A Study of Emotional Labor in Librarianship

Publication Title

Library and Information Science Research

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emotional labor, librarianship


Library and Information Science


Librarianship, like many occupations, requires emotional labor, which is an awareness of job requirements for emotional expression and the strategies used to express those emotions. Research on emotional labor suggests that performing emotional labor results in both positive and negative effects on individual outcomes, such as job satisfaction and job burnout. Since affective events are prevalent in library work and evidence suggests positive outcomes from emotional labor can be fostered, the ways emotional labor is performed in libraries should be studied. This research explores the key components of emotional labor: perceptions of display rules and the emotion regulation strategies of surface and deep acting. Data were collected from a sample of American librarians in 46 states from public, academic, special, and K–12 libraries who completed a survey. Bi-variate and multi-variate correlations, as well as ANOVAs, were used to test relationships among emotional labor constructs, job satisfaction, and job burnout. Results show evidence of significant associations with emotional labor among library employees in both the perception of display rules, as well as in surface and deep acting. Perception of display rules showed mixed results with job burnout and job satisfaction. Surface acting was found to be associated consistently with job burnout and decreased job satisfaction, while deep acting strategies were less strongly associated with negative outcomes. Findings suggest that library managers should clearly communicate display rule expectations to employees and work to build staff support to help meet those expectations. Library employees should be aware of occasions when they use surface acting and work to develop stronger deep acting techniques. The study contributes to an understanding of the influence of emotion management in the library workplace.