Accepting the challenge: what academic health sciences library directors do to become effective leaders


  • Rick L. Fought Associate Professor and Director, Health Sciences Library, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN
  • Mitsunori Misawa Assistant Professor, Adult Learning (PhD) and Adult Education (MS), University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN



Leadership, Effectiveness, Administration, Phenomenology, Academic Health Sciences Libraries, Librarianship


Objective: This study sought to better understand effective leadership through the lived experiences of academic health sciences library directors.

Methods: Phenomenological interviews were conducted with eight academic health sciences library directors to capture the essence of their shared leadership experiences. The research question that guided the study was: How do academic health sciences library directors understand their leadership effectiveness? The interviews were transcribed and coded, and the data were analyzed thematically.

Results: Three main themes emerged from data after analysis: assessment of the environment, strategies and decisions, and critical skills. Assessment of the environment includes awareness not only of trends in libraries and technology, but also the trends in health information, higher education, and current events and politics of their institutions and states. The strategies and decisions theme is about the ability to think both in the long-term and short-term when leading the library. Finally, critical skills are those leadership skills that the research participants identified as most important to their leadership effectiveness.

Conclusions: The study identified three main themes capturing the essence of the research participants’ leadership experiences. The three themes constitute a wide array of leadership skills that are important to learn, understand, and develop to increase leadership effectiveness. Effective leadership is fundamental to obtaining long-term strategic goals and is critical to the long-term future of the libraries.

 This article has been approved for the Medical Library Association’s Independent Reading Program.

Author Biographies

Rick L. Fought, Associate Professor and Director, Health Sciences Library, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN

Health Sciences Library

Associate Professor and Director

Mitsunori Misawa, Assistant Professor, Adult Learning (PhD) and Adult Education (MS), University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling

Assistant Professor, Adult Learning (Ph.D.) and Adult Education (MS)


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Original Investigation