Shame: The Emotional Basis of Library Anxiety

Erin L. McAfee


In 1986, Constance Mellon found that 75 to 85 percent of undergraduate students experienced library anxiety as well as shame about their anxiety. Fifteen years earlier, Helen Block Lewis began her groundbreaking research in shame theory. This paper explores the affective components of library anxiety using the pioneering research of Constance Mellon, Helen Block Lewis, and others. Two issues are discussed: 1) how unacknowledged, recursive shame or “shame about shame” creates painful, emotional states such as library anxiety; and 2) how to recognize and neutralize unacknowledged shame in library service interactions.

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Copyright Erin L. McAfee

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