Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

The Leadership Reconsidered Symposium: Report

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

The Leadership Reconsidered Symposium: Report

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: The following article reports on the symposium titled "Leadership Reconsidered: Developing a Strategic Agenda for Leadership in Health Sciences Libraries," held on May 22, 2002, 12:30 P.M. to 9:00 P.M., at MLA '02, the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association, in Dallas, Texas. The symposium was attended by 100 librarians interested in discussing leadership and management concepts. Additional information about the symposium may be found at This Website includes a symposium overview, objectives, agenda, and speaker and attendee lists. Many of the speakers' presentations are also available on the Website.


On May 22, 2002, a symposium was conducted at MLA '02, the 102d Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association (MLA), to explore the concepts of leadership and management. The symposium was cosponsored by the MLA Leadership and Management section and the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL), with support from Majors Scientific Books and Aries Systems Corporation. The overall symposium goal was to develop a strategic agenda for leadership in health sciences libraries through defining the issues and recommending actions.

Symposium objectives were to:

* obtain an overview of library leadership issues from national experts in the field;

* hear the latest research on the attributes that present and future library leaders need to possess;

* learn about existing library leadership development programs;

* brainstorm in facilitated discussions about the leadership challenges facing health sciences libraries; and

* engage in dialogue with leaders from MLA, AAHSL, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and other MLA members about how the profession must respond to these challenges and provide recommendations for a strategic agenda for future action.

Registrants included 100 health sciences librarians, representing both academic and hospital library environments, including eighteen colleagues acting as group facilitators and recorders. Seven speakers covered various aspects of leadership as well as examples of library leadership development programs in existence throughout the country. Participants also took part in group brainstorming sessions with the results reported to the symposium. A list of attendees can be found on the symposium Website.


The symposium was held against the backdrop of perceived needs for leadership development in health sciences librarianship. The demographics of the library profession as a whole have created a sense of urgency about recruiting and educating librarians. Librarians are part of a trend of aging U.S. workers, reflecting the impact of the large baby boom generation on the size and age composition of the labor force. However, the library profession is aging even faster than the overall workforce.

Librarianship is one of the occupations with a greater than average proportion of workers over forty-five years of age. With a median age of forty-seven for librarians in 1998, it has been estimated that 50,000 librarians would be needed to replace those retiring between 1998 and 2008 [I]. Among librarians with a master's degree, 17% will reach the age of sixty-five during the years 2005 to 2009 and another 21% in 2010 to 2014 [2]. Data for health sciences libraries show a similar situation. The percentage of MLA members under age forty dropped from 51% in 1983 to less than 21% in 2001 [3]. In AAHSL institutions, 44% of all professionals in 2001 were fifty years and older [4].

Librarians in leadership positions are no different. Ninety-one percent of Association of Research Libraries (ARL) directors were fifty and older in 1998, a dramatic increase over the 63% in 1990 [5]. A survey of current AAHSL directors indicated that 16% plan to retire by 2005 and an additional 49% by 2010 [6]. …

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