Succession Planning and the Library: The Strategic Plan

Succession Planning and the Library: The Strategic Plan

Barb Kundanis (Longmont Public Library, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5812-7.ch008
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This chapter focuses on the strategic planning aspects of succession planning in libraries. The idea of succession planning needs to be included in the long-range plan. Strategic planning grows from a strong mission and vision and, in this case, implementing succession planning as a value. By employing some foresight in the development of policy, an environment supporting succession planning is created. Becoming part of the process and gaining a support network with resources are important aspects of this discussion. Assessment of the current situation and considering the structure of the library also come into play. Creating a strategic plan that involves succession planning is the goal.
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In “From Surviving to Thriving,” Stoffle and Cuillier look at planning for the future in academic libraries: “It is our responsibility as the librarians and staff of today to work together to build the successful libraries of the future.” They want to “enable the creation of library as service rather than library as collection.” They realize that they “did not have the resources to continue traditional collection and processing activities” and needed to plan for change. They believe “the most important resource that any library has is its personnel” and in planning and budgeting, they needed to “align our strategic goals with the university’s strategic plan.” While this article is directed toward academic libraries, it can be applied to all types of libraries. They state their goals, realize their strengths and weaknesses and acknowledge being part of a larger organization.

According to Nixon’s article Growing Your Own Leaders: Succession Planning in Libraries, “The basic steps of succession planning are: 1. Analyze the demographics of your key positions, 2. Identify potential employees for lead positions, 3. Assess candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, and 4.Develop a training program to build competencies.” These four concepts can aid in structuring your strategic plan. To get a general idea of the age of key positions, the date of their undergraduate degree can be used. Perspectives on retirement are changing and while an employee may be considered ready for retirement by their institution; the employee often has a different perspective. Identifying potential employees for leadership can be done by supervisors, usually during review. Mentoring can be used to encourage the employee and afford the supervisor a leadership opportunity. Strengths and weaknesses can be addressed through reviews. If there is not an extensive training program, continuing education can be promoted by sponsoring conference attendance and rewarding library association involvement.

In Succession Planning in the Library, 21st century skills and trends are covered. Understanding core competencies for different libraries will be a helpful tool for planning. Among other things, “competencies provide clear guidelines as to what it takes for your library to be successful.” Some trends are aging, due to the Baby Boomer population, diversity, shortage of workers, and loss of skills. The economic collapse of 2008 has changed the way people view their retirement and their future. New college graduates are lacking opportunity while people are staying in their jobs longer. In order to achieve a balanced approach to staffing, the age and experience of the staff and what they offer must be taken into consideration. Many new librarians may be tech savvy but not very experienced in creating a collection or working a Reference Desk. Older employees may balk at learning new things. Movement among older staff who do not want to retire may be required. Staff may be amenable to a reduction in hours so that another employee can be promoted. Transitions can be made more fluid so that employees do not feel “stuck” for years with no hope in sight. Libraries that do not employ strategic planning risk stagnation. Trying to assemble staff with a variety of talents and ages is a challenge but one that reaps benefits in terms of future development. In turn, the staff learns from each other. Mentoring and an introduction to new talent can foster the skills to move the library forward. The guard is not changing, it is in constant flux, adapting to an evolving library.

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