Professionalism & Leadership

Lightning Talk: Research Abstract

Coping Strategies for Impostor Phenomenon among Health Sciences Librarians

Monday, May 6
3:05 PM - 3:10 PM
Room: Columbus KL (East Tower, Ballroom/Gold Level)

Objectives : Impostor phenomenon is the inability to internalize accomplishments while experiencing the fear of being exposed as a fraud. Impostor phenomenon can have serious adverse effects including: anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, decreased job satisfaction and performance, and burnout. Our research objective is to discover effective coping strategies to help health sciences librarians address feelings of impostor phenomenon.


Methods : In our study, the first to measure impostor phenomenon in health science librarians, we distributed an anonymous online survey via REDCap to measure impostor phenomenon among US health sciences librarians and learn about strategies to cope with impostor phenomenon. We used the Harvey Impostor Phenomenon scale (higher scores are associated with feelings of fraudulence) and asked two open-ended questions about coping with feelings of inadequacy at work. The first question asked what strategies respondents used to address these feelings, and the second asked how effective the respondents believed the strategies were. We performed a thematic analysis of the responses to the open-ended questions.


Results : Our study found that one in seven health sciences librarians experienced impostor phenomenon and, importantly, younger and newer librarians had higher impostor scores. 703 participants completed the survey, of those, 459 answered the open-ended questions. Participants reported many strategies to cope with feelings of inadequacy; 75% reported their strategies were effective. We categorized strategies as either “external” (seeking help outside oneself) or “internal” (coping alone). External strategies include: educational opportunities, mentorship, and talking to others. Internal strategies include: avoidance, “fake it til you make it”, or mindfulness. We found that external strategies were associated with lower impostor scores.


Conclusions : Feelings of impostor phenomenon can be harmful to those who experience them. Individual librarians, managers, and professional organizations all have a role in addressing impostor phenomenon in the profession. Recognizing the signs of impostor phenomenon and understanding the most effective strategies to cope with it, such as mentoring, colleague support, and educational efforts, are beneficial to health sciences librarians, particularly to younger or newer librarians who experience more feelings of impostorism.

Debra Werner

Director of Library Research in Medical Education
John Crerar Library
Chicago, Illinois

Debra Werner, MLIS, is the Director of Library Research in Medical Education at the University of Chicago. Deb provides medical information and instruction across the continuum of medical education. She delivers instruction to members of the biomedical community, including students, faculty, clinicians, and researchers. She also manages the Systematic Review Service, assisting faculty, fellows, and residents with the search methodology for their reviews.

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Michelle B. Bass, AHIP

Manager, Research and Instruction
Harvard Medical School, Countway Library of Medicine
Boston, Massachusetts

As of March 25, 2019, I am the manager of research and instruction at Countway Library of Medicine. I was previously Research Services Librarian at Lane Medical Library, Stanford University School of Medicine.

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Liz Kellermeyer

Biomedical Research Librarian
National Jewish Health
Denver, Colorado

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Jill Barr-Walker

Clinical Librarian
ZSFG Library, University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, California

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