Leadership and followership in public libraries: transnational perspectives

John Mullins (Cork City Library, Cork, Ireland)
Margaret Linehan (Department of Adult and Continuing Education, Cork Institute of Technology, Cork, Ireland)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This paper aims to explore the topic of leadership as perceived and described by public library leaders. In particular, the paper seeks to investigate the reported impact of public library leaders on their followers. The study aims to develop an understanding of the perceptions of current leaders in the field of public librarianship.


A total of 30 top‐level public librarians from Ireland, the UK, and the east coast of the USA were selected for inclusion in this study. A review of the relevant literature was used to design an interview guide which was used to conduct structured in‐depth face‐to‐face interviews.


The findings illustrate that the leaders believe that followers are motivated by example from their leaders. The interviewed librarians highlight the role played by followers, whom they see as the foundation of public library service. The librarians argue that a partnership approach between leaders and followers is necessary to formulate and to put into effect strategies and courses of action to fulfil organizational purpose and goals.


The current study is the most in‐depth study to date on this topic, drawing on face‐to‐face interviews with 30 public library leaders. Prior to this study, no in‐depth study on the topic of leadership in librarianship has been researched and published outside of North America. As this study was undertaken in three national jurisdictions – Ireland, UK, and the USA, it is also the first transnational study on the topic.



Mullins, J. and Linehan, M. (2005), "Leadership and followership in public libraries: transnational perspectives", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 641-647. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550510624095

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