Many librarians will work for, or serve as, an interim leader at least once during their professional careers. Institutions may appoint temporary leaders when personnel changes occur such as retirements, reorganizations, medical leaves, misconduct, or voluntary separations. These appointments might be planned months in advance or could occur overnight—and may be of unforeseen duration. Lack of advanced warning or general uncertainty can create an uneasy environment for both those serving as interim leaders and the employees working for them. Demystifying interim leadership can be beneficial for all library employees.
Due to the unexpected nature of many interim positions, librarians in these positions may not have adequate time to develop the skills and abilities they need to be successful. Although some interim leaders bring managerial or administrative experience from a previous position, for others the interim position is their first leadership role. Some interim leaders find themselves in the awkward position of supervising their former peers or navigating political situations as an internal candidate for the permanent position. These factors make serving as interim leader a unique challenge with significant impacts on a librarian’s career and well-being.
In 2020, the presenters distributed a national survey to recent interim middle managers to assess the impact on the librarian of serving in the interim role. Questions included assessments of relationships with peers and managers, emotional and physical health, as well as capturing the leadership interest and experience of the respondent and their demographic profile. From 236 complete responses, a dozen diverse participants were selected for follow-up interviews to further explore their experience serving as an interim leader. The researchers will be able to share trends and general experiences from leaders in a variety of library types, as well as highlight any differences in the interim experience between librarians of diverse backgrounds. From this research, attendees will gain valuable insight on interim leadership in libraries and what factors can lead to a positive or negative experience.
This presentation will add unique value to the discussion of leadership in libraries because of the gap in scholarship around—and the particular nature of—interim leadership. Often seen as an entry into permanent leadership roles, understanding this unique form of leadership and its impacts is essential for both those interested in “climbing the ladder” and upper administrators trying to fill an interim position. This presentation will spark a valuable discussion about the impact of serving in an interim leadership role and engage with audience members about their own experiences with interim leadership. This presentation will be invaluable to librarians considering taking on, or already serving in, an interim leadership position as well as library administrators seeking to fill an interim manager role.
Interpret survey data collected from interim library leaders
Identify elements that promote a positive interim experience
Describe elements associated with a negative interim experience