J Rodger and N Erickson - The Entire Day is an Act of Restraint.mp4
J Rodger and N Erickson - The Entire Day is an Act of Restraint - slides.pptx

"The Entire Day is an Act of Restraint": The Devaluing of Emotional Labour in Library Work

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  • Library work is emotional. As the increasingly social role of the library redefines expectations of service, the challenges of working in libraries become greater than ever. The American Library Association emphasizes the social, economic, and educational role of the 21st century library to help solve social problems and add value to a community. This increase in social responsibilities is shown to have repercussions on library staff well-being, most notably as a result of the emotional labour performed by public service. Library work, like many public-service industries, involves emotional labour, which is the idea that one must regulate their emotions in order to accomplish their job. There are clear connections between the sociology of emotional labour and affective labour that has characterized library work and which describes the historical feminized profession of librarianship. This type of labour has been undervalued compared to intellectual labour, goes largely unrecognized economically, and is not typically seen as an asset to one’s job.

    Librarianship has followed similar patterns to other historically gendered careers in failing to acknowledge and provide support for emotional work. As an example, The Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service emphasize how to manage patrons’ emotional needs as opposed to their informational needs, which further reinforces the notion of library work as gendered and affective labour. The Guidelines, as they are currently written, place emphasis on the success of a library staff member’s ability to regulate their own emotions for the benefit of the transaction. The emotional labour aspects of library work are not acknowledged in any current professional guidelines.

    This presentation will examine the current state of library public service work and how a lack of recognition and devaluing of affective labour through professional guidelines and insufficient workplace support can lead to decreased job satisfaction, emotional dissonance, and burnout. It is time for the emotional aspects of library work to be acknowledged and supported. The questions to be discussed in this presentation are: What are the solutions to managing emotional labour effectively? How can we move away from systems which continue to diminish the value of affective labour and work towards a supportive framework that focuses on the well-being and emotional health of library workers?

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    Conference/Workshop Presentation
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International