February 16, 2017 – Executive search firm Bradbury Miller Associates, formerly known as Gossage Sager Associates, has been retained by Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore City to lead its search for a new chief executive officer. Dan Bradbury, Bradbury Miller managing partner, is leading the assignment.
The library’s CEO is one of the most historically significant librarian positions in the country. Enoch Pratt was a Baltimore banker and investor in railroads, steamships, and coal in the 18th century. In 1882 he gave Baltimore City a free library, which, as he stipulated, “shall be for all, rich or poor without distinction of race or color.” At that time in the U.S., Mr. Pratt’s stipulation was a dramatic declaration of equality and vision.
Today, the new library leader will likely have similarly strong vision, with an ability to engage the organization’s entire staff in order to implement its current two-year stated strategic plan. The position became open when Dr. Carla D. Hayden left to become the 14th Librarian of Congress in September.
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Minimum qualifications include a master of library and information science from an ALA-accredited program, 10 years in library work and at least five years of senior library management (or an equivalent background and experience that will enable the candidate to effectively perform the responsibilities of the position).
The chosen chief will also need to be an effective communicator working with with staff, board members and stakeholders; have strong organizational skills with an ability to integrate emerging technologies with traditional library resources; and be experienced in strategic planning, fiscal management and resource development. Preferred qualifications include a PhD in library and information science (or other relevant advanced degree), experience working in a multi-branch urban library system, and prior success reporting to a governing board and working closely with city and state officials.
Libraries Looking for New Leaders
Bradbury Miller specializes in executive searches almost solely for the library sector. About 80 percent of the firm’s work is for public libraries, though it also conducts searches for state libraries, library networks or consortia, and academic libraries. The firm was founded in 1983 and has conducted approximately 130 searches to date.
Its practice is national in scope and its library leadership searches read like a Who’s Who in this small, but important niche. The firm has completed director searches for the Westport (CT) and Carmel Clay (IN) Library System outside Indianapolis, as well as public library directors in Denver (CO), Pierce County (WA), New Haven (CT), Las Vegas-Clark County (NV), Sonoma County (CA), Wooster (MA), Boulder (CO), Mobile (AL), Baton Rouge (LA) and Berkeley (CA).
Like most other sectors, libraries are anticipating high turnover as aging baby boomers continue their migration into retirement. A recent American Library Association study projected that 28 percent of U.S.-based working librarians are expected to retire by 2020.
“The uptick in searches throughout the field has been growing for the last couple of years,” said Mr. Bradbury. “Finding the best library president, CEO, executive director, or director — probably the most important decision a sitting library board or commission will make — is becoming more challenging because many of the logical successors who have been serving in deputy, assistant or associate director roles are aging baby boomers themselves.” The pools of willing and able prospects are, therefore, shrinking, he said.
“Libraries are seeking dynamic leaders with a vision for what the library can be for the communities they serve,” said Mr. Bradbury. “Governing boards are looking for top drawer talent to serve as inspirational leaders who are collaborative in building meaningful community partnerships,” he added.
“Fortunately, there are strong library credentialed leaders out there who can fill the bill, but they have to be sought out,” said Mr. Bradbury. When not bound by other requirements, governing boards, he added, often look for leaders from other industries, including non-profit, education, government and even the private sector.
Search Firms Stepping Up
Search firms across the nation are finding library leadership needs rising dramatically. Here’s a recent sampling of some recent important searches in the sector from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:
- Phillips Oppenheim recruited Dr. Michael J. Barsanti as CEO of The Library Company of Philadelphia. Search firm principals Susan Meade and Adelaide Jones led the assignment. Just recently, the firm was given the honor of leading the prestigious director search for the Barack Obama Presidential Museum in Chicago. Principal Sarah James and partner Becky Klein are heading the assignment.
- Diversified Search placed Abbey Fagin as chief advancement officer (CAO) at Folger Shakespeare Library. Managing director Gerard F. Cattie led the assignment. The firm also recently placed Connie C. Chin as executive director for The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. The search was led by Andrew Wheeler, managing director and practice leader of the firm’s education and not-for-profit practice.
- Spencer Stuart recently recruited Jill Bourne as president of the Boston Public Library (BPL). The firm contacted and reviewed approximately 215 individuals for the position, presenting 30 qualified prospects to the BPL presidential search committee for evaluation. Of these, 25 candidates were approached by the BPL presidential search committee, and seven had face-to-face interviews, narrowing down the field to the last three finalist candidates.
- AGB Search has been selected by the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation to lead the search for its first chief executive officer. The search is being led by AGB Search consultant Dr. Vance T. Peterson. The T.R. Library CEO will lead the creation, funding, building, and operation of a new presidential library honoring the 26th U.S. president.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media