To investigate senior library leaders' perceptions of leadership, and to critically explore whether senior librarians distinguish classic leadership from management/administrative practices, both conceptually and in their work lives.
Thirty top‐level public librarians from Ireland, Britain, and the east coast of the United States were selected for inclusion in this study. A review of the relevant literature was conducted in order to design an interview guide which was then used to conduct structured in‐depth face‐to‐face interviews.
Many responses from the senior librarians indicated an apparent ignorance of any distinction between leadership and management. Eighty per cent of respondents tended to confuse leadership with headship, management, administration, or bureaucracy, or a combination of these. The findings argue that classic leadership is a relatively scarce quality in public libraries in Britain, Ireland, and America. Many public library leaders, instead, focus on management/administration.
The findings have practical implications for librarians at the recruitment and selection stage, and later on for the career paths of middle management personnel who show aptitudes for leadership.
This study of the perceptions of senior public library leaders, across national boundaries, makes a theoretical contribution both to the limited extant literature on leadership in librarianship, and the broad corpus of organizational leadership literature. The current study is the most in‐depth study to date, drawing on thirty face‐to‐face interviews with thirty public library leaders.
CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited