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Leadership for Academic Libraries

Developing leaders for academic libraries is an urgent need, especially at a moment when roles and responsibilities of these organizations are in such flux. One of the longest-running and successful programs, the UCLA Senior Fellows program, seemed to be at risk, only because it is totally dependent upon the extraordinary efforts of a single individual. After extensive discussions with Beverly Lynch, UCLA Professor and head of Senior Fellows, Ithaka S+R commissioned former Senior Fellows participant, Karen Calhoun, to carry out a study of the program, with help from an advisory council. The group was charged with making recommendations for a sustainable future strategy for the Senior Fellows program. We are deeply grateful to Karen and the members of the advisory council: Trevor Dawes, Carol Diedrichs, and Michael Furlough—all alumni of the program—and Virginia Steel, university librarian of the UCLA Library. The operating premise for the group was that the 2016 program will continue in the same way, with Dr. Lynch leading the three-week residential program at UCLA. The advisory group was asked to consider what follows the 2016 session.

The group began working last spring. Karen and the advisory council prepared and conducted interviews and an online survey of previous and prospective participants in the program, assessed the program’s financial situation, documented how the current program operates and is administered, looked at the other programs that are aimed at producing leaders for the profession, evaluated the Senior Fellows program’s relative market position and unique strengths, and, finally, made recommendations about the future of the program.

Convinced that the program makes valuable contributions toward leadership development, Karen and the advisory council offered three options for continuing the program:

  • Develop a partnership among UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (GSEIS), the UCLA Libraries, and Ithaka S+R that would collaboratively develop and deliver a leadership program.
  • Enhance the current program within GSEIS, perhaps by working more closely with UCLA Library.
  • Redesign the program by finding a new organizational home and starting anew.

The advisory group had a strong preference for the Collaborate option (bullet 1 in the prior paragraph). They recognize that the program cannot continue with only one person carrying the responsibility, but they saw many advantages for a group of interested organizations to work together to consider what kind of leadership training is required for 21st century academic librarianship. The group recommended that a program facilitator be hired to coordinate the partnering organizations. All of the partners would contribute to recruitment, curricular development, instruction/coaching, and administrative operations.

Please take a look at the advisory council’s full report and let us know what you think. There are many steps between the report and implementation: developing the terms and responsibilities for a collaborative arrangement, creating a business model for the program that works for all of the partners, and creating an operational structure that allows the facilitator/coordinator to be successful.

While there is much thinking and a lot of work ahead, one thing is clear. Leadership for academic libraries is in great demand, and programs that help develop leaders are still needed. We at Ithaka S+R are committed to helping achieve that goal.

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