. Just under 50 were in attendance at the event, which was held virtually. 

This reports shares some attendee data generated from the event’s pre-work activities, along with some data from the session’s evaluation survey.

Pre-Colloquium Questionnaire Highlights

  • Library Type
    • 62% Other
  • Represented areas of practice
    • 56% Other
  • Career length
    • 66% 10 years or more
  • Topic Interest
    • 26% Emerging countermeasures and best practices to reduce/interrupt low morale
    • 24% Identifying and cultivating positive leadership styles

Goals for attending the Colloquium

  • “Understanding and communicating strategies to mitigate low morale.”
  • “[L]earning to ‘press pause’.”
  • “How low morale impacts an organizations, and what leaders at all levels can do to counteract and correct”
  • “I want to get closer to understanding how to properly address issues with burnout and resilience culture with supervisors and how to facilitate actual organizational change concerning these issues, because as a librarian with multiple invisible disabilities, this is a subject very near and dear to me.”
  • “How to support/encourage teammates suffering from low morale and/or burnout.”

 Low-Morale Experience Survey Highlights 

  • Have you experienced low morale?
    • 75% Yes
  • Length of low-morale experience
    • 35% More than three years
  • Perpetrators of abuse
    • 32%  Library supervisors or managers; 27% Library supervisors or managers
  • Types of workplace abuse experienced:
    • 34% Emotional; 30% Verbal/written
  • Feelings experienced during low morale:
    • 15% Frustration
  • What contributed to low-morale experience?
    • 12% Uncertainty & Mistrust; 10% Leadership Styles
  • Behaviors noted/considered:
    • TIE: 17% A desire to change careers; Decreased professional engagement; Decreased work productivity
    • 16% Decreased willingness to collaborate.

Colloquium Evaluation Report Highlights

Things learned or more clearly defined:

“The concepts of legacy toxicity and crossfire were a little unclear to me prior to this, but the Colloquium really made me understand them and how I’d been affected by them or seen them in action before.”

“Being able to more clearly define toxic leadership characteristics. Thank you so much.”

”The information that Kaetrena shared on the low-morale of library administrators was extremely informative and helpful. The information about the various impact factors was new to me and provides me with a better understanding of what library administrators are experiencing.”

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

“I think this is going to impact me both as a leader and as part of the staff responding to leadership, actually, but the encouragement on setting boundaries really hit home, not just as an employee but setting boundaries as a leader and thus leading by example. Developing a more equitable and supportive work culture has to start somewhere, and refusing to lay down the expectation that people can and should do more with less is something that I want to take with me.

“It helps me to consider past trauma that people might be arriving with, and to show up with compassion and understanding.”

“It will allow me to better understand my leadership style and shortcomings I may not have noticed before.”

Recovery plans (personally or at work):

“I think the most helpful were the tips on assertive communication and boundaries. One of the aha moments for me was when you spoke about how we know when our boundaries have been crossed. We feel uncomfortable, we have internal dialogue. Wow! How come no one has ever told me this before! (and how come I’ve never put that together?) I’ve been working on trying to let people know my boundaries for at least a decade, and I think this is the most helpful advice I’ve been given about the topic. It makes perfect sense to recognize it and then talk about it.

“I just came from a terrible situation. I am only a [bit] into this new position and I clearly need to pay closer attention to what I am carrying with me from that experience.

“Thankfully, I am in a good place right now. But this training definitely made me think back to previous experiences and how they could have gone differently.”

Topics recommended for discussion/consideration:

“Would have liked more time for the info at the end about solutions beyond self-care. So much good information about collaborative care, self-preservation, empathy.”

“The idea of FAIRNESS, as an “essential” worker during covid -I had to be in the building – while others are at home, ESPECIALLY seeing large private offices empty, (when management could open a window and close their door and still work safely in the building.)”

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


Published Low Morale Studies

This post reflects a record of the published studies I’ve done on low-morale experiences. It will be updated as studies are published, so bookmark this post if you’re following my research agenda on this phenomenon.

Kendrick, K.D. (2021). Leaving the low-morale experience: A qualitative study. Alki, 37(2): 9-24.

Kendrick, K.D. (2021). The public librarian low-morale experience: A qualitative study. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice and Research/Revue canadienne de la practique et le recherché en bibliothequèconomie et science de l’information, 15(2): 1-32.

Kendrick, K.D. & Damasco, I.T. (2019). Low morale in ethnic and racial minority academic librarians: An experiential study. Library Trends,68(2): 174-212.

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

Recorded: Library Leadership Podcast (November 2021)

Library Leadership Podcast host Adriane Juarez recently invited me to discuss my low-morale studies and how they can inform formal library leaders who want to improve their organization’s cultures, as well as some impact factors that may be influencing their own experiences.

Listen to the episode.

Book Haul: Leadership

When it comes to the causes of low-morale, leadership is cited as a high quantitative and qualitative trigger. Quantitatively, participants highlight incompetent leaders as the problem; qualitatatively, participants highlight certain leadership styles as the problem.

On the other hand, leadership is also a countermeasure for low-morale; those who practice it are more likely to regain a sense of equilibrium or control as they work to mitigate or resolve the experience.  The following short list centers various aspects of leadership – and you don’t have to wait to become a formal leader to apply what resonates with you. What books do you want to share to this list?

Brown, B. (2019). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole heartsRandom House.

Hamill, P. (2013). Embodied leadership: The somatic approach to developing your leadership. London: KoganPage.

Haskins, G., Thomas, M., & Johri, L.M. (2018). Kindness in leadershipLondon: Routledge.

Kethledge, R.M. & Irwin, M.S. (2019). Lead yourself first. London: Bloomsbury.

Roberts, L.M. (2019). Race, work, and leadership: New perspectives on the Black experience. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Sinek, S. (2019). Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t New York: Penguin.

Stanier, M.B. (2016). The coaching habit: Say less, ask more & change the way you lead forever. Toronto: Box of Crayons Press.

van Dernoot, L. & Burk, C. (2009). Trauma stewardship: an everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Whitaker, T. (2012). Shifting the monkey: The art of protecting good people from liars, criers, and other workplace slackers. Triple Nickel Press: Bloomington.


Reserved: The Renewal Colloquium @ Chief Officers of Library State Agencies (December 2021)

On Tuesday, December 7, I’ll be leading The Renewal Colloquium for Formal Libary Leaders at the Chief Officers of Library State Agencies’ (COSLA) Continuing Education Forum.

COSLA is an independent organization of administrative leaders of state and territorial libraries (or the entity responsible for library development in those states/territories). Learn more about COSLA.

Report: The Renewal Colloquium for Amigos Library Services (November 2021)

About three months ago, I led a Renewal Presentation for Amigos Library Services, and I was invited back to offer a Renewal Colloquium. The Colloquium event was held virtually on November 1. 

This reports shares some attendee data generated from the event’s pre-work activities.

Pre-Colloquium Questionnaire Highlights

  • Library Type
    • 67% Public library
  • Represented areas of practice
    • 25% Reference & Instruction
  • Career length
    • 57% 10 years or more
  • Topic Interest
    • 37% Emerging countermeasures and best practices to reduce/interrupt low morale

Goals for attending the Colloquium

  • “Understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to low moral and how to improve morale in the workplace.”
  • “I hope to build empathy for my colleagues and learn proven strategies to help myself, my department, and the library with morale issues.”
  • Learn how aspects of low morale affect an employee’s behavior and performance at work.”
  • “Increase awareness..”

 Low-Morale Experience Survey Highlights 

  • Have you experienced low morale?
    • 62% Yes
  • Length of low-morale experience
    • 67% 1 – 3 years
  • Perpetrators of abuse
    • 27%  Library administrators; 29% Library supervisors or managers
  • Types of workplace abuse experienced:
    • 33% Emotional; 29% Negligence
  • Feelings experienced during low morale:
    • 16% Frustration
  • What contributed to low-morale experience?
    • 20% Leadership Styles; 18% Uncertainty & Mistrust; 14% Staffing & Employment
  • Behaviors noted/considered:
    • TIE: 20% Decreased work productivity; Decreased professional engagement; 
    • 17% A desire to change careers.

Colloquium Evaluation Report Highlights

Things learned or more clearly defined:

“Librarians experiencing low morale are grieving the librarianship practice they thought they would have/were having.”

“I appreciated learning about mitigation techniques for low morale.”

”“I very much appreciate that you shared the terminology or labels and definitions of so many conditions we may have experienced. For instance, vocational awe, resilience narrative, legacy toxicity, etc. Although some may know what these mean, not all of us do. But I bet ALL of us can relate in some way to the term once it is understood…”

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

I would like to think I’ll be more likely to set boundaries, and also bring awareness to my colleagues.”

“I have some legacy toxicity in my department. I will look into empathetic/trauma-informed leadership.”

“I plan to share what I learned with colleagues at work and will practice them in my job and volunteer work.”

Recovery plans (personally or at work):

I will take this statement very seriously in the future: “Grieve and leave; you cannot heal where you were harmed.”

“I have experienced [low morale] in the past and chosen to leave those jobs. I think this session has reminded me to speak up and to get clarity when these issues arise.”

Topics recommended for discussion/consideration:

“Specific techniques/examples for practicing moral courage.”

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


Renewals Reach: Library bureaucracy and Critical Race Theory

Nataraj, Hampton, Matlin, and Meulemans discuss cites librarianship as bureaucracy and its overreliance on traditionally structured work practices, which are perceived as neutral but instead reinforce the Whiteness of the LIS field. The authors apply Critical Race Theory (CRT) to surface how bureaucratic practices negatively impact Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who work in library workplaces, and they mention the concept of deauthentication, which I first shared in a blog post as an emerging data point in my BIPOC academic librarian study (it was solidified and included in the 2019 published article [possible paywall]). Read their article

Report Update: Low Morale and COVID-19, Part 2 (November 2021)

This is the second of a two-part report summarizing November 2, 2021 results of my ongoing survey on the impact of COVID-19 on ongoing low-morale experiences. This second part centers qualitative data. Please view the first part focusing on quantitative data.

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

These past few weeks have been yet another example of a total lack of support for library workers at my place of work. The needs of employees are only being considered on an individual basis instead of systemically, and some library workers (for example, circulation staff) are being asked to sacrifice their own well-being for some kind of imagined public “good.” Those workers who fall into higher risk categories are subject to additional monitoring and policing beyond anything experienced in previously in the workplace, and are feeling targeted for prioritizing their own health during a global pandemic. The needs of faculty and students are being treated as much more important than the needs of anyone working at the library, and suggesting a different approach that respects all employees seems to be considered heretical.

We are the only library open within a 30 mile radius. All schools are closed, and we have people crossing state lines to come in. It’s impossible to keep social distance. Our director hasn’t given us any indication that we will close. We are stressed and concerned and no one is checking on us.

The HR manager was the abuser. She did not help the library navigate the CDC recommendations, but instead, forced her anti-mask opinions on us, and then got abusive when we disagreed with her. The library users were in some ways more respectful toward staff than before the pandemic (no vandalism or theft), but were more uncivil with an onslaught of uninformed opinions about masks, the virus, race, politics, etc. We had one patron whom after being informed of our mask policy, left a rude message in a Word document on one of the public computers, claimed she was kicked out of the library (which she was not), and then posted it on social media and disparaged the library in political circles. And, just remembered, one Library Administrator called a staff member insane when the staff member was clearly having tremendous stress about letting people back in the building.

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

There is extreme uncertainly among staff members – many questioning if they want to stay in the field, or return to work, It’s so sad. Our ability to stay in contact has been officially curtailed because our institution-wide email was discontinued. (Uncertainty & Mistrust)

My library’s dean has required every library personnel to develop a telecommuting plan, neglecting that such things do not comply with library faculty’s collective bargaining agreement. She has continually crossed over this HR boundary regarding library faculty work. (Leadership Styles; Human Resources Limitations)

The President of our university has spoken in virtual town hall meetings (all faculty and staff invited) about keeping the library open through this crisis. She has said that library staff may need “help” and has asked for other university staff to step up and volunteer to help staff the library. This is upsetting on two levels: 1) She is missing the point. We are not asking for help in doing our jobs; we are asking for permission to do our jobs remotely like most everyone else on campus. 2) This request speaks to her ignorance of the role of librarians. We do much more than sit at a desk and check out items to patrons. (Leadership; Librarian Perceptions)


Report Update: Low Morale and COVID-19, Part 1 (November 2021)

The following report reflects my goal to continue sharing data from my ongoing survey exploring how COVID-19 has impacted library employees who were already dealing with low-morale before the development of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. My last general quantitative and qualitative reports were offered in September 2020.

Here are the quantitative results as of November 2, 2021 (review qualitative results):


  • 82% are female; 9% male; 7% non-binary/third-gender; 2% prefer not to say
  • 75% are Caucasian; 9% are Hispanic/Latino; 7% are African American; 7% Asian/Pacific-Islander; 4% Multi-racial; 1% Native American/Indigenous; 3% prefer not to say
  • 35% are experienced librarians/archivists; 34% are new librarians/archivists; 31% are mid-career librarians/archivists
  • 48% work in public libraries; 40% work in academic libraries; 2% work in special libraries
  • The most common ways participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include*:
    • Administrators have canceled all library programs and/or events (52%)
    • Administrators have reduced library hours (51%)
    • Campus has stopped face-to-face classes and moved to online courses (47%)
    • Administrators have reduced or curtailed in-person library services (46%)
    • Administrators have stopped all in-person services (38%)
    • Administrators have reduced in-person staffing (33%)
  • The lowest quantitative responses to how participants’ libraries have responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic include:
    • Administrators have added or expanded in-person services (9%)
    • Administrators have expanded library hours (6%)
    • Administrators have added library staff (2%)
  • A majority of participants have experienced increases in:
    • Negligence (80%)
    • System abuse (62%)
  • Participants indicate the abusers are:
    • Library administrators (77%)
    • Supervisors/managers (47%)
  • Enabling Systems most often encountered by this group include:
    • Uncertainty & Mistrust (80%)
    • Leadership (71%)
    • Staffing & Employment (61%)
    • Human Resources Limitations (54%)
    • Librarian/LIS Perceptions (43%)
  • 45% 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.
  • 79% 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) – 80%
    • 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) – 79%
    • Vocational awe (the weaponization of LIS values/library value or librarian stereotypes/identity; job creep, mission creep – Ettarh, 2017, 2018) – 72%
    • Job Precarity (“contractual, ambiguous, insecure, unprotected, and poorly paid labor/work/employment.” – Brons, Riley, Yin, & Henninger, 2018) – 50%

*Check out Lisa Hinchliffe’s work tracking COVID-19 academic library closures.

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

Brons, A., Riley, C., Yin, C., & Henninger, E. (2018). Catalog cards from the edge: Precarity in libraries. Presented at the British Columbia Library Conference. Retrieved from

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

Maslach, C. (1982). Burnout: The cost of caring. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.