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The Library Workplace Bully Versus the Wholehearted Librarian

Your Name and Title:

Sharon Clapp, Associate Librarian, Information Systems and Resources

Library, School, or Organization Name:

Central Connecticut State University

Co-Presenter Name(s):

Area of the World from Which You Will Present:

Connecticut, United States (Eastern Standard Time)

Language in Which You Will Present:


Target Audience(s):

All librarians

Short Session Description (one line):

The Library Workplace Bully Versus the Wholehearted Librarian

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

We arrive in the field of librarianship with a wholehearted attitude -- with every hope of success based not only on our skillset, but also on our commitment to the mission of librarianship, our desire to help society at large, and our work ethic.  Even in this profession that prides itself on high standards and ethics, however, librarians can find themselves in surprisingly toxic work cultures where bullying robs them of their wholeheartedness and productive potential. A 2018 study by Hak Joon Kim, Carol Anne Geary, and Arlene Bielefield found that a majority of academic librarians (57.8%, n=90) and nearly half of public librarians (43%, n=421) surveyed reported experiencing bullying behavior at work. Bullying is not a personality conflict, nor an academic debate, nor even a passionate disagreement. Bullying is a targeted and ongoing campaign against an individual that leaves them socially isolated and negatively impacts the target’s well-being. In addition to the harm that bullying does to its victims, bystanders also suffer in cultures than condone and encourage such behavior. Yet despite the toxicity that arises from workplace bullying and the prevalence of such behavior in libraries, Kim et al.,’s research found that only 14.3% of academic libraries represented (n=21) and 6.8% of public libraries (n=44) had policies in place to address bullying.  This presentation will discuss what workplace bullying looks like -- its symptoms, effects, prevalence, and etiology. We will cover some of the behaviors and standards we can adopt to avoid exacerbating toxic workplace cultures and to actively upend bullying. We will look at “Clark’s civility index,” for example, to help us build our personal practice of wholehearted librarianship and how each of us can move from being a passive “bystander” to a mindful “upstander.” Our profession’s need for diversity in all of its forms means that librarianship needs to proactively take on the issue of bullying. In leadership institutes and management training, in staff retreats and in professional discussions, we need to confront the issue of bullying in librarianship. This presentation is a call for evolution in our profession, to make it the “safe space” to which we can all bring our wholehearted selves to work.

Kim, H. J., Geary, C. A., & Bielefield, A. (2018). Bullying in the Library Workplace. Library Leadership & Management, 32(2), 1–13.

 Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session:

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Replies to This Discussion

Looking forward to this presentation - it's unfortunately a common experience but I like the idea of encouraging being a "mindful upstander".

I think for the little time you had to do this presentation. You covered so many areas and provided so many resources. Thank you for that. I think it's very important that when we want to create wholehearted libraries, we should look out for one another when it comes to bulling. And to also be that mindful "upstander." 


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