The issue of succession planning has been discussed in several library fora. The Academic Libraries Group did a revealing SWOT analysis during its presentation at the Seminar on Library Capacity Building Interventions for Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in West Africa at the Erata Hotel, East Legon, Ghana in June 2009. Though several strengths were identified (including right calibre of staff, qualified professionals, experienced staff, organised structures, influential position of University Librarians as part of top management and the availability of formal professional committees/organisations/associations), a striking weakness among eight others was that of the ‘aging librarians’. The Library at Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone, is not an exception. A significant percentage of senior library staff would retire between 2018 & 2026, and only the implementation of an aggressive succession planning policy would salvage the critical situation. It is believed that Alexander the Great never had a robust succession plan and the bitter consequence was the disintegration of the far-flung empire he struggled to build. graduate diploma of strategic leadership
DEFINITION OF SUCCESSION PLANNING
Succession planning is about replacing staff who will eventually leave an organisation as a result of several factors including death, transfer, resignation, termination, dismissal, retirement etc. According to Blakesley, it “may increasingly be viewed as just a part of strategic planning processes, as we decide what must be done and what can be given up, and how to reallocate, retrain and realign the people who remain in our organizations” (2011 p. 34). The Biblical injunction (Paul to Timothy) is apt: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
(2 Timothy 2:2, King James Version).
Angela Bridgland (1999) opined that people and positions should be systematically reviewed to ensure that the strategic plan of an organisation is implemented. Though there is much talk about the “graying of our profession” (Blakesley, 2011, p. 32), we are reminded that “it’s not news that baby boomers are reaching retirement age” (Bermes, p. 66). In 2001, during the joint conference organised by the Standing Conference of African University Libraries, Western Area (SCAULWA) and the West African Library Association (WALA) in Accra, Ghana the author of this article commented on the rapid decline in the number of professional librarians in Sierra Leone. The situation in Fourah Bay College Library is a microcosm of the national problem. Many professional librarians in the country have retired from the profession. Some of these dynamic personalities or household names include Mrs. Gladys Jusu-Sheriff, Mrs. Deanna Thomas (late), Mrs. Gloria Dillsworth, Mrs. Olatungie Campbell, Mrs. Marian Lisk, Mr. Victor Coker, Mrs. Alice Malamah-Thomas, Mr. A.N.T. Deen (late), Mrs. Yeama Lucilda Hunter, Mrs. Abator Thomas, Prof. Magnus John etc. This has left a very wide gap in the profession and the current professional librarians are very few and far between.
STATUS OF AGING FBC LIBRARY STAFF IN RELATION TO SUCCESSION PLANNING
There are three main categories of staff at FBC Library, namely, junior, senior supporting and senior.
Perhaps the issue of succession planning is very critical when one considers the percentage of senior library staff (academic and technical) that would retire within the next couple of years. It must be noted that the retirement age for senior members of staff is sixty-five years.
If five out of the seven members of staff (that is 71.4%) will retire in eight years (between 2018 and 2026), or six (85.8%) will leave the system between 2018 and 2030), the strategic importance of succession planning at Fourah Bay College Library cannot be over emphasised. The current head has a little over a decade and a half to set the house in order before his exit, provided he stays until the end of his own tenure in 2033 (after a service of forty one years).