Ladders to Leadership

Introduction | Leadership and Vision | Leadership Traits | Annotated Bibliography | Survey Responses | Self-Assessment



Leadership is a highly relevant topic for the library profession. Some writers have suggested that we may be headed toward a leadership “crisis”, regarding the shortage of new individuals entering the profession, and the substantial number of current library leaders that are expected to retire within the next decade. 1 At the same time, the rapid rate of change regarding library services and technology shows no sign of slowing. Thus, it is necessary to prepare newer librarians to take on leadership roles if the profession is going to remain strong and vital.

There are many definitions of leadership, and much has been written on the differences between leadership and management. While management skills are important to keep organizations running smoothly and effectively, the focus of this web site is on leadership. As Donald E. Riggs 2 writes:

  • The manager administers; the leader motivates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

This site contains resources designed to help librarians to identify and develop qualities that can enable them to become effective leaders. It was developed by members of the New Members Round Table (NMRT) Self-Study and Resource Allocation Committee, which was charged to create a web site on this topic to coincide with the 2004-2005 NMRT President’s theme, “Ladders to Leadership”. Resources on this site include: an explanation of leadership, vision and traits that are characteristic of leaders, a listing of traits, an annotated bibliography of books and articles on leadership (including self-study workbooks), results of an informal e-mail survey on the NMRT-L and Newlib-L discussion lists on methods new librarians use to develop leadership skills, and a checklist of traits which may be used to evaluate leaders or to assess one’s own leadership qualities.

Although this site is primarily aimed at newer librarians aspiring to leadership positions, more experienced librarians who are currently in leadership positions may also use its resources to assess themselves and to identify new traits that they wish to acquire or strengthen in order to become more effective leaders. Moreover, as we believe that leadership can be exercised by any individual no matter what his or her position, this site may also benefit librarians or paraprofessionals who are not currently in leadership positions, but wish to influence others in order to make a difference in their organizations.

It is hoped that this site may be a useful starting point for librarians to learn about leadership, and to identify resources that may help them develop their leadership potential.


1. Peter Hernon, Ronald R. Powell, and Arthur P. Young, The Next Library Leadership: Attributes of Academic and Public Library Directors (Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, 2003).
2. Mark D. Winston, ed., Leadership in the Library and Information Science Professions: Theory and Practice (New York: Haworth Press, 2001).

Self-Study and Resource Allocation Committee Members, 2003-2004 :
Sally Bickley, chair
Rita Bridges
Mark Costa
Jeannette Ho
Sarah Merrill