Succession Planning

Why It's Important

All organizations, including libraries, need to consider succession planning as they move toward achieving long-term goals and realizing the vision for the community they serve. As the governing body for the library, boards often think about what they may need when the current director retires or leaves the organization. And, the director, as the executive officer and leader, is a major position to be filled. A good succession plan, however, includes evaluating every position in the library, the competencies needed for each position, and includes looking at each employee to see what areas of development would allow them to move up into an open position.

A dynamic succession plan: allows the library to act quickly to fill key positions that become open, providing a smooth transition; saves time and money involved in recruiting; provides direction on which staff development steps are most beneficial; and, promotes retention of valued employees.

A basic succession planning process includes these steps:

  1. Identify key positions in the library.
  2. Determine the knowledge, talents, and skills needed to be successful in each key position.
  3. Have all levels of leadership assess staff for their potential to step into a key position.
  4. Begin to develop employees who show interest and potential with the appropriate training and mentoring they need.
  5. Monitor the progress in those employees in their development program.
  6. Budget for appropriate and competitive Director salary and/or any staff promotions (if needed).
  7. Review and update the succession plan at least annually to identify and determine necessary changes to the plan.

A succession plan can also include identifying people outside of the organization who may have the skills and talent needed for a key position. Defining the abilities needed in the various library positions provides the information needed to make the best selection of candidates from both inside and outside of the library. The library director should take the lead role in the succession planning process. They will determine the process for assessing the key positions, identifying staff potential, and the methods for staff development and evaluation. The library board should support this process by providing the vision and strategic plan on which the succession plan is based. The board should also participate in evaluating the criteria in the succession plan for the director’s position and development.

The following links provide information and resources that will guide you through the process of hiring a new Director:

Hiring a New Library Director: Steps and Best Practices

Salary & Benefits


Director Evaluation

Disciplinary Action & Termination

Hiring Packet - Sample Documents


"Hiring a Library Director Resource Guide"  - All the information in the above links compiled into one handy printable PDF

Additional Resources 

How to Conduct a Job Interview