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Liveblogging CAIS 2008: Affective Experiences of Librarians’ Instructional Work June 5, 2008

Posted by JR Dixey in events@UBC.
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Heidi Julien and Shelagh K. Genuis, University of Alberta

[Please note: These are merely my notes on the presentation, taken live while the presentation was in progress and edited for sense afterwards. They are not a verbatim transcription of the presentation. Please contact the researchers directly for more information on their work. — JRD]

My notes on Heidi Julien’s part of the presentation:

Range of affective experiences (based on diary entries about instructional experiences)

Librarians expressed emotions ranging from joy & pleasure, to frustration, boredom, & other negative emotions — seemingly connected to the immediacy of feedback. Knowing that your work is going to make a student’s life easier makes the work rewarding and leads to positive emotions. Feelings of isolation and invisibility of outcomes lead to negative experiences.

Julien, quoting a participant: ‘”I made a difference today”, unlike many other days, perhaps.’

My notes on Shelagh K. Genuis’ part of the presentation:

Focus on ’emotional labour’ — occupational stressors related to management of emotions in order to be consistent with ‘display rules’. Suppression of emotions exacts the greatest amount of emotional labour. The concept isn’t current in LIS literature except for one student paper. Concept from sociology in 1983, and librarians were categorized as ’emotional labourers’. This is supported by LIS literature even though the terminology is different, because there are many examples of articles regarding the ‘customer experience’, etc. that emphasize managing one’s emotions.

‘It’s not as frustrating as one would suppose’ — because of the students’ appreciation/connection to her as a librarian even if they don’t get the lesson in information literacy.

– having to ‘turn it on’ for another class when you’re bored with your work

– rationalizing negative outcomes and ‘not take it personally’ when dissonance arises

– acts of reflection help to process ‘dark’ emotions by naming and examining them after the fact

– workplace relationships/personality conflicts, challenges to librarian’s ‘authority’ by other staff

Is instructional work impacted or compromised by negative or stressful affective experiences? If so, how do we explore that? There may be implications for LIS education, as most LIS grads are expected to take on some kind of instructional role. How ‘up front’ should we be about the ‘dark’ emotions inherent in the work? Anxieties about getting in front of a group, complex relationships one has with students/learners, etc.

Question from the audience: Is the ’emotional labour’ inherent in librarianship being gendered as women’s work? Answer (from Heidi Julien): Yes. Education (the source of the term) is also a gendered field. Emotional labour is a familiar concept to women because of the way we are raised, to be the ‘nice girl’ no matter what.

Note from the audience: Work, labour, and toil, as different concepts in work, go back thousands of years to the Hebrew text of Ecclesiastes. “Work” is joyful labour, while “toil” is burdensome labour.

Question from the audience: Can LIS education also incorporate what makes instructional work satisfying and joyful? Answer (from Heidi Julien): Yes, I think that’s very important.

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