Saturday, January 21, 2006

UK study: Librarians 'suffer most stress'

Here are 2 articles citing a UK study that suggests that "being a librarian induces more stress than working for the emergency services, driving a 125mph express, or teaching a class of ill-behaved children" (via

Reasons that caused the librarians stress: Not enough variety in their work, lack of control over their careers, and not being able to put their skills to full use.

I think the real value of that research was in highlighting the situation of UK libraries rather than the research findings per se.

Reading the article headlines the first time, I'd presumed that stress faced by UK librarians was one of change and demanding customers (especially the former). I was surprised to find that was really about the lack of change (simplistically speaking of course).

It was a reminder of how forward-looking the Singapore Government has been with regards to the development of public libraries. You can have reports and studies to justify why libraries should be developed, but current ways of measuring the value of libraries are not very distinct (i.e. hard to show direct causal relationship between investment in libraries and returns). I suspect to a large extent, the decision to invest in libraries is based on intuition.

Investing in libraries is an investment for the future (this is a "motherhood statement" but one I believe it). And since the future cannot be predicted with accuracy, this means we're taking a risk in investing money into developing libraries.

But as they say in the financial world, there can never be returns without risk. Those who profit are often those who take the longer-term view, rather than short term speculations.