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Orange County Library System

Problem Statement

The Assistant Manager position at the Orange County Library System provided employees with a stepping stone into management and offered support to managers in busy departments and branches. When looking at our pool of applicants for succession into higher level management positions, however, we felt that in many instances, the Assistant Managers were not ready to take on the challenge and responsibilities at the next level. They lacked the breadth of experience that comes from exposure to different aspects of the organization, observation of diverse leadership styles, and dealing with a broad range of employee issues. We needed an employee development program to support and grow the future leaders of the system.


Spectrum is a professional development program for Assistant Managers. The program involves rotation of assistant managers to departments and branches throughout the system. A Spectrum participant might begin as an Assistant Manager in a branch location and then move to a reference department at the main library; from there, a stop in a behind-the-scenes location such as Collection Development, and so on. The length of the rotation has evolved from 12 months to longer periods of 18 to 24 months. Prior to a “Spectrum” rotation, we ask participants to identify three locations they believe will provide them with new experiences and opportunities. We take into account the employee’s preferences plus consider the character and needs of the various branches and departments as we are making decisions about who goes where. In most cases, we are able to provide the Spectrum participant with an assignment to one of their three preferred locations.


Spectrum began in 2002 and today, 25% of the OCLS management workforce are “graduates” of the Spectrum program, promoted into higher management levels within the organization. Nearly 30% of the OCLS management workforce is a current Spectrum participant. Not only has Spectrum had a positive effect on employees in the Assistant Manager position, it has provided second level managers (Department Heads and Branch Managers) with opportunities to expand their coaching and mentoring skills with newer managers. As their Spectrum managers change, these more experienced managers have learned to navigate different personalities, experience levels, and methods. In addition, Spectrum has evolved into a recruiting tool when we post vacancies for the entry level management position. Candidates understand that we make an investment into their management careers and provide them with hands-on opportunities to learn the organization from diverse vantage points.