Emotional Labor of Instruction Librarians: Causes, Impact, and Management.

Emotional Labor of Instruction Librarians: Causes, Impact, and Management.

Lorraine Evans (University of Colorado Denver, Denver, USA) and Karen Sobel (University of Colorado Denver, Denver, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3519-6.ch006
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This chapter consolidates aspects of emotional labor that apply to the work of academic faculty and staff. Perspectives will focus on the instructional work librarians do, in the classroom and through research support, and be applied to teaching faculty and support staff in higher education. The collaborative nature of the work, along with the environment and structural components that both enhance and challenge that work, are examined. The chapter describes risk factors that are common and unique to librarianship, such as academic culture, administrative demands, communication, and student support, applying these concepts more broadly in higher education. Pulling from the research on emotional labor, industrial psychology, and the authors' experience in libraries, strategies are presented that can be used or adapted by individuals and departments. Finally, the chapter discusses tensions inherent in the work of those who choose to perform emotional labor: the love of supporting students and faculty through academic and personal challenges versus the exhaustion that sometimes results.
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Arlie Hochschild is credited with formally describing the concept of emotional labor in the book, The Managed Heart (Hochschild, 1983). She describes emotional labor as the outcome of dissonance between outward-facing feelings and emotions, or our public face, and those emotions that are truly felt. This is something faced every day by service industry workers, where much of the research originated. The concept has since matured with the research. It is now more complex and nuanced, but essentially remains consistent with Hochschild’s ideas. To understand the concept at a practical level, think of a salesperson assisting a customer in the purchase of an item of clothing. The salesperson has been attentive and responsive, pulling different colors and sizes as requested. Unfortunately, the customer is demanding and rude throughout the selection process. Our salesperson is exhausted and irritated by the rude behavior but must remain helpful and pleasant. The employer’s requirements are very clear on exactly this matter; outward-facing behavior must meet prescribed norms. The sales clerk will hide their feelings.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Professional Identity: One’s sense of self as a member of a profession or work.

Job Satisfaction: The sense of personal fulfillment, contentedness, or pleasure that comes from one’s work.

Collaboration: Working together cooperatively with others on an intellectual endeavor.

Academic Library: A library that is attached to an institution of higher education that supports the teaching, learning and research mission of the institution.

Morale: The sense of emotional or mental well-being, usually in regards to the task or purpose at hand.

Teaching: The practice of helping others learn.

Emotional Management: Regulating or controlling one’s own emotions.

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