Managing employee (and your) morale – Ida Kelemen, Alberta Comer

This blog post is part of a series of posts from the ninth Knowledge Café, held during the 87th IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Dublin, Ireland, July 26-29, 2022. 

The session was co-sponsored by the Knowledge Management Section and the Continuous Professional Development and Workplace Learning Section and was co-chaired by Monica Ertel and Maggie Farrell.

Several Standing Committee Members of Management & Marketing were involved as facilitators or rapporteurs.

Many of the discussions are connected to management and management skills, why we have decided to publish the content also in this blog.

You find all of the content at:

Managing employee (and your) morale

Facilitator: Ida Kelemen  Head of Information Services for MPs, Hungarian National Assembly  HUNGARY

Rapporteur: Alberta Comer Dean of Libraries,  J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah  UNITED STATES

IFLA members who participated in this round table discussion of “Managing employee (and your) morale” focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted, and continues to impact, morale of library staff.

Most attendees agreed that the pandemic’s impact could be divided into two distinct phases. At the beginning of the pandemic, during the early months, library staff worked together to create quick solutions, all while mostly working from home. One attendee called this the ‘heroic’ phase. Staff felt part of the solution and, although it was a frightening time, they worked together to provide users needed resources and information. Staff issues did arise, including:

  • How to balance work life and home life?
  • How to help staff who needed IT training?
  • How to provide technology for those who did not have personal devices?
  • How to manage remote staff?
  • What work to provide staff whose job had been primarily with print materials?
  • How to access the internet in areas where it is not readily available?

The second phase of the pandemic was the partial/full return to onsite work with many issues continuing to occur as libraries return to pre-pandemic work hours. Several attendees said that this was the phase that saw the lowest morale amongst library staff. Some of these staff issues included:

  • Library users now have different ways to access information, thus fewer are accessing the library. This has led libraries to rethink what their role is in society. (An interesting side note is that one attendee whose country did not have lockdowns is still seeing high library use.)
  • Returning to work remains difficult for people with children since childcare is difficult to find.
  • There is staff resentment from those required to be onsite (usually lower paid, frontline staff) toward those who worked from home (usually librarians).
  • How to have meaningful meetings when some staff are onsite while others are at home?
  • How to equitably share information with staff when some are onsite while others are at home?

Attendees also said that the conversation continues about onsite versus hybrid versus remote work, with many staff asking to have work options. Attendees agreed that what has helped with all phases of the pandemic has been to have meaningful and frequent communication with staff.

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