Who Runs a Library...A Librarian or a CEO?

What seems obvious to you and me may not seem so obvious to the members of the Tulsa OK Library Board...that a librarian should be in charge of the library system.

Tulsa World editorializes: "The Tulsa City-County Library System continues to hunt for a new chief executive officer. Former CEO Linda Saferite announced Aug. 4 that she would be on extended medical leave until she retires in March.

The library board met last week to talk about what its looking for in a new library boss, who will be earning $130,000 to $150,000 a year.

The responsibilities include fundraising, strategic direction and policies, long-range planning and community relations.

Those are important jobs, and we don't begrudge the planned salary, but the title CEO bothers us."


I'm a librarian who sees no problem with the "CEO" title for this position. The person hired will, quite simply, be the chief executive officer of the library system... so what's the problem? As the quoted editorial notes, the person hired WILL be a professional librarian, so the issue is not even one of de-professionalization or of bringing an "outsider" into the top job. Members of other professions routinely take "C-level" titles when they fill those roles in non-profit (or for-profit) corporations, so why not librarians? Why is it a poor title for the leader of a multi-million-dollar entreprise of substantial complexity? Indeed, it is the opposition to using such a title that seems to me to reek of old patronizing stereotypes of libraries and librarians.

I realize the details of the opinions expressed were those of the editorial board, not of the author of this post. I merely wish to point out that this is an arguable point (and one the library board probably did consider carefully) and so take issue with the "obvious to you and me" language of the lead-in.


Why not CEO? Libraries are being run like businesses more and more everyday.

Patrons are now called customers. Libraries cutting the fat are laying off librarians with high salaries and merging their responsibilities with paraprofessionals but at no pay raise. Programming is designed with the mindset, "Well, we just want to get them in the door... then they can see what we have to offer!" (IE all the gaming programs for teens).

CEO sounds okay to me.