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Review of "Job Stress and the Librarian"

By Carol Smallwood and Linda Burkey Wade (Editors)
McFarland, 2013
Review by Chris Kretz on Dec 10th 2013
Job Stress and the Librarian

While this book may come as a surprise to those who still picture the library as an oasis of unchanging calm overseen by an imperturbable librarian, anyone who is active in the field will find the topics covered in this collection of essays all too familiar. With shrinking budgets and staff, the press of ever -- changing technologies, and a need to prove value to an often indifferent administration, librarians know from stress.


Job Stress and the Librarian: Coping Strategies from the Professionals presents twenty-six essays written by academic, school, and public librarians. The essays are grouped into eight chapters by theme, albeit loosely. Sections range from the highly targeted (Library Programs for Patrons and Staff) to the wide-ranging (Overcoming Challenges) with two to five essays in each. The arrangement proves to be less important than the content itself. Peruse the complete list of essay titles and you're bound to find a scenario that fits your current situation.


The collection presents viewpoints from various levels of the library hierarchy. Public library administrators pass on strategies for alleviating stress in the workplace by empowering employees, using humor, and communicating effectively.  Zara T. Wilkinson paints a truthful picture of the life of the "over-underemployed librarian" trying to juggle multiple part-time jobs. And Lara Frater presents clear-headed strategies for those facing the worst in "So You've Been Laid Off, Now What?"


Some of the more unique essays touch on issues that do not often get addressed in the library literature. Kimberly Swanson details her experiences uprooting her own career in favor of her husband's in "The Trailing Spouse: A Portable Career." She gives pertinent advice for anyone facing that same choice, including the forthright "you do not have to go."  Charlice K. Pettway Vann writes about librarians of color in "Being an 'Only One': The Sole Minority on Staff." And in "Stuck in Security: The Mid-Career Frustrations of the Tenured Academic Librarian",  Beth Evans illustrates how that change of status brings with it different expectations, stresses, and opportunities.


Tips for reducing stress on the personal level abound. As more than one writer asserts, it is up to the individual to manage their own stress levels and there are many ways to do it. While a certain repetition crops up throughout the book (eat right, make time for yourself, disconnect from the digital world, keep a journal; even hot baths get recommended twice), each essay presents a unique context for the problem. With numerous specific examples and case studies drawn from their own experiences, the authors present strategies that can be applied in any setting. Many of the essays also include references to related resources and research.


The collection is edited by Carol Smallwood, whose previous library-related work includes Librarians as Community Partners: An Outreach Handbook, and Linda Burkey Wade, the Digitization Unit Coordinator at Western Illinois University Libraries.




© 2013 Chris Kretz



Chris Kretz, Assistant Professor/Reference Librarian, Dowling College Library, NY

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