#critlib chat: emotional labor

Storify of the #critlib chat from 5/2/2016 on emotional labor, moderated by @lettersfromvani. For more information about #critlib, including past & future chats, see http://critlib.org

  1. [Borrowing from @oksveta's disclaimer: I attempted to include all of the relevant tweets from the chat and put them together. Retweets, favorites, & tweets without the hashtag are omitted on purpose. Misreadings and all other mistakes are all my own.]
  2. Readings

  3. Wingfield, Adia Harvey. “How ‘Service With a Smile’ Takes a Toll on Women.” The Atlantic 26 Jan. 2016. (Trigger warning: specific descriptions of workplace racism and misogyny)
  4. Accardi, Maria. “Emotional Labor and Library Instruction.Librarian Burnout. April 23, 2015.
  5. Introductions

  6. #critlib conversation begins now! let's get started with introductions.
  7. hi #critlib! vani here. i'm a librarian at barnard college in nyc.
  8. also #critlib, so excited to see people joining the conversation! pls feel free to join whenever you can
  9. Hi #critlib, I'm an academic library cataloger in Minnesota. You can find all readings & questions for today at  http://critlib.org/emotional-labor/ 
  10. Hello, #critlib! I'm Paige, & I'm a digital humanities librarian at the University of Miami.
  11. Hey #critlib! I'm a cataloger and instruction lib in Ohio - very excited for today's discussion.
  12. Hello #critlib... I'm Andrew, working in higher ed in the UK and mainly going to listen and learn today.
  13. hey #CritLib - I'm Netanel a cataloger in Boston, tryna keep an eye on some cataloging while an eye watches here too
  14. ahoy #critlib -- I'm Zoe (Zoh-ee), she/her/hers, a community college librarian from Tacoma, Washington (near Seattle).
  15. Hi #critlib! I’m Nicky, project manager for digital initiatives (inc. disciplinary repository) at the MLA in NYC.
  16. Hi #critlib! I’m Amanda, academic librarian in New York (and multitasking right now, so I may just lurk in this conversation).
  17. Looking forward to this! Lurking from an academic setting #critlib!
  18. Hi #critlib - Public librarian from the Land of Coffee and Grunge who will be lurking today.
  19. Hello #critlib! Adam -Philly area academic librarian. Looking forward to this.
  20. Hello #critlib! Amanda, research and instruction librarian in Atlanta, GA
  21. Hi #critlib! I'm Ryan, an instruction & outreach lib at a comm. coll. of about 18,500 students in Boise area. Also might have to lurk today.
  22. #critlib Hi! An academic librarian here in Tampa.Looking forward to hearing about emotional labor ideas!
  23. Hi #critlib! Dianne, Social Sciences R&I Librarian, looking forward!
  24. heya #critlib! i'm the scholarly services/media & gender studies librarian at iub. he/him & she/her pronouns. busy monday, possibly lurking
  25. Hi, #critlib. Lurking. (Discovered the hashtag through someone I follow, so I'm definitely lurking today).
  26. hey #critlib will be poppin in and out today. I'm Reed, LIS student doing ref & inst in acad libs.
  27. sup #critlib - lurking for most part today :) ref & instruction Chicago
  28. Questions

  29. Q1. What does emotional labor look like (and feel like)?
  30. Q1: What does emotional labor look like (and feel like)? #critlib
  31. A1: for me, emotional labor feels like the expectation/burden that I should be maternal and doting with students #critlib
  32. A1: Having to always appear pleasant, cheerful, and ignore harassment and rudeness. "Service with a smile." #critlib
  33. A1: emotional labor also means explaining that the library is a classroom, not a customer service point, over and over again #critlib
  34. #critlib Q1: in my case, it involves helping people navigate process of learning new skills/tools (which don't always work the 1st time)
  35. A1: I regularly reject models of assessment/training that frame the library as a customer service, "library services" makes me itch #critlib
  36. A1: the time an older male student called me a "good girl" for formatting a citation correctly, and I just had to smile/laugh. #critlib
  37. A1: In lib* it looks "friendly, approachable and helpful" in all scenarios (i.e. "customer" service) #critlib  https://twitter.com/lettersfromvani/status/727197831438696450 
  38. A1. In relation to work culture, it tends to force one to nod and smile and look past all discomfort in order to "get the job done" #critlib
  39. A1: Interpersonal interactions that make me go to bed angry/sad and wake up with a knot in my stomach #critlib
  40. But also A1, the energy/euphoria that comes from positive interactions and true collaboration #critlib
  41. #critlib A1: also, helping people feel like their investment on a project is worthwhile (or being supportive if they decide that it's not).
  42. #critlib A1: sometimes #emotionallabor can be not flipping out when you feel trampled or disrespected, but maybe that's not the worst thing?
  43. I think it depends on how often you have to do it. Or whether your jobis keeping other people from doing so #critlib  https://twitter.com/zinelib/status/727199056200527872 
  44. #critlib A1. having to smile as lib admin piles on the work and when I object b/c unable to do it all, smile through the negative backlash
  45. A1: being one of the few faces & voices of "diversity" while having to look happy to be here. (1/2) #critlib
  46. @sofiayleung this resonates with me. trying to not only "represent" but also create change, when this is often seen as antagonistic #critlib
  47. A1: Having to make time for patrons who clearly need of someone to talk to, even though you're not a therapist. #critlib
  48. @adammizelle yes, I get this a lot. being an ear for someone who just needs to vent even tho I want to crawl under the desk & hide. #critlib
  49. A1. Part of emotional labor involved in librarianship is having to justify one's existence constantly--always "at your service". #critlib
  50. a1.1: it feels fulfilling and mobilizing and solitary and exhausting. sometimes simultaneously, but also sometimes not. #critlib
  51. a1.2: as for how it looks? sometimes it just looks like trying, even when it isn't easy or comfortable (or immediately possible) #critlib
  52. A1. A lot of the time, for me, it’s making sure that students (and faculty!) don’t feel stupid for asking a question. #critlib
  53. @amndw2 exactly. lots and lots and lots of emotional soothing/petting/reassurance/pep talks/mitigating library anxiety. #critlib
  54. A1 but sometimes it’s also refraining from getting visibly upset on the (rare) occasions when patrons are rude or condescending. #critlib
  55. A1 cont’d: sometimes emotional labor feels like soothing other ppl’s anxieties and stresses w/o anyone soothing mine. #critlib
  56. It feels good to offer sincere, interpersonal support to students who need it but when it is forced it does not feel so good. #critlib
  57. A1 Service above self...Emotionally taking the job home at night. #critlib
  58. A1: saying yes to library instruction requests with little/no notice, teaching w/o knowing the assignment, winging it. #critlib
  59. @zoh_zoh I have drawn a line in how much I will do this for the sake of self-preservation. #critlib
  60. Haha--yes! I'm glad to get these requests most of the time, but they do cost me something psychically. #critlib  https://twitter.com/zoh_zoh/status/727200039001423872 
  61. A1 For me, emotional labor often looks / feels like adopting an "intercessor" role btw students & faculty, for better & for worse. #critlib
  62. A1 emotional labor can feel confusing, nearly imperceptible, some of what i find most fulfilling about work is emotional labor #critlib
  63. @lettersfromvani Yes! I really love advising students, having them ask non-library questions, but it's also technically not my job. #critlib
  64. A1: feeling like I have to say yes to whatever is asked of me, being positive/energetic/friendly (my rep as the FUN librarian) #critlib
  65. A1. Emotional labor part of my feminist praxis-holistically view of patron- complicated by gender dynamics and service expectations #critlib
  66. A1: Emotional labor feels very fulfilling (to me) much of the time -- in part b/c my supervisor acknowledges that I do it. #critlib
  67. A1. Labor may take on neg meaning, but I choose emotional work cause it's real. Finding balance & boundaries challenging part. #critlib
  68. A1. The emotional labor I take on is mostly fulfilling, but frustrating bc it's hard to put into tangible data to support myself #critlib
  69. #critlib. Is this a first world problem? Help here where pain of indoor work will be less and u can help..  http://gradelevelreading.net/ 
  70. @klmccook Not sure I understand your use of phrase "first world problem" - can you explain? #critlib
  71. @klmccook Hey! Hi! First world? Hmmm... say more! I know some undocumented wrkrs who have to put up with a lot from bosses #critlib
  72. @zoh_zoh Homelessness. Families of people in jail. Children w/o food security in summer. Maybe public librarians engage. #critlib
  73. @zoh_zoh not ok to see topic as self-interested when many we serve have pain? is this academic only? thinking of public libraries #critlib
  74. @klmccook I don't think anyone here is ranking our pain as greater than the pain of those we serve. Sorry you see it as such. #critlib
  75. @klmccook @zoh_zoh Emotional labour incl individs forced to work on behalf of disenfranchised ppl when #neolib govts won't #critlib
  76. @klmccook @zoh_zoh Seems like emotional labor even more of an issue in publics. Sure was when I worked in one. #critlib
  77. @zoh_zoh A citrus migrant worker once told me, I thought a roof would solve all my ills. Can't forget that when challenges mount. #critlib
  78. @klmccook Discussing emotional labor & its toll doesn't discount the challenges faced by patrons, nor does it make us ungrateful. #critlib
  79. @klmccook I think these claims can be made w/o reducing other people's issues/concerns to "whining." #critlib @zoh_zoh
  80. @gonesquirrelly @zoh_zoh You are right. Unionize and stand up to t neo-liberals. More people to help. #critlib
  81. @edrabinski @klmccook @zoh_zoh yes--- this resonates with me from the few years i worked at the public library. #critlib
  82. @klmccook @zoh_zoh Rltd to lib as last publicly funded space w heat/light/bathroom? EL demands would drop if state did not abandon? #critlib
  83. @edrabinski @zoh_zoh Yes, need to be working on advocacy so more services provided. Hook up with 2-1-1. #critlib
  84. @klmccook I certainly agree organized labor is critical. & with that, off to a strike authorization vote! #solidarity #critlib @zoh_zoh
  85. @klmccook @zoh_zoh Higher Ed is largest unionized population in Canada now. Damn lucky and know it. Need to stop the marketization. #critlib
  86. Q2. Is emotional labor part of your work, and if so, how? Is it part of your colleagues/coworkers’ work?
  87. Q2 Is emotional labor part of your work, and if so, how? Is it part of your colleagues' + coworkers’ work? #critlib
  88. A2 I think so - we work so closely with students & faculty when asking for help. That's tough for some to do. 1/2 #critlib
  89. A2 ..and often can require a lot of reassurance, patience, and dealing with unexpected stresses 2/2 #critlib
  90. @PoorCharlotte I don't think people realize that that will be so much of job. Is is possible to prep LIS students/new librarians? #critlib
  91. @violetbfox @PoorCharlotte Good question! I also wonder how systems of mutual support can be sustained, across divisions too #critlib
  92. @violetbfox @lettersfromvani and how do we prep them without just terrifying them? That's an issue I struggle with, too. #critlib
  93. @PoorCharlotte @violetbfox @lettersfromvani Would've appreciated something on when to refer to professional help-I struggle w/that. #critlib
  94. A2 I feel like emotional labor is more present at the Reference Desk rather than the library classroom. #critlib
  95. #critlib A2: Yes, EL is often central to digihum librarianship, b/c DH is so tied in w/ helping people change/adapt to changing conditions.
  96. #critlib A2: But not everyone I work with sees emotional labor as part of my job: instead, they think students/faculty ought to "toughen up"
  97. #critlib A2: Unfortunately, that sort of bootstrap mentality often contributes 2 more anxiety & just creates a need for more emotional labor
  98. A2 in front of a classroom, I feel more permission to be authoritative, seen as expert, demand respect. #critlib
  99. #critlib having to fulfill someone else's perception of what librarian does before can tackle who I want to be re: my profession
  100. A2 at the Ref Desk, I'm expected to be the answer-giver, article-finder, topic-chooser, and all around calm listener. #critlib
  101. A2 #critlib Being a manager incorporates emotional labor on multiple levels. 1 level is acknowledging/recognizing staff emotional labor 1/n
  102. A2 #critlib 2/n Another level is doing emotional labor with staff and library users - essentially treating your staff + patrons like humans
  103. A2 one of the reasons I went into acad. librarianship vs. public was seeing the emotional toll on my mom (30+ years city library) #critlib
  104. a2: definitely part of my practice even if not outlined in my job description. wouldn't it be nice if support and care were valued? #critlib
  105. A2. Huge diff in EL btw working in R1 & comm coll libs. R1 less personal, invested in seeing student through entire journey. #critlib
  106. @rjgp29 Do community colleges seem like they're not invested in "seeing student through entire journey"? Can you elaborate? #critlib
  107. A2. At comm coll lib, get to know students fully, get invested. Students arrive with so many barriers. Lib safe place for support. #critlib
  108. It's part of mine & my colleagues work to varying degrees; a feminist/holistic approach to wrking w/stdents #critlib  https://twitter.com/lettersfromvani/status/727200910007504896 
  109. A2: I also welcome emotional labor because I realize not all students have adequate support from elsewhere #critlib #iwasthatstudent
  110. A2. EL manifests for me as always being available for students/faculty, and often going home still thinking of solutions to ?'s #critlib
  111. A2.2 Behind the scenes EL is me navigating coworkers' emotions - hard bc even if I give support I'm not always getting it in return #critlib
  112. #critlib A2 Libns Research Institute says 80% libns one type. I'm not that type plus trained in special libraries=stressors.
  113. #critlib A2 lib admin keep comparing libns to their preferred model of academic libn and value accordingly=stressors=conform.
  114. #critlib A2 I think emotional labor is part of all of our work, and we're all doing it, some more visibly/successfully than others, tho?
  115. @zinelib I agree! I also feel that there are disparities in whose emotional labor gets recognized/ how it is valued (and by whom) #critlib
  116. I think part of challenge is that not everyone is familiar w/ the concept; and that makes it even harder. #critlib  https://twitter.com/zinelib/status/727203235342221314 
  117. The training part is hard. My PhD experience helps me a lot, but obvs not reasonable to suggest PhD as training for doing EL! #critlib
  118. @lettersfromvani @zinelib I see libs of color often judged for not being as "emotional" as white libs in workplace. Expectations. #critlib
  119. @rjgp29 @lettersfromvani @zinelib or being too emotional or not displaying/performing the "right" emotions. walking that line is EL #critlib
  120. @paigecmorgan @zinelib #critlib emotional labour by its very designation requires power differential and we perceive are at losing end
  121. @lettersfromvani @zinelib Maybe has to do with workplace culture and how POC or othered identities expected to conform #critlib
  122. A2 Particularly in Ref interactions, hard because I truly care deeply abt students but taking on all their stresses takes a toll #critlib
  123. A2. Listening is def part of being a CW & student supervisor. And it's exhausting, esp when everyone around you is burning out. #critlib
  124. #critlib A2 point of #emotionallabor is to create precarity in order to control, conform, deskill, marketize...so my cynical side says...
  125. Q3. What are implicit and explicit expectations around the kinds of emotional labor library/archival/info workers do (and how do these relate to intersections of power and privilege)?
  126. Q3. What are implicit and explicit expectations re: kinds of emotional labor library/archival/info workers do (1/2) #critlib
  127. Q3 (2/2) And how do these relate to intersections of power and privilege? #critlib
  128. A3 Expectation to be always "on" in ref or lib classroom; "strong customer service skills" = customer always right: smile! #critlib
  129. A3.2 Find emotional labor to be very feminized - expectation for women to be caregivers/maternal esp WoC #critlib
  130. A3 I've seen a lot of added emotional labor added to women & libs of color. Class background can add more, too. #critlib
  131. A3 Also thinking about the emotional labor that people using the library do when confronted w/ structure of library #critlib
  132. #critlib True! Had forgotten. Students in own countries where not allowed in stacks, no clue re: LC, etc...  https://twitter.com/lettersfromvani/status/727205891020345345 
  133. A3. In big libs, sometimes told to "avoid emotion" bc it's a "HR issue"; in small institutions, making sure we "act like a family" #critlib
  134. @mishiebhat A3.2 Often it's people of power/privilege ignoring the emotional needs of others because it's considered low priority #critlib
  135. #critlib A3: expectations around emotional labor are definitely impacted by race & gender, ability, etc., by laborers & beneficiaries.
  136. A3. IME expectations tend to be very different for m-ID and f-ID workers (although one of the most EL-performing at MPOW is a man). #critlib
  137. A3: People sometimes refer to emotional work I do as "handholding" for others, emphasizing power diff b/c people "need" support. #critlib
  138. #critlib ppl need support=marketization/commodification, you need something we have, can create $$ value for it...  https://twitter.com/zinelib/status/727207259533660160 
  139. A3 I think I'm seen as the least emotional of my colleagues. I don't keep tissue in my office for students to use. #critlib
  140. @gonesquirrelly So conformity = controlling our emotions? Would it be better to act out, be grumpy if we felt grumpy? #critlib
  141. A3: I think there’s an assumption that women (ie most libns) will automatically know how to *do* emotional labor, & be good at it. #critlib
  142. yes. I feel judged negatively when I'm less emotional, more removed, or advocate for keeping a distance. #critlib  https://twitter.com/amndw2/status/727206975919022084 
  143. A3 I'm surprised by students who feel it's ok to ask me if I'm married & have kids. I'm a femme woman so obvs I'm a wife/mother? #critlib
  144. A3 but I think students ask about marriage/family because they expect me to act like a wife/mother to them at times. #critlib
  145. A3 #critlib I think it is prob seen as OK for me 2 "get away" w/o being emotional/sympathetic as a man... (not that I agree with that)
  146. Q4. How could naming emotional labor inform and transform critical approaches to librarianship? Beyond naming it, what else can we do?
  147. Q4. How cld naming emotional labor inform + transform approaches to #critlib? Beyond naming it, what else can we do? #critlib
  148. A4 Emotion underlies everything we do, as humans, so I think calling attn to it can help others see value #critlib  https://twitter.com/lettersfromvani/status/727207680331419648 
  149. A4: I think like a lot of #critlib, Idk the answer. Learned this through #critlib and now noting when I engage/others have engage for me.
  150. A4: Talk w/ people re emotional ups & downs are part of R&D process. Allow them 2 be comfortable w/ having emotions in 1st place #critlib
  151. A4. I think establishing a system of support or mentoring lib workers about navigating emotional labor would be good #critlib
  152. @mishiebhat A4.2. Just being acknowledged by institution & having a place for constant skill development helps us to justify our EL #critlib
  153. A4 Not sure can separate emotional labor from public service; need to create spaces to acknowledge & support colleagues when needed #critlib
  154. A4.1 Also find ways to partner w/ other groups to be more holistic at lib, like counseling center: shared service #critlib
  155. A4 Naming can start convos on placing boundaries around labor, call out expectations, provide support for one another when depleted #critlib
  156. A4. Drawing people into librarianship who are good at emotional labor (not just "I like books") + training for those who aren't! #critlib
  157. @violetbfox And like I said earlier, cluing #LIS students in that they should anticipate doing this necessary, important work. #critlib
  158. A4 I'm grateful that we have a campus Counselor to whom I can refer students who need emotional support (beyond what I can give) #critlib
  159. A4: Also think it's important to identify specific types of EL, i.e., building relationships: & potentially offer training for that #critlib
  160. #critlib Training for emotional labor in itself is hard b/c it's so abstract, but specific types of emolab are easier to prepare people for.
  161. Training in relationship-building: really important and hardly ever done, in my experience. #critlib  https://twitter.com/paigecmorgan/status/727209452642926592 
  162. @amndw2 I have found this particularly true as I've gotten older and the age diff bet my students & my children has narrowed #critlib
  163. A4 Having a handy list of resources for folks who need services beyond your scope could help alleviate some stress. #critlib
  164. YES! Making sure librarians (& dept faculty, too) are told about support networks; how to refer to them #critlib  https://twitter.com/zoh_zoh/status/727209435039305728 
  165. @gonesquirrelly Doing this work is not something that comes naturally to me but I'm willing & able to work on becoming better. #critlib
  166. YES! Understanding larger social context that libs are having to pick up pieces after broken social net. #critlib  https://twitter.com/zoh_zoh/status/727209985331986432 
  167. @gonesquirrelly I don't think it's possible, either, but many current librarians want skills but don't have training support. #critlib
  168. @violetbfox And having those good at EL help those who aren't - can be exhausting to be the "go to" EL people-person! #critlib
  169. @mishiebhat Yes! As someone not-so-good at EL, it's easy to pawn that responsibility to others--I need to step up to get better. #critlib
  170. These days, when someone asks me about pursuing libjobs, emolab is usually 1st & last thing I mention #critlib  https://twitter.com/violetbfox/status/727209967237910528 
  171. #critlib A4 Being aware it exists helps us as people be more mindful of other people and what they bring to the table...
  172. #critlib A4: Having safer spaces policies, talking about it, figuring out ahead of time how to deal with emotional challenges...?
  173. Identify when EL being done is in service of those with more rank/power/privilege at the cost of work time. #critlib
  174. I wonder if part of issue is that libjobs (like profjobs) have had a reputation as perfect places for people who don't like emolab? #critlib
  175. Pitches
  176. it is 3pm eastern time, so time to wrap up #critlib chat on #emotionallabor---thank you to everyone!
  177. tho, #critlib, feel free to post announcements etc too---(sorry, i am new at this, so running a little late)
  178. Ducking out a bit early from #critlib lurking. Some readings related to emotional labor in libraries (and IT):  https://www.zotero.org/groups/c4l16yoose/items 
  179. #critlib I think some libns have moved to #socialjustice in Information Literacy as an attempt to deal with #emotionallabor Agree? Disagree?
  180. @gonesquirrelly I honestly don't understand the question, or the phrase "moved to #socialjustice" (is it a zip code?) #critlib
  181. @zoh_zoh #critlib In dealing with inequity and with our users, introducing ideas of social justice...is emo labor a social justice issue?
  182. @gonesquirrelly Great question for discussion! I have to get back to work now but will think about it. #critlib
  183. @gonesquirrelly Yes, but maybe more that people don't recognize that it's a *thing*, even. It often seems invisible... #critlib
  184. Still wondering where the #critlib for public library workers is to be found, though. It often seems very academic-driven?
  185. As far as I can tell it's in the same place, #critlib. The issue is finding and engaging the public library workers.  https://twitter.com/rhymewithzinger/status/727338445119492096 
  186. @gonesquirrelly Perception is a big part of it IMO. If people see #critlib as *just* an academic librarian thing, they don't suggest chats.
  187. So #critlib may we track down a #publiclibrarian willing to moderate a libchat on state of #critlib and #publiclibraries /librarians?
  188. Thanks to the mod!
  189. I see the clock is ticking toward this chat being over, so THANK YOU to @lettersfromvani for leading this #critlib Great topic!!!
  190. @lettersfromvani thank you so much for mod'ing and to all who participated! ~*we're all in this together*~ #critlib
  191. Very interesting read on #critlib today. Thanks for letting me lurk!
  192. Thx to @lettersfromvani for today's #critlib! Had to mostly lurk, catching up now. 👏👏