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Succession Planning for Public Libraries

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Succession Planning for Public Libraries

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Library Operations & Management |

Innovation Synopsis

For the success of our Library’s goals, we had to work harder to retain skilled people and become more creative in recruiting talent as the workforce reduced. We designed a program to identify high-potential staff members, evaluate and hone their skills and abilities, and prepare them for advancement into positions.


One of the major challenges of succession planning that we found in our library was “bench strength.” From our data, we recognized that in 2011, we had 42 potential retirees. We realized that the bench strength of those staff members would be walking out of our doors and leaving our library with little or no support. It became obvious to us the importance of providing developmental opportunities so staff is ready to move up when the time is right. We wanted to ensure that the competencies for future leaders were not only technical skills but skills that reflected superb communications skills, a good attitude, the ability to deal effectively with change, the skill to get along with others, the vision to see beyond the four walls of our library and strong customer focus skills. We recognized that our staff must be trained and groomed to be competitive with the best candidates.

Key Elements of Innovation

The “Tomorrow’s Manager Program” was a program developed and geared to those individual contributors who have the potential and are interested in management. Our Library committed to helping these indi¬viduals prepare to take on greater responsibilities, and monitor their current performance and grow as they meet new challenges. Through the Tomorrow’s Manager Program, we increased the bench strength of prospective library managers by providing high potential employees the opportunity to be fast-tracked and be exposed to a variety of development opportunities. We identified potential candidates for the program through an application which was open to all staff. We had 35 applicants. We interviewed 20 applicants and selected 11 participants for the first program. Components of the program included formal learning opportunities which were built on Leadership Core Competencies identified by our senior leaders, informal learning opportunities, coaching, an assessment tool that identified their natural tendencies versus leadership tendencies which resulted in the development of individual development action plans, job shadowing, and project team leadership. The participants were also exposed to the responsibilities of the fiscal office and support services administrative units.

Achieved Outcomes

Of the eleven participants, six staff members have been appointed to management positions. The other participants have accepted broader responsibilities including project team leadership. Those eleven staff members are stronger advocates for the library. They now understand the broader responsibility of leadership from advocacy to communications and addressing challenges within their departments or branches. With the success of this program, we are preparing to start our second class for high potential leaders. Another smaller library in Ohio has implemented a Leadership University as the result of our efforts with this program.