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HBCU Library Alliance Hosts Panel Discussion On Leadership

A group involved with the leadership development of librarians at historically Black colleges and universities is concerned about an upcoming leadership crisis created by the impending retirements of numerous HBCU library leaders.

Members of the HBCU Library Alliance raised those concerns at a panel discussion entitled, “Charting a Course: HBCU Library Alliance Leadership in Action,” at  the Association of College and Research Libraries conference in Baltimore this past weekend. The 13th annual gathering offered a chance for academic library leaders to share best practices, network, and chart the field’s future course. 


Panelists discussed the role of libraries and library leaders on HBCU campuses, notably ensuring that library leaders be at the table with deans and other major college constituencies, rather than an afterthought. To this end, the alliance has launched a Leadership Institute which aims to give up-and-coming library directors the tools to become effective all around administrators, familiar with budgeting, recruiting, lobbying for funds, and a host of other necessary skills needed to ensure their HBCU libraries thrive and prosper. These efforts are funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“We arrived at the HBCU Leadership Institute by hosting focus groups as a part of a planning grant in 2003,” said Lillian Lewis, HBCU Library Alliance Program Officer. “We determined that to assure librarians were perceived as contributors to the teaching mission of their institution, it was paramount that we identify strategies to promote the world of the librarian on each campus and advocate for total integration into campus programs for teaching and learning.”

In addition to the need for leadership training, Lewis also highlighted an impending leadership crisis among HBCU libraries, in that many library directors and deans are close to retirement. Lewis said that recent data indicate that 82 percent of HBCU library deans and directors were over 50 years in age.

“When you look at the demographics … there is a leadership development crisis in HBCU institutions, when you look at the numbers of persons that would be retiring, have the potential to be retiring in the next five years — this is a crisis,” said Leadership Institute lead instructor Dr. Karyn Trader-Leigh, of KTA Global Partners. “And so the importance of creating mentoring programs, in a sense when you do something like that you’re developing leadership development for your institution, but you are creating capacity across the profession.”

For more information, visit the Atlanta-based HBCU Library Alliance on the Web at

–David Pluviose


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