Top of Page

Information for Social Change

Information for Social Change

"an activist organisation that examines issues of censorship, freedom and ethics amongst library and information workers..."

ISC 20. Can library work be a recipe for ill health? by Martyn Lowe

Now consider this: -

Long working hours, multi-tasking, & with a high stress level.

Low pay, which is well below average salaries, & which in turn means that many library workers have to live in cheap or far from ideal housing conditions.

An occupation health hazard - bad backs & muscle strains.

A job in which one has to constantly stoop, while one also carries a lot of heavy weights - i.e. heavy books.

An inclination towards developing RSI & eye strain problems, for which I can give a lot of good examples.

The chances of heavy weights falling on ones head, shelves falling down in front of one, & book trolleys doing the same upon one.

All of which have happened to me - though the real, highly skilled library worker does develop instinctive skills in order to both avoid such problems & roll out of the way at the right moment.

Plus a skill in breaking up fights which sometimes break out in public libraries, plus dealing with drunks & very stoned people too.

Both of which I have had to deal with in my library work over the years.

There is also another set of more emotional stresses, which also come into play as a result of library work too.

The stress which comes from the 1st port of call for many people, who have legal, health, housing, & social problems - for which we are not specialists, & for which we are by our professional standards excluded from becoming involved within.

Here it should be noted that if you know your library users well, then you will really get to know their information needs very well, & so over the long term you can take a very detached view about their individual problems.

From which a question.

Just how many librarians & library workers have ever gone though any kinda course on just how to deal with people who have legal, health, housing, & social problems?

The kinda course which means that one can both deal with the worries & emotional stress of those people who ask for our help, make an analysis of what their immediate information needs are, know just which specialist bodies to pass them on to, & be able to take them through the processes which they might need to follow on from.

This might all make for good information working, but it can have a high emotional cost to one too.

All of which makes for a lot of high stress on the job.

As to low pay - this equates to a feeling of being very undervalued within society - the equation between a feeling of having a low social value & ill health is also very well understood by psychiatrists too.

I give the above as ideas.

What I have in mind is a special issue of ISC on Health & library work.

The above are pointers to what I would like to include within it.

So - dear readers - would any of you like to make a contribution to such a special issue of ISC?

If you are a radical library or information worker who shares our ideas, & would like to join us in our work, then we would like to hear from you.

We would also welcome people who would like to consider becoming a part of our editorial board/editorial working group.

ISC has a very global perspective, & this should always be kept in mind.

If you are interested in joining in with the work of ISC - then please let us know.

Martyn Lowe is a Library and Information worker, who works in a public library in a London borough


For enquiries contact   isc-journalat

All articles, reviews or other works are the copyright of the respective author(s) as shown.