News & Opinion

Developing Future Library Leaders

by on May 1, 2013

As libraries move into the future, how can we ensure professionals entering the field are prepared to lead?  Steven Bell references library professional Joseph Branin’s concern that current library leaders may not be doing enough to prepare the “next generation.”[1] Stemming from this, Bell’s Library Journal article notes that there are five skills that are necessary for successful leadership. These skills include team building, being collaborative, “tech savvy,” “globally focused and culturally attuned,” and “future-focused.”[2] While the article tends to center on academic libraries, these skills can be translated into any library environment, including public libraries. Despite the challenges all libraries face, it is worth reflecting on these ideas to keep the profession moving forward.

Bell points out that future leaders will need to “form radical collaborations with other libraries.”[3] This is already occurring. For example, Marta Murvosh’s article in School Library Journal’s January 2013 issue highlighted “collaborative projects” between school and public librarians.[4] Librarians are keenly aware of the fast-changing technological landscape. I would also suggest librarians are culturally aware of the diverse people they serve, and are familiar with working in teams. But as Bell says, the most important skill will be looking into the future.[5] How can librarians anticipate changes? With issues such as e-books, open access, and copyright, this seems like an endless task. Preparing now for potential challenges would help. Feldmann, Level, and Liu found that academic librarians welcomed leadership training through “seminars,” “departmental cross-training,” and “job shadowing.”[6] Training opportunities like these can also benefit public librarians. Budgets and time may not allow for this, but establishing a training goal could facilitate future action. “Organizational health, effectiveness, and employee retention” are reasons why libraries should pursue professional development (and leadership) opportunities.[7] Everyone benefits if employers and supervisors invest in their employees. Leadership training will help tomorrow’s librarians be better equipped to handle problems and anticipate trends and needs. Otherwise, without this “support,” “our next generation will be poorly positioned to lead.”[8]



[1] Steven Bell, “Skills for Leading Libraries of the Future,” Library Journal, March 27, 2013, accessed April 3, 2013, http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/03/opinion/leading-from-the-library/skills-for-leading-libraries-of-the-future-leading-from-the-library/ .

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Marta, Murvosh, “Partners in Success,” School Library Journal 59, no. 1, (2013): 25.

[5] Bell, “Skills for Leading.”

[6] Louise Mort Feldmann, Allison V. Level, and Shu Liu, “Leadership training and development: an academic library’s findings”, Library Management 34, no. 1/2 (2013): 96 – 104, doi: 10.1108/01435121311298306 .

[7] Ibid.

[8] Bell, “Skills for Leading.”


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