Library Technostress Survey Results
© 2003 John Kupersmith -- All rights reserved.
Fair use (e.g., for individual research or classwork) is encouraged.
This page presents the results of an online survey on technostress (computer-related stress) among library staff members, taken in August 2003. This survey was posted on the web for 10 days and collected 92 responses, most coming from people who work in academic libraries.
This was an informal poll, not a scientific sample. Respondents were self-selected and found the survey after visiting my site to view an article on technostress. The survey questions elicited subjective perceptions of stress levels, not objective measures of symptoms or behavior. Thus, we can't conclude from these results that X percentage of library staff suffer from any given level of computer-related stress. Nonetheless, since 92 people took the time to respond in the ways described below, I do think it's reasonable to conclude that substantial numbers of library staff are experiencing this type of stress. That in itself should be of concern to those who manage and study libraries.
- 59% of survey participants said their level of computer-related stress has increased in the past 5 years, 34% felt it has not changed much, and only 4% believed it has decreased.
- 65% of participants reported that this type of stress is a somewhat serious problem for them, 8% said it is very serious, while 27% felt it is not at all serious.
- Leading causes chosen from a list of possibilities were information overload, networking problems, security issues, computer hardware and ergonomics, and vendor-produced databases. Security issues may have drawn special attention because of the "Blaster" and "SoBig" attacks going on at the time. Interestingly, library catalogs and web sites ranked low on the list of causes; this might have turned out differently in a survey of library users. Participants also listed several other causes.
- The survey also collected numerous strategies for managing and coping with technostress. Prominent themes in these responses include the need for individuals to cultivate flexibility and continuous learning, and for organizations to provide training and support.
This survey was conducted using the free version of Zoomerang.
1. Do you work in:
responses percent an academic library? 53 58 % a public library? 18 20 % another type of library? 13 14 % a library-related business or organization? 5 5 % (none of the above) 3 3 % Total 92 100 %
2 In the past 5 years, has your level of technostress: responses percent Decreased 4 4 % Not changed much 31 34 % Increased 54 59 % Don't know 2 2 % Total 91 100 %
3 For you personally, is the problem of technostress: responses percent Not at all serious 25 27 % Somewhat serious 60 65 % Very serious 7 8 % Don't know 0 0 % Total 92 100 %
4. What are the main causes of technostress for you? Check the 3 most important causes below.
(Arranged in order as ranked by participants)
responses percent Information overload 54 59 % Networking problems 40 43 % Security issues (viruses, authentication, etc.) 38 41 % Computer hardware and ergonomics 38 41 % Vendor-produced databases 28 30% Application software (word processors, etc.) 21 23 % Library catalogs 9 10 % Library web sites 9 10 % Other web sites 6 7 %
Other, please specify
(Participant comments follow)
New things to learn/monitor constantly Irrational patron expectations of technology Just trying to keep up with all the changes. none. I have no stress about technological issues. Dealing with other people's technostress Teaching all of the above public printers Managing electronic subscription access spam Lack of support from the Information Tech Dept. lack of training resources Undescribed, unannounced, uncontrolled changes keeping up with internet sites Working around limitations in Lib. catalog systems User-surly Gates products IT people trying to keep up with technology migrating to a new library system!
5. In your experience, what are the best ways to minimize or cope with this stress?
(Participant comments follow. I've divided them into two lists, depending on whether their main focus is individual or organizational.)
Just do what you can and say I don't know when you can't. whiskey, time off, sense of humor, good and patient colleagues & patrons Cheatsheets, be calm, and read directions Remove myself from the problem and deal with it later. I have found no way to minimize the stress. Everything changes daily and there is so much to keep up with and learn. Trying to keep the computers working and the network running in addition to regular reference/instruction responsibilities is too much. There is no way to teach users how to use everything that is available because there are so few actual courses offered in information science. We just have to try and teach everything in 50 minutes. It is impossible!! Ask for help from the appropriate sources. Either learn it or avoid it Take frequent breaks Realize that the only thing constant is change, and go with the flow. Every technological change or problem we have to deal with is an opportunity to learn something. learn. Let it flow over you. Deep breathing. :) roll with the flow realise that the technology changes are going to continue and that I have a choice: move with it or get stressed (and left behind). I choose to move with the technology! keep reading and learning always! vacations Weekends at the beach when I'm not working ref desk helps till about the middle of the week--it's downhill after that! I'm younger and a new librarian so honestly I'm not having terrible stress. One things that helps is that I almost never use computers outside of work and keep technology low in my home (ie no games, no cell phone, no dvd player,...) Take physical stretching/exercise breaks Have written to-do lists Try to keep information organized at some level hum a little tune laugh a lot, red wine Take a deep breath and remind myself that things really are better than they were -- we can now access so much information quickly and (usually) more easily than in the past. There *is* too much, too quickly, but I can choose the most important.... Just keep trying time management, to-do lists and a willingness to delete or ignore the unimportant Keeping up-to-date on specific areas of interest Keep learning, attend workshops & continuing ed, share knowledge w/colleagues. Accept that occasionally a source will be missed in responding to a research request. Use the help tools as often as possible for the different software applications.
For some of the issues--learn more about it and practice. For information overload--prioritize, know when to say "enough." try to learn as much as you can Go home & leave work at work; yoga/meditaion/prayer. Stay up to date and stay calm The best way for me to cope has been to learn more about the technologies so I can feel more empowered to troubleshoot or otherwise try to solve those inevitable technology glitches that occur when you have multiple systems talking to each other. Gardening. Deep breaths. Going for walks. Complete change of pace for time outside of work is essential. The ability to focus on one issue at a time helps; making a list can help this. Through Training Focus on task goals rather than the particular software tools/interfaces that may actually impede progress. I don't really believe in that word, but I find that just telling myself that it's not worth getting worked up about, will help somewhat, but my Yoga classes really help!! When possible, minimize time spent on line. Unsubscribe to e-letters and try to avoid new ones. Calm attitude Relaxing breaks Separate work from home life--leave stress at the office just cope, then go home and garden Focus on the software needed for the job and keep current. Sharing solutions with others helps. Network with the techies. Laugh often; laugh hard. Exercise, 'proper' diet, plenty of sleep, sailing on the lake, realize that the fast pace of tech innovation will take this moment away without a tear for the latest new thing... I haven't found a "best" way yet other than chilling out. There will always be another problem tomorrow Learn more, and make lots of friends in the IT department! completely remove self from the environment. Vacation. Communication rather than complaining. exercise, training on new productts/new releases of products. Minimize changing for the sake of change. i usually try to fix it myself I drink. Take a deep breath and keep plodding on! ;) taking a deep breath when I feel frustrated or overwhelmed 1)Tell yourself "It's only a movie." 2) "Adult" beverages. 3)Realize you're only 1 person and can't do everything. Learn what you need to. Information can lead to empowerment. At the same time, realize that there are things you don't need to know and don't worry about them. Use humor, to assist the patron with "old-fashion" print sources, to focus on what is most important - what will matter in the long run. training, education, sharing knowledge continuous learning, fatalistic attitude Organizational focus Research and planning for changes
I can't wait for many of my coworkers to retire.
In the best of possible worlds, hire someone who can deal with the hardware and keep somewhat abreast of software, and let us deal with the information itself. education and familiarization with the technology and products -- this is not easy! Plus, convincing students and faculty that we really can help them with their library and information technology stress issues. More in-house training, more cross-training, better paraprofessional help. Outsourcing is not always the best at quality control, especially with bib. records and processing. Proactive, cheerful support from IT Ongoing on the job training Training (which requires time from both parties); staffing Systems offices with enough people (even at the expense of other functions); realism in supervisor expectations. Communication between parties; time to spend with new systems Don't know how to cope other than escape. Univ. admin, lib admin and supervisors need to acknowledge the problem. A nine month contract would help a great deal. Teaching library instruction year round is extremely difficult and burnout is approaching. Library web sites: I outsourced the reconstruction of the library web site. Computer hardware: I also try to get as much help from department "techies" as possible when installing new hardware and software. Vendor DBs: To cope with vendor database problems, I try to educate my users so they understand why I can't fix all problems quickly and remind them that we have most of the articles in print, too. I'm not sure that there are good ways to cope. Many of the hardware/software decisions for libraries are out of the hands of administrators and workers alike. That is why I chose my top 3 causes. Vendor changes to database interfaces and content are never done at the convenience or with the consultation of the librarians. Computer hardware and software decisions are usually made by an IT department. This creates an environment of constant change that cannot be managed. I think that as more flexible people enter the ranks of librarianship the amount of technostress will lessen. That is my hope anyway. Have a "tech person" dedicated to the library. Cataloging information. two hour limit have an "expert" on the library staff that you can turn to with problems/questions/etc specialize. unfortunately, i'm the only reference librarian during the day and on the desk all the time