Succession Planning in Academic Libraries: A Reconsideration
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It has been widely projected in the library literature that a substantial number of librarians will retire in the near future leaving significant gaps in the workforce, especially in library leadership. Many of those concerned with organizational development in libraries have promoted succession planning as an essential tool for addressing this much-anticipated wave of retirements. The purpose of this chapter is to argue that succession planning is the wrong approach for academic libraries. This chapter provides a review of the library literature on succession planning, as well as studies analyzing position announcements in librarianship which provide evidence as to the extent to which academic librarianship has changed in recent years. In a review of the library literature, the author found no sound explanation of why succession planning is an appropriate method for filling anticipated vacancies and no substantive evidence that succession planning programs in libraries are successful. Rather than filling anticipated vacancies with librarians prepared to fill specific positions by means of a succession planning program, the author recommends that academic library leaders should focus on the continual evaluation of current library needs and future library goals, and treat each vacancy as an opportunity to create a new position that will best satisfy the strategic goals of the library. In contrast to the nearly universal support for succession planning found in the library literature, this chapter offers a different point of view.