Massachusetts Public Library Trustees Handbook
The selection of a competent library director can be the most important single act undertaken by the board of trustees. In the process of selecting and hiring, trustees should be aware of current practices in the profession, competitive salaries, benefits and state requirements under the State Aid to Public Libraries program for the director's education. Knowledgeable consultants at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and your regional library system can provide you with sound advice. When seeking a director some boards will place more emphasis on imagination and energy, others on administrative experience, still others on education and scholarship. Local conditions such as the library's mission, size, staff and resources, are all factors affecting the selection of the library director.
In advance, your selection committee should:
Adopt a standard format for checking references. Phone calls may produce the most candid evaluations. Develop a form with standard questions which can be used during these phone conversations.
Agree on a standard list of questions to be posed to each candidate. Ask staff for suggestions. Sample questions may be obtained from your regional library system. Each candidate is asked to respond to the same questions and this becomes an equal basis for evaluation. A standard list of questions helps assure that the interview proceeds smoothly and that only legal and appropriate information is discussed.
Devise a standard evaluation sheet to be used by the interview committee to note the candidates' responses and members' impressions.
Budget for whatever expenses the board agrees to fund for interviewees. Discuss possible relocation costs. Be sure to inform all invited candidates of the board's policy on these expenses.
Remember that if your library is subject to the Open Meeting Law, all final interviews are subject to the requirements of the Open Meeting Law.
Promptly acknowledge receipt of all applications, and notify applicants who do not meet established qualifications. Decide on the number of applicants to be interviewed, usually three to five people. Then contact these individuals to schedule the interviews.
Designate one person to conduct the interviews with others assisting. Keep the interview team to a reasonable size, usually no more than three people. Plan the location for the interview, accommodations for the candidate, and a tour of the library and community.
During the interview, allow adequate time for discussion. The interview is a mutual evaluation process. The committee should provide the candidate with a fair, accurate picture of the library, the working conditions and the board's expectations.
Allow time between interviews to complete the evaluation sheets while the members' reactions to candidates are still fresh.
Select the best potential director through discussion and by ranking candidates based on the interview evaluations. The selection of a finalist should be by consensus of the entire committee. Now is not the time to hold back negative impressions for fear of sounding overly critical. Your impressions, negative and positive, are important to the process of hiring the right candidate.
Do not overlook the step of checking references, no matter how delightful the candidate appears to be. It is very important to avoid potential problems by checking references thoroughly, especially by telephone. A telephone call using questions that you've written out in advance will help you make an informed decision.
Once the references have been checked and the decision to offer to hire the candidate has been made, telephone the top candidate to offer the position. Give the candidate a reasonable period of time to consider the offer and to make his/her final decision. You should follow up with an informational letter and/or contract which includes details of the appointment: duties, salary, benefits, probationary period, and starting date. Include a second copy for the new director's signature and specify a return date.
Write all other candidates interviewed, thanking them and informing them of your decision only after an acceptance has been received. If your first choice declines or is unavailable, the board can quickly contact the second choice.