MPA Major Research Papers

Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration


Political Science


Irwin, Bill

Geographical Areas

Ontario, Canada


Abstract: This research paper is an exploratory study of the career paths and leadership skills of public library CEOs in the province of Ontario. The purpose is to inform current library leaders as they develop succession plans, library boards when they recruit for a new CEO and those interested in advancing their careers and moving into senior leadership roles in public libraries. The findings are based on six interviews with successful public library CEOs from CULC (Canadian Urban Libraries Council) member libraries in Ontario. The career paths identified several trends the six participants have in common such as being an accidental librarian, having extensive public library experience, and time spent in a specialist role with half the respondents holding a children's librarian position at some point in their career. Some of the leadership skills and behaviours identified are: communication skills; relationship building and influence; change management; teamwork; professional involvement and mentorship; business skills; time management and successful work-life integration; humility; humor; courage; integrity; judgment; collaboration; accountability and political acuity. Several concepts were also explored in order to expand on the findings of the study: the requirement for an MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Science) for the role of a public library CEO; the link between public service motivation and the values of librarianship; the impact of library board and municipal relations on the effectiveness of a CEO; the parallel between the skills and behaviours exhibited by a CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) and those required of a public library CEO.