Research Process: Studying Job Satisfaction for Librarians

by Moya K. Mason

1. The research problem in this study is the decreasing job satisfaction experienced by librarians.

2. Hypothesis is that job satisfaction varies inversely with the level of computerization in the workplace.

3. Subject scope includes both paraprofessionals and professional librarians.

4. The independent variable is computerization.

5. The dependent variable is job satisfaction in general.

6. The level of computerization is dependent upon the number of computer services offered by the library (i.e. the number of databases, computerized catalogues, online copy cataloguing systems, and CD ROM products). It will also be calculated by the number of hours a staff member spends working on or with computer technology.

7. In this study, job satisfaction will be measured by job security, social interaction, and perceived level of health in connection with computerization.

8. To operationalize this study, or to develop specific procedures that will result in empirical observations of the conceptualized variables, the first thing to do is find out how computerized the library is by documenting how much computer technology is being used. This would include counting the number of OPACs, databases, and computer products that are available, and other factors such as if the library offers Internet service to the public, whether the cataloguing unit employs a copy cataloguing network like OCLC, RLIN, or ISM; and if computerized check ins and check outs are installed. Also important in the equation is to measure the number of dollars spent on computer equipment and technology each year. And how many hours per eight hour shift an employee is using computers.

To operationalize the dependent variable of job satisfaction, researchers will have to use questionnaires to determine the perceived level of job security in this age of rapid computerization. Many people believe that as computer technology increases, jobs in library environments will decrease. For example, what is the likelihood that one will or will not be fired due to reduced budgets (computer technology is expensive and takes a lion share in some libraries), or job obsolescence, which can be contributed to computers doing some of the work historically done by employees.

Self administered questionnaires and small group discussions can help researchers measure the social interaction among employees. Social interaction is the level of social involvement with fellow employees and patrons within the library setting, and could also be measured by establishing the amount of time per eight hour shift spent with other people, either working alongside or helping library users. Computer technology changes the social dynamics of the workplace, by compartmentalizing workers to very specific duties, and long hours spent at work stations that may be quite isolated. Regardless, it seems as if computer technology brings on a more solitary work environment depending on the job. For example, this would affect cataloguers working online, more so than book shelvers.

And finally, the health of employees working on computers for extended periods may be measured by accessing employee sick day logs to determine the number of sick days missed per year. In addition, questionnaires and group discussions are beneficial because they bring out many perceived workplace related health problems and concerns. Confidential medical records are hard to get access to, but many employees will discuss them if their doctor visits have increased since spending large periods of time working on computers. These often include ergonomic concerns, such as back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, and eye strain. These factors directly influence job satisfaction. It is hard to be happy at work if wellness is a constant issue.


This researcher feels that the study is well laid out and conducive to finding solid relationships between job satisfaction and computerization of a library setting. The advantages are that the questionnaires are private, and therefore, pose no threats to employees who may be hesitant about expressing their concerns. Also a good sample size should be realized by studying both paraprofessionals and professional librarians. Disadvantages could come from skewed figures that have been collected from employees who are unsatisfied with their jobs in general, and who have no specific complaints arising from computer technology in the workplace. Their problems may stem from an inability to move up the job ladder. Other problems can come from health issues being blamed on the workplace environment, but actually stemming from unrelated injuries, or ergonomic problems related to after work activities. If an employee has a private business that does independent database searches, he or she may not broadcast it at work, but health could be affected.

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Additional Reading

Dilevko, Juris. Making a Difference in Their Own Way: The Role of Library Directors and Non-Directorial Staff at Tribal College Libraries. Journal of Academic Librarianship 28(5), Sep-Oct 2002, p. 306-318.

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