Meaningful Work & Librarian Agency: Exploring Job Control Among Academic Instruction Librarians


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Job control, often referred to or thought of as autonomy, decision authority or latitude, freedom, or agency, encompasses a range of dimensions that reflect the extent to which employees have the freedom and discretion to make decisions about their work. Ganster (1989) defines control “as the ability to exert some influence over one’s environment so that the environment becomes more rewarding or less threatening.” Job control includes control over tasks, scheduling, work pacing, physical environment, resources, decision-making, interaction, and mobility. Feelings of job control impact employees’ job satisfaction, wellbeing (including feelings of burnout), and overall organizational outcomes.

In this presentation, I’ll share empirical evidence related to job control and burnout from a survey of 245 academic instruction librarians and interviews with 40 of those librarians who experienced either particularly high or particularly low job control. Based on these findings and analysis of specific items in the job control inventory used in the survey, I’ll discuss practical implications to improve librarian job control through our management practices. Analysis of responses related to job control demonstrate a lack of control among participants in the areas of decision-making and interactions, and interviews with participants demonstrate similar concerns, as well as concerns related to meaningful work.

While the population studied is specifically academic instruction librarians, the findings are still relevant throughout academic libraries and may inform our approaches to managing teams and supporting workers. These findings also have implications for how we conduct research on burnout, management, and occupational health in libraries.