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The leadership of libraries is a tricky subject, to say the least. You can’t just stroll into a library with a pair of librarian glasses and a penchant for telling people to shush. Some librarians engage in critical research while others work closely with schools and students, but all play a vital role in keeping books accessible for everyone.

Library leadership, therefore, requires a delicate balance between different impulses and likewise necessitates specialized training programs.

Leadership Methodology

The question is whether librarian leadership should be taught in Library and Information Studies. Part of the crux of this debate rests on the balance between “management” and leadership. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the fact is that they are actually quite different.

Within the industry, “managers” are seen as defining boundaries in order to facilitate predetermined ends on the macro scale, whereas leaders handle the day-to-day affairs. In this sense, a “manager” is more like the general manager of a sports franchise tasked with drafting and building a team, and a “leader” is like the head coach calling the games.

Styles and Traits of Leadership

Within that purview, there are several styles and traits that are necessary for a leader to succeed. 

For example, transformational leadership emphasizes leaders’ flexibility in being able to deal with organizational change. This method has been embraced by LIS programs of late.

By contrast, traditional leadership programs have focused on teaching leaders to be more directly engaged with the needs of their workers. A balance of creativity, enthusiasm, risk-taking, and calculated organization is desired in leaders within the LIS field. Interpersonal communication is likewise important as a means of conveying that creativity and enthusiasm, or when problems arise which need resolving. Needless to say, problem-solving is likewise essential.

LIS is a complex and ever-evolving field, and so too must its leaders be. The traits required of leaders are various, but above all, they need to be able to keep up with the changing nature of the field while bringing the same degree of passion that is needed for leaders in any field.