The Board of Trustees and the Library Director

As the library’s governing body (and the entity with ultimate accountability for the institution), the board of trustees has the responsibility to hire a competent, professional and responsible library director as the “CEO” (Chief Executive Officer) and then to review and evaluate that person’s performance regularly. Having hired a director, the board has an obligation to support the director wholeheartedly within the context of the employment relationship. Good communication and cooperation between the board and library director and an appreciation of the interdependency of each other’s roles are prerequisites to a well-managed library. [from the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State, 2010 edition] The resources in this topic come from a number of states.  Each of the resources includes useful information, but each may also include information specific to the laws or regulations of the state for which it was developed.  Library boards are strongly encouraged to speak to someone familiar with New York State open meeting laws before beginning a search process.  

There are three sections in this topic. You can scroll down to see each section or you can click on the links below to go directly to a specific section.

Recruiting and Hiring a Director

Evaluating the Director’s Performance

New York Minimum Public Library Standards for Public Library Directors

Section 1

Recruiting and Hiring a Director
The library board is responsible for selecting and hiring a qualified library director who meets the requirements of the New York Minimum Public Library Standards for Public Library Directors. This is one of the most critical decisions the members of the board will make. As you will see when you read the resources below, the hiring process should start by identifying the qualifications that you want your new director to possess. There is no “one size fits all” library director. Every library is unique and each needs a director with a different mix of skills, abitlities, and experience.

A Library Board’s Practical Guide to Finding the Right Library Director by the Detroit Suburban Librarians’ Roundtable Succession Planning Committee
“This is a how-to manual. It provides suggestions to boards beginning the process of hiring a library director. The manual makes practical suggestions on the following:

  • Initiating a planning process
  • Assigning responsibilities and tasks
  • Examining the use of a consultant
  • Advertising the position, and
  • Making the final decision

“Library boards will find the manual a useful preplanning tool to avoid unnecessary difficulties and find the director who will be a perfect fit for their community.”

Hiring a New Director prepared by the Idaho Commission for Libraries
This useful web page includes the following information:

  • Preliminary assessment
  • Job description
  • Affirmative Action
  • Search Committee
  • Advertising
  • Interviewing and selection
  • Decisions to be made prior to interviewing
  • After the interviews
  • The new director

Section 2

Evaluating the Director’s Performance
Many library boards are uncomfortable evaluating the library director. They may feel it will take too much time. They may think that because no one is unhappy with the director’s performance there is no need to a formal review, assuming that the director will think that “no news is good news.” They may be reluctant to get involved in a candid discussion with the director about his or her strengths and weaknesses.

However, effective library boards complete formal director evaluations every year. They do this for a variety of reasons:

  • To review how well the director met the board’s expectations during the preceding year
  • To provide the director with specific feedback about his or her performance
  • To engage the director in a conversation the library’s strengths and weaknesses
  • To let the director know what the board expects from him or her in the coming year

Finally, in many cases, the annual evaluation is provides an opportunity to express the board’s support and appreciation for a job well-done.

Evaluating the State of the Library: Director Evaluation (by the staff of the Mid-Hudson Library System NY)

“For years library boards have asked us how they should evaluate the library director. We have responded by offering links on our web site and tools that we considered adequate, but we have never found a method that is superior. Now, after researching, we have synthesized ideas and developed our own model. We think you will find it an effective process for improving the health of your library.”

Massachusetts Public Library Trustees Handbook (pdf)

“Boards of trustees are evaluating their library director all the time. Evaluation is done at least partially by instinct: what the trustees see happening in the building, what they hear from the public and staff, as well as the “feel” and reputation of the library. The evaluation of the director is closely tied to the success of the annual library plan.

“A formal, written evaluation is an essential management practice, although a good board member’s subjective assessment of the library director is often as accurate. The evaluation of the library director should be the foundation in the evaluation process for the library as a whole.”

Examples of Public Library Director Evalutation Instruments
Two sample public library director evaluation instruments from Georgia.

Section 3

Minimum Public Library Standards for Public Library Directors  A public, free association or Indian library will be registered if it meets the following standards satisfactory to the commissioner: (11) employs a paid director in accordance with the provisions of Section 90.8 of this Part.

NYCRR TITLE 8 – EDUCATION – §90.8 Appointment of library personnel

(a) Each registered public, free association or Indian library shall appoint library personnel on or after May 19, 1975, in accordance with the following provisions:
(1) A library which is a member of a public library system and serves a population of 2,500 to 4,999 shall employ as director a person who has completed not less than two academic years of full-time study in an approved college or university, or the equivalent as determined by the commissioner.
(2) A library which is a member of a public library system and serves a population of 5,000 to 7,499 shall employ as director a person who holds a bachelor’s degree granted by an approved college or university upon the completion of four academic years of full-time study, or its equivalent as determined by the commissioner.
(3) A library which is a member of a public library system and serves a population of 7,500 or more shall employ as director only persons who hold the public librarian’s professional or provisional certificate or a certificate of qualification. The library shall employ in all other professional librarian positions only persons who hold the public librarian’s professional or provisional certificate, a certificate of qualification or a conditional certificate.
(4) A library which is not a member of a public library system and serves a population of 2,500 to 4,999 shall employ as director a person who holds a bachelor’s degree granted by an approved college or university upon completion of four academic years of full-time study, or its equivalent as determined by the commissioner.
(5) A library which is not a member of a public library system and serves a population of 5,000 or more shall employ as director and in all other professional librarian positions only persons who hold the public librarian’s professional or provisional certificate or a certificate of qualification. The library shall employ in all other professional librarian positions only persons who hold the public librarian’s professional positions or provisional certificate, a certificate of qualification or a conditional certificate.
(b) If a registered public, free association or Indian library which employs at least the equivalent of 25 full-time persons who hold the public librarian’s professional or provisional certificate, a certificate of qualification, or a conditional certificate shall find it impossible to appoint a holder of such certificate for a professional librarian position, other than director, requiring unusual background or education in a specialized subject field, the library board may submit to the commissioner a statement of the facts involved and request that the position be exempt from the provisions of subdivision (a) of this section. The commissioner, in his discretion, may grant an exemption for such appointment.
(c) Failure by the trustees of any registered library to meet these requirements or observe these regulations shall be deemed a valid reason for the rescinding or suspension of registration.
(d) To provide for uniformity and greater mobility from one position to a similar position in another system, the Library Extension Division shall, from time to time, set up uniform titles and requirements for comparable library positions.
(e) The commissioner may in his discretion excuse the default of a library board in employing a staff member not meeting the requirements of paragraphs (1)-(5) of subdivision (a) of this section and legalize the time so served. Statutory authority: Education Law, §§ 207-208, 215, 253-268, 271-273, 273-a, 282, 283, 284, 285; L. 1978, ch. 787, L. 1993 Ch 260, §§ 1, 3

Last reviewed: March 15, 2010