Book Reviews

Leading in the New Academic Library. Becky Albitz, Christine Avery, and Diane Zabel, eds. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited. 2017. 195p. Paper, $55.00 (ISBN 978-1-4408-5113-1).

Leading in the New Academic Library, edited by Becky Albitz, Christine Avery, and Diane Zabel, provides a good entry-level primer on the state and types of leadership facing the contemporary academic library. The book is divided into two large sections. The first section is entitled “Challenges and Opportunities.” Within this section are ten chapters that deal with a variety of issues loosely related to new challenges and opportunities. Some of these opportunities include the changing nature of the library and both its physical and organizational structures. One of the more intriguing chapters in this section, written by Joseph Fennewald, is entitled “Academic Libraries Reimagined: How Facilities Are Changing to Support New Services.” This chapter is an interesting elucidation of the ways in which the academic library’s physical structure has changed over time. The author does a good job of connecting the evolution of the academic mission to the changes that have occurred within the library over this evolutionary period. The other chapters in this section follow the themes of challenge and opportunities and deal with topics including new roles for staff and librarians in the changing academic library. The section closes with two chapters that discuss the importance of collaborative work environments.

Book cover for Leading in the New Academic Library.

The second section is called “Leadership in the Face of Transition.” This section has a similar organizational structure of six chapters authored by a number of different librarians. Some of the chapters include discussions of promoting leadership development and promoting and recruiting underrepresented groups in libraries. Two of the more intriguing chapters from this section come at the end. The first of these chapters deals with leading from the middle management position. The authors discuss how librarians who are mid-career can lead from the middle as part of the process for moving up in libraries. What is interesting with this chapter is the discussion about the appropriate process for moving up and continuing to consider one’s ultimate goals and that sometimes those goals shouldn’t necessarily be set by others. The second interesting chapter from this section deals with succession planning and leading for one’s replacement. As the library profession continues to “grey,” this section becomes increasingly salient and important. It is critical for today’s leaders to train the leaders of tomorrow. What is unique about this chapter as it relates to other succession planning is the recognition that succession may not be isolated to a specific organization; instead, it is succession planning for libraries in general.

Leading in the New Academic Library is, as mentioned at the start, a good beginning to understanding the changing and dynamic roles of leadership in the new academic library. The different authors are well versed in their fields of librarianship and have offered unique perspectives of the face of the new academic library. Each chapter offers well-structured and reasoned arguments that touch on some of the more current issues in the academic library. The challenge sometimes with a book like this, as well as other edited volumes, is whether it has the ability to thread a consistent theme throughout the book. The editors here have done a good job in this respect. In looking at the organization of the book, there may have been more opportunity for a more granular examination of leadership if there had been three or four sections rather than two. The first part of the book is about new challenges and seems to occupy a majority of the book. The second section about leadership in the face of transformation is relatively short in comparison. It may have been advantageous if, for example, rethinking library space was addressed as a very important leadership challenge that is composed of the characteristics of managing change among others.

The book is a good start for librarians interested in learning more about the issues current leaders face in the academic library. Even for existing leaders, there are interesting takes on the use of space and ways to encourage leadership development among existing managers. Books on leadership are difficult to quantify because they often boil down to a set of steps that are presented as universal truth for all to follow or as some kind of unique characteristics that people either have or they don’t. This book does a good job of illuminating some of the more nuts-and-bolts issues facing academic libraries currently and in the years to come.—Ryan Litsey, Texas Tech University

Copyright Ryan Litsey

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