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what to do in the interim? excelling in library leadership on a temporary basis

by | Nov 3, 2022 | 0 comments


Cris Ferguson, Dean of Libraries, Murray State University became Assistant Dean of Libraries in 2018. Temporary leadership can occur because of illness, retirements, transfers, etc.  It can feel uncertain: how long will it last? What will you be expect to do as an interim? The most important thing is to be clear and be open with the people around you.

Experiences as interim library leaders:

  • Roles and expectations: Know were your boundaries are. What can you do and what can’t you do? What are your and your supervisors and colleagues expectations?
  • Learning and development: What are the university’s internal processes? Budgeting, hiring, confidentiality.
  • Relationships and support. Positional isolation may means that you have few peers within the organization. Learn who is in your network and accept that relationships with co-workers will change. Look for others in leadership positions.
  • Advice for interim Deans. Admit when you don’t know the answer, advocate for your own needs and ask for help, seek professional development opportunities. 

Every interim arrangement will come to an end. Once you become permanent, everything will be clear.

Glenda Alvin, Interim Executive Director of Libraries and Media Centers, Tennessee State University became Interim Director but is still doing her previous job. Questions to consider in receiving an offer to become an Interim Director: Is the salary worth the added workload and stress? What can you accomplish that will make a different or have a lasting benefit for the library and university? What support will you get from your direct report and academic colleagues?

Unknowns that will become known: budget management, grant writing, assessment reports, meetings and more meetings, working with a new set of peers.

Write your vision and make it plain (Habakkuk 2:2), remove long histories and background, rewrite it with an introduction of your goals and priorities, then make changes (personnel and job assignments, supervisory changes, job titles to reflect what people actually did). Some positions were eliminated. Know who you can delegate things to and that they will get done.

Don’t regard an interim position as a stopgap.

Don Hawkins



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