IRDL Elevator Speech


Main Text

Hi! Before I get started, I wanted to share an accessibility copy of my presentation if anyone wants to follow along, and I’ll also share a link to the text that first introduced me to the concept of accessibility copies if you want to learn more.

So, just to set the scene: welcome to the elevator! I didn’t know our university had so many presidents. Administrative bloat, amirite? Anyway, enough about you. Let’s talk about academic librarians.

Did you know…that a 2020 study by Barbara Wood and colleges found that librarians feel a greater sense of burnout than nurses, hospital doctors, and social workers—not that it’s a competition, or at least not one I’d wanna win.

Another study looked at job control, or an employee’s ability to influence their work, including controlling tasks or their environment, or having more hands-off supervision. They found that a lack of job control leads to more burnout across various occupations. Who would have thought?

In 2019, Jennifer Nardine found that, for academic liaison librarians, “lack of personal agency is the primary contributor to a sense of burnout.”

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but burnout’s bad! It’s not like trying to get to the bottom of that bacon-scented candle I got gifted last Christmas and celebrating victoriously as I tossed it out. Burnout has psychological and physical impacts on our bodies and is a significant predictor of a whole list of negative health outcomes. Imagine Martin Luther’s theses and then add on a CVS receipt.

But, this doesn’t only matter for academic librarians. If we’re thinking about instruction specifically, then burned out librarians likely aren’t designing and delivering the best instructional experiences for our students or pursuing innovative teaching methods with our faculty. If we think more broadly across all of the functions of the library and the people with whom librarians interact, the results could be disastrous: like the library ghost in Ghostbusters or Tammy 2 in Parks and Rec.

So, I’m just curious about job control among librarians, and specifically librarians with instruction responsibilities. When we teach, we’re often invited into other people’s classes, which I think might already lower feelings of control in those settings. Most importantly, I’m curious to know what we can do to increase job control for librarians to help reduce burnout. You might also consider throwing us raises and vacation days, but I digress.

Luckily, my friendly neighborhood psychologists have already done a bunch of the work for me, so I’ll be using an existing inventory to measure job control among librarians and see what factors, like having a union or tenure, impact job control while also comparing librarians’ job control generally with their job control when doing instruction.

Based on the survey, I’m planning to conduct follow-up interviews with librarians, focusing on librarians with very high or very low job control to start to better understand those significant factors and how to mitigate them. For example, job crafting, or redesigning our own jobs to increase job satisfaction, could reduce burnout, and it usually takes three forms: changing our job tasks, changing how we think of those tasks, or changing our relationships at work. But…how do our crafty instruction librarians do their crafting?

If we can find ways to improve librarians’ job control, maybe we can change our approach to library instruction, designing instruction programs, empowering librarians at work, and more!

Now you might be thinking: “how are they going to get this done in just a year?”” And you know…valid question. So, first I’m an Aries sun, Leo moon, Aquarius rising. What did you expect? Though, I guess you wouldn’t have known that about me before. But my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, and my wine order, and apparently my research project.

Over this next year, I’m planning to focus on the survey data collection, analysis, and reporting with the interviews to follow later. Heck, I love a kitchen sink, why not do another survey after that!!

Nice running into you!! Maybe you’ll have better luck getting them to speed up this elevator, so you don’t get stuck on here again with some stranger talking your ear off.


Accessibility copy for this presentation:

Post about accessibility copies:

Jokes that Didn’t Make It

How’d you all even fit in here? I guess I could have waited for the next one

The new gaslight, girlboss, gatekeep is just burned out, burned up, burned through.

To quote Gretchen Wieners, “okay, irregardless”

Now, you might be thinking: “how are they gonna get this done in a year?” And my answer would be, no idea! But, I bet my apartment will be wildly clean for the next year while I procrastinate!!


Jackson, P. R., Wall, T. D., Martin, R., & Davids, K. (1993). Job control measure.

Karasek, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24(2), 285–308.

Kristensen, T. S., Borritz, M., Villadsen, E., & Christensen, K. B. (2005). The Copenhagen Burnout Inventory: A new tool for the assessment of burnout. Work & stress19(3), 192-207.

Nardine, J. (2019). The state of academic liaison librarian burnout in ARL libraries in the United States. College & Research Libraries, 80(4).

Taris, T. W., Bakker, A. B., Schaufeli, W. B., Stoffelsen, J., & Van Dierendonck, D. (2005). Job control and burnout across occupations. Psychological Reports, 97(3), 955–961.

Wood, B. A., Guimaraes, A. B., Holm, C. E., Hayes, S. W., & Brooks, K. R. (2020). Academic librarian burnout: A survey using the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI). Journal of Library Administration60(5), 512-531.