AAU library directors prefer collaborative decision making with senior administrative team members




Perryman, Carol L.

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University of Alberta


Objective – To understand academic library leaders’ decision making methods, priorities, and support of succession planning, as well as to understand the nature, extent, and drivers of organizational change.

Design – Survey and interview.

Setting – Academic libraries with membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) in the United States of America and Canada.

Subjects – 62 top administrators of AAU academic libraries.

Methods – Content analysis performed to identify most frequent responses. An initial survey written to align with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) 2014-2015 salary survey was distributed prior to or during structured in-person interviews to gather information about gender, race/ethnicity, age, time since terminal degree, time in position, temporary or permanent status, and current job title. 7-question interview guides asked about decision processes, strategic goals, perceived impacts of strategic plan and vision, planned changes within the next 3-5 years, use of mentors for organizational change, and succession planning activities. Transcripts were analyzed to identify themes, beginning with a preliminary set of codes that were expanded during analysis to provide clarification.

Main results – 44 top academic library administrators of the 62 contacted (71% response rate) responded to the survey and interview. Compared to the 2010 ARL Survey, respondents were slightly more likely to be female (55%; ARL: 58%) and non-white (5%; ARL: 11%). Approximately 66% of both were aged 60 and older, while slightly fewer were 50-59 (27% compared to 31% for ARL), and almost none were aged 40-49 compared to 7% for the ARL survey. Years of experience averaged 33, slightly less than the reported ARL average of 35. Requested on the survey, but not reported, were time since terminal degree and in position, temporary or permanent status, and current job title.

Hypothesis 1, that most library leaders base decisions on budget concerns rather than upon library and external administration strategic planning, was refuted. Hypothesis 2, that changes to the academic structure are incremental rather than global (e.g., alterations to job titles and responsibilities), was supported by responses. Major organizational changes in the next three to five years were predicted, led by role changes, addition of new positions, and unit consolidation. Most participants agreed that while there are sufficient personnel to replace top level library administrators, there will be a crisis for mid-level positions as retirements occur. A priority focus emerging from interview responses was preparing for next-generation administrators. There was disagreement among respondents about whether a crisis exists in the availability of new leaders to replace those who are retiring.

Conclusion – Decisions are primarily made in collaboration with senior leadership teams, and based on strategic planning and goals as well as university strategic plans in order to effect incremental change as opposed to wholesale structural change.


Article originally published in Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12(2), 181–183. English. Published online June 29, 2017. https://doi.org/10.18438/B8SS97


Academic libraries, Library directors, Decision making, Surveys, Planning


This is the published version of an article that is available at https://doi.org/10.18438/b8ss97. Recommended citation: Perryman, C. L. (2017). AAU library directors prefer collaborative decision making with senior administrative team members. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12(2), 181–183. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.