The Causes and Consequences of Low Morale Amongst Public Librarians


  • Andrea Miller-Nesbitt McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada



A Review of:
Kendrick, K. D. (2020). The public librarian low-morale experience: A qualitative study. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 15(2), 1-32.

Objective – To understand if, how, and within what parameters, librarians working in public libraries experience low morale.

Design – Semi-structured interview, phenomenology

Setting – Public libraries in Canada and the United States

Subjects – Participants (N = 20) were credentialed librarians who worked or had worked in a public library, and who experienced low morale due to their work. 

Methods – Invitations were distributed to 10 electronic mailing lists. Purposive sampling was used to select the participants -- they represented librarians with a range of experience, working within a variety of specialties. The researcher received informed consent and the participants completed a short survey in order to collect demographic data before taking part in semi-structured interviews. The interviews were transcribed and coded, after which data were analyzed and thematic clusters identified. 

Main results – Various types of abuse, either performed by library users (ex. physical and verbal abuse), or by colleagues/managers/administrators (ex. emotional abuse, system abuse, and negligence) were revealed to cause low morale in public librarians. Data show that the participants' responses to the abuse influenced their affective, cognitive, and physiological well-being, as well as professional expectations and trajectories. This study identified three low morale impact factors and seven enabling systems that were unique to public librarians when compared to academic librarians. The unique impact factors are: personal safety, resilience narratives, and social contexts. The enabling systems are: organizational structure, library workplace culture, on-demand relocation, policies, training, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), and politics. 

Conclusion – This study builds on the literature and provides additional evidence on the prevalence of low morale in LIS workplaces. The data show that there are similarities in the causes and consequences of low morale in the workplace amongst public librarians and their academic counterparts. Understaffing, mission creep, and working with underserved and marginalized communities all play a part in the morale of public librarians. Low morale negatively affects public librarians’ mental and physical health, as well as their professional outlook and trajectory. The author makes a case for comprehensive leadership training for public library management, as well as the presence of people with different expertise (such as social workers and first responders) in public libraries. Additionally, the author suggests the need for further research on topics that came up in this study.


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How to Cite

Miller-Nesbitt, A. (2022). The Causes and Consequences of Low Morale Amongst Public Librarians. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 17(4), 167–169.



Evidence Summaries