Photo of Welcome arc to AALL annual meeting

Using Succession Planning and Knowledge Transfer to Connect the Generations

As a freelance reporter for the CALL Bulletin, I wanted to track down the most interesting and informative programs at the 2015 AALL Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. There were many excellent programs to choose from, and it should come as no surprise to the membership that CALL was well represented in the annual meeting programming.

Photo of Sally Holterhoff
Sally Holterhoff

One program in particular was a standout. Sally Holterhoff (Valparaiso University) co-coordinated the program, Using Succession Planning and Knowledge Transfer to Connect the Generations. Speakers, Deborah Rusin (Katten Muchin Rosenman, LLP), Katrina Miller (Florida State University), Steven Barkan (University of Wisconsin), and Ann Marie Dimino (Blank Rome, LLP) described their experiences in identifying challenges and opportunities as their library prepared for retirements, and loss of positions through attrition.

No one could predict the sea change in the legal industry that has impacted law school curriculums, class sizes, and staff needs in all types of law libraries. As many library prognosticators predicted in the late 1990s, the baby boomers among us are now retiring. What has developed is a perfect storm for significant organizational change in law libraries. Using Succession Planning and Knowledge Transfer to Connect the Generations provided timely discussion on what all libraries are facing.

Succession planning requires library leadership to strategically plan the professional development of the staff to assume key roles within the library. Planning must be deliberate and not reactive to safeguard institutional knowledge, or the library will risk losing momentum.

The first step in developing a succession plan, or a legacy plan according to Steve Barkan, is to acknowledge the need for succession planning. Evaluate the library’s situation. Who could be retiring in the next 12 months, 24 months, 48 months? It is essential to engage the potential retirees in discussing legacy planning as early as possible.

Succession planning should be transparent. Transparency requires open and honest communication. This process can also be seen as an opportunity to identify emerging talent among the staff. It can also provide staff with professional development opportunities that in the end will move the library forward.

Key to succession planning is the development of a knowledge transfer plan. Cross-training is essential, and cannot start early enough based on the experiences described by Deborah Rusin and Katrina Miller. Cross-training should be the priority of the library and embedded in its culture. The training should include the most basic daily tasks to duties that occur on an irregular basis. Vacations can become opportunities to track activities that should be incorporated into a procedures manual and into cross-training. No process is too insignificant to document.

Succession planning may be uncomfortable to contemplate, but it does not have to be difficult. The key according to Ann Marie Dimino is to get the staff involved and have honest, open communication. Compassion and mindfulness will go a long way into making succession planning effective.

This was a timely, thought-provoking program. Succession planning, or legacy planning, is a tool that will allow the library to strengthen its position within the organization.

One thought on “Using Succession Planning and Knowledge Transfer to Connect the Generations”

  1. It also should be noted that Jenny Zook, of the University of Wisconsin Law Library, played a leadership role in planning and organizing the program.

Comments are closed.