Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

What Do We Mean by Library Leadership? Leadership in LIS Education

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

What Do We Mean by Library Leadership? Leadership in LIS Education

Article excerpt


Leadership is an often-misunderstood word, especially in the context of libraries. With a plethora of definitions for the word 'leadership', it can be difficult to identity what exactly is meant when discussing library leadership. Much of this definitional confusion comes from the misidentification of leadership as simply 'management' (Riggs, 2001). Management and leadership are two related, but distinct, concepts. Both are important in the day-to-day experiences of professional librarians; yet, it is leadership that has been recognized as "the most important competency when hiring" (Hicks & Given, 2013, p. 7). Undoubtedly, leadership is an area that deserves attention and promotion in library and information studies (LIS) education. For this literature review, the definition of LIS curriculum includes professional association leadership programs (e.g. Special Library Association's (SLA) Diversity Leadership Development Program). In reality, LIS education and curriculum covers more than only what is taught in MLIS programs. Regional, state, national, and association based leadership programs provide continuing education for MLIS students and professional librarians. Additionally, in this review the discussion of library leadership comes from a North-American context.

This literature review compiles 10 years of scholarly research on leadership as it relates to North-American LIS education. Some of these articles are geared towards the practitioner, while others concentrate on how iSchools and LSchools are using their curricula to teach and encourage leadership skills in MLIS students. Instead of focusing on leadership within the context of a particular LIS school or type of library, this review draws together literature on LIS schools, public libraries, law libraries, school libraries, and international libraries. As a result of this evaluation of the literature, a more holistic understanding of 'leadership' as a concept in LIS education can be better understood.


The articles for this literature review have been compiled through database searches on the Library Literature and Information Full Text, Academic Complete Search, and Google Scholar. The keywords used to find relevant articles from these databases are 'leadership', 'LIS education', 'mentorship', 'curriculum', and 'library'. The majority of the 28 retrieved articles have been published within the past 10 years. Older articles were briefly reviewed as a historical reference on the way in which library leadership has previously been studied.

Defining 'Leadership'

Numerous articles in this literature review point out the abundance of definitions for leadership (Hicks & Given, 2013; Mason & Wetherbee, 2004; Mullins & Linehan, 2006; Riggs, 2001; Winston & Hazlin, 2003). With over 100 definitions of leadership available and even more styles of leadership, it can be difficult to understand exactly where leadership fits within North-American LIS education and librarianship (Riggs, 2001). What does 'library leadership' mean? Should leadership development be included in LIS curriculum? Or should education on leadership take place as part of professional development in the workplace?

Management vs. Leadership

Often in the literature and professional communication, the terms management and leadership are use synonymously. This is particularly true among library administration and library staff that frequently view leadership as solely a role of those in management positions. However, management and leadership are two very distinct terms. Managers regularly "work within defined bounds of known quantities, using well-established techniques to accomplish predetermined ends" (Riggs, 2001, p. 6). In contrast, leaders maintain an understanding of what the mission and goals of an organization are and how these can be fulfilled (Riggs, 2001).

Management and leadership are both necessary for the survival and growth of a library. …

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