Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Library and Information Science


Viewing public libraries as Complex Adaptive Systems, the current study analyzed leadership within these systems in terms of complexity and innovation. This included a leader’s capacity for ambiguity and emergence, features of leadership in different contexts, and perceptions of success and innovation. From a list of current public library directors and managers, 15 participants completed a 30-minute phone interview that followed a semi-structured guide. By analyzing the intersection of complexity of approach with complexity of context, eight leadership approaches were uncovered through coding. Results suggest that most participants engaged with most of the leadership approaches at some point. In addition, most of these approaches were seen as successful and innovative— though in different ways. Findings suggest that traditional hardline distinctions between leadership and management—or innovative and non-innovative—are no longer useful. This study is an important contribution to the study of public library leadership, as it applies theories of complexity to both approach and context.