Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Role-related Stress Experienced by Academic Librarians


Psychology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


Title: Role-related Stress Experienced by Academic Librarians Area: Stress Problem or purpose: Stressors associated with employees roles represent one of the most widely studied sources of occupational stress. Unfortunately, while researchers have sought to better understand role-related stress in a number of populations, the experiences of academic librarians have been virtually ignored. This oversight is surprising given recent changes in the nature of academic librarians work making role-related stress particularly relevant (e.g., Shupe & Pung, 2011). The purpose of the study described here is to assess two common role-related stressors and to examine their consequences in a sample of academic librarians. Procedures: Sixty public universities and colleges were randomly sampled from more than 120 four year institutions in the Midwest. Employees listed on these libraries websites were sent an email message requesting their participation in a web-based survey about their experiences at work. The survey instrument included demographic questions as well as measures of role ambiguity (Rizzo, House, & Lirtzman, 1970), role overload (Ivancevich & Matteson, 1980), and a number of psychological, job-related and health-related outcomes. Results: Complete data were obtained from 320 librarians. As predicted, the mean level of role ambiguity and role overload experienced by the librarians was high when compared to norms from other professional groups (e.g., Pasupuleti et al., 2009; Savelsbergh et al., 2012). Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the relation between the role stressors and each outcome variable. For each model, the participants sex was entered in Step 1, and role ambiguity and overload were entered in Step 2. The addition of the role stressors in Step 2 significantly increased the variance explained in perceived stress (”R2=.30), job satisfaction (”R2=.26), and burnout (”R2=.26). As predicted, both role ambiguity and role overload were significantly related to the outcomes. Similarly, the addition of the role stressors in Step 2 significantly increased the variance explained in work withdrawal (”R2=.09), subjective well-being (”R2=.16), and health (”R2=.16). Although role ambiguity was significantly related to each of these outcome variables, there was no significant effect of role overload. Conclusions: Results suggest that role ambiguity and role overload are experienced at relatively high levels by academic librarians and the stressors are related to a host of negative outcomes. Given these potential implications, we urge academic institutions to closely examine the job-related responsibilities of their librarians and to work to decrease role ambiguity or to minimize the associated stress.

Conference Name

Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association

Conference Location

Chicago, IL

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