November 15, 2018 – Search firms that service the library sector are busier than ever. Vernon Hills, IL-based search firm John Keister & Associates, for one, is nearing the final stages of finding a new executive director for the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Mike Driskell, the library’s director of administration, has been serving as interim executive director.
The library’s board members met last week with four finalists for the position, with a final decision expected this month, officials said. Arlington Heights Memorial Library wants a dedicated and visionary leader to head the library in a highly professional manner, fostering teamwork, collaboration and trust. The individual will act as an advocate and represent the library at public events and with local government agencies and community organizations, said the search firm.
The ideal candidate would have high-level managerial and leadership experience with financial and planning responsibilities. Prospects should have “high-level, proven public library leadership skills, with the ability to inspire staff, board, and the community,” the search firm said. “With an understanding of both traditional and emerging ways in how libraries serve their communities.”
Serving the Public
Located in northwest suburban Chicago, Arlington Heights Memorial Library has earned Library Journal’s 5-star rating for 10 consecutive years and is one of the busiest single-building libraries in the U.S.
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Established in 1987, John Keister & Associates has completed over 300 nationwide executive searches. Its library assignments have included small community libraries, regional libraries with dozens of branches and large consortiums. The firm is led by John and Beth Keister.
Mr. Keister himself has a passion for libraries. He has been involved with public libraries for more than 29 years in various capacities and draws upon his extensive experience as an elected public library trustee and library board president. He also served multiple terms on the board of directors of a library consortium made up of public, special, school and academic libraries in suburban Chicago.
Beth Keister, for her part, brings a mix of technical expertise and library consulting experience to the firm. She has trained the staffs of several libraries and library organizations on a variety of software packages and consulted with libraries on creating programs and reports that support daily operations.
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.
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“The uptick in searches throughout the field has been growing for the last couple of years,” said Dan Bradbury, managing partner of Bradbury Miller Associates, an executive search firm focused on the library sector. “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.”
“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 the private sector.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media