The Six-Step Guide to Library Worker Engagement

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Offering proven strategies alongside recommended action points in each chapter, this resource guides managers and administrators through developing and maintaining a more engaged and diverse workplace.

Gallup’s 2019 State of the American Workplace Report found that 70 percent of employees are disengaged at work. Why is worker engagement so important? Engaged workers lead to engaged libraries — vibrant institutions that nurture their workers’ dedication, creativity, and innovation so they can serve their communities most effectively. This guide walks library managers and administrators through concrete steps to change their organization’s culture so that it fosters worker engagement, using first-hand accounts from library staff to illustrate both successes and failures. Readers will discover

  • why libraries often fall short at hiring good leadership and ways to develop better recruitment strategies moving forward;
  • how lack of trust pushes workplace culture towards incivility, hostility, and lower morale, and what library leaders can do to rebuild it;
  • methods for using recognition and praise as tools for sustaining a positive work environment;
  • the rationale for eliminating annual performance reviews in favor of less formal one-on-one conversations and “just in time” continuous feedback;
  • the secrets behind high performing teams, strategies to support dysfunctional teams, and tips on how to develop remote teamwork; and
  • why viewing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as separate from workplace culture is counterproductive, since it is actually the positive result of a strong foundation, with advice on combating the factors that contribute to low retention rates of BIPOC librarians.


Chapter 1    Leadership and Management
Chapter 2    Trust
Chapter 3    Recognition and Praise 
Chapter 4    Feedback and Performance Evaluation
Chapter 5    Teamwork and Collaboration
Chapter 6    Diversity Equity, and Inclusion


Elaina Norlin

Elaina Norlin is the Professional Development DEI Coordinator for the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries. She is an accomplished teacher, technology and leadership development trainer, and writer with extensive leadership experience and a flair for public relations, organizational development, marketing and persuasion and communications. Author of two books, she has delivered over 70 workshops, training sessions, presentations, and institutes both nationally and internationally on marketing, web usability design, facilitation, strategic influence, and conflict management. Self-motivated and results oriented, she is well known for her ability to juggle many projects at once.

"Relying on extensive research into the science of engagement and conducting a staggering number of interviews, Norlin has crafted an accessible, optimistic, and thoughtful guide to improving workplace culture. The chapter on developing, repairing, and strengthening trust is a must-read for administrators navigating a workplace laced with pandemic fear and anxiety. This chapter is bolstered by success stories and refreshingly honest, reminding readers that 'in order to get trust, you must give trust.' The chapters 'Recognition and Praise' and 'Feedback and Performance Evaluations' offer realistic approaches when budgets are tight and evaluation rubrics are inflexible."
Library Journal

"Norlin realized that worker engagement is a significant factor in workplace productivity and stability, so she researched top workplace research firms to identify key elements for employee engagement and drew on her own and others’ library experiences. This book applies those elements to the library workplace, and provides practical strategies to optimize worker engagement ... Norlin’s writing is clear and down-to-earth, with many anecdotes to explain concepts. The font and layout are easy to read. While probably most useful to beginning library leaders, this book provides useful guidance to librarians throughout their careers."
— Booklist

"The information included ... is beautifully synthesized into short readable chapters with clear examples that are related to the library world ... [The] interviews and case studies provide valuable insight that shows the relevance of these principles to the library workplace. They are also a great tool for discussion. I recommend this book to managers and leaders in all types of libraries and especially to new leaders."
— Journal of Hospital Librarianship