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Retaining academic librarians: by chance or by design?

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Purpose ‐ This paper seeks to examine the direct and indirect strategies that academic libraries currently use to retain librarians and the levels of satisfaction librarians express about those strategies. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study consisted of a 23-item survey, administered online to current academic librarians. In total, 895 viable responses were received. Findings ‐ Respondents reported that initiatives related to professional development are the most widely available type. Respondents expressed satisfaction with most of the initiatives available to them and general agreement with positive workplace environment statements; however, administrators were substantially more satisfied than employees in other positions. Few indicated that their libraries had adopted a formal retention program, implying that the reported retention strategies are generally seen as serving another purpose. Research limitations/implications ‐ As little previous research has been conducted on this topic, this study is inherently exploratory. The list of potential retention initiatives studied represented a wide range of strategies suggested by the literature, but it could not be exhaustive, nor can it account for variations in individuals' preferences and priorities. Factors that may contribute to employee retention usually have multiple purposes, making it difficult to state confidently whether retention is their goal. This paper questions whether retention is approached intentionally or incidentally, a worthwhile area for future study. Practical implications ‐ Understanding current retention strategies and librarians' attitudes toward them should help library administrators to plan future retention efforts in a more deliberate way. Originality/value ‐ A number of articles have described the importance of retention and provided advice on encouraging it. This paper is unique in examining how that advice has been implemented throughout the field of academic librarianship.
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Keywords: Career development; Human resource strategies; Librarians; Personnel administration; Retention; University libraries

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 22, 2011

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