Hiring a Library Director: Steps and Best Practices

Hiring a director is one of the primary responsibilities of many boards – the process is important for success, setting a trajectory for the future course of the library and the community it serves.   This resource guide is intended for use by library board members or trustees when faced with the important task of hiring a new leader to run their library.  Whether you are faced with an abrupt resignation or an impending retirement, following the succession planning steps outlined in this guide will help ensure a smooth transition.

Disclaimer:  While the hiring process may be prescribed by local state and municipal laws and rules, the materials shared here were created and selected because they apply broadly to most situations.  Sample tools and templates are a starting point for boards and are intended to be modified for local use.

Phase 1: Planning

1. Contact your NCLS Consultant 

  • They can provide you with up to date information and assist you with the hiring process.

2. Identify key goals and activities for the new Director 

  • What does the board hope to achieve with the new director?
    • What skill set are you looking for?
      • Budgeting
      • Programming
      • Collaboration
  • Related to the library’s strategic plan and priorities.
  • Create a short, top priority list.

3. Review/update library’s Strategic Plan

  • If you have questions about your library’s Plan, your NCLS Consultant can help!

4. Create a Hiring Plan

  • Create a timeline
    • Outline a timeline (and stick to it!) that includes all activities of your hiring process and the time involved for each activity.
    • A sample timeline time line is located in Hiring Packet.
    • Things to remember:
      • Allow ample time for the advertisement.  Usually job ads runs at least 3-4 weeks. 
      • Set target deadlines for the search committee with reporting expectations.
      • When thinking of a start date for the new director, allow for the selected candidate to be able to give at least 2 weeks notice to their previous employee (assuming that they are already employed)
  • Create/update and approve job description
  •  Establish a salary range
    • The director is one of the most important assets to the library, and should be paid accordingly.
    • Hourly wage should be more than minimum wage.
    • Higher pay/benefits package attracts quality candidates.
    • Compare the position to other local positions such as school and municipal senior clerks and office/department managers.
    • Consider seeking a funding increase if library lacks funds to pay Director a professional wage.
  • Determine hiring requirements
    • Municipal, School District and Special Legislative District libraries must comply with Civil Service law and therefore have to adhere to CS hiring practices.
    • More information about Civil Service can be found on your County’s website and at https://www.cs.ny.gov/.
    • Refer to “Civil Service 101 for Public Library Trustees”: pages100-102 in the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State for more information about Civil Service and libraries.
    • Appropriate funds for search if necessary
  • Establish a Search Committee
    • The committee can consist of certain members of the board or the entire board. The search committee can and should also include members outside of the library.  These individuals could be a local school librarian, teacher or member of another community organization that the library collaborates with.  It’s important that members of the search committee are available and involved throughout the entire hiring process.

Phase 2: The Hiring Process

1. Search Committee Action Items

  • Plan and place ads
    • See Hiring Packet for a sample job ad
    • Places to advertise:
      • NCLS website (send ad and job description to your Conulstant)
      • NYLA Jobline
      • For broader searches for candidates, consider posting to ALA, Library Journal, etc.
  • Set review process criteria for ranking candidates; create interview questions with the approval of the full board
    • SeeHiring Packet for sample interview questions.
  • Review applications, select and schedule interviews
  • Conduct interviews
    • Keep documentation and notes.
  • Conduct reference checks
    • Keep documentation and notes.
    • See Hiring Packet for sample reference check rubric.
  • Search committee makes recommendation to the board at a board meeting (in open session, open to the public)

2. Board member negotiates employment terms with leading candidate (if needed)

3. Board issues a contract letter of appointment/agreement

  • Issuing a letter of appointment is important because it confirms any agreements/conversation between the board and the candidate during the negotiation stage.  Appointment letters should also include:
    • Position title and salary
    • Start date
    • Position description (refer back to the job description)
    • Benefits
    • Date of their first performance review
    • See Hiring Packing for a sample appointment letter

4. Publically announce the new director to the staff and community

  • Make announcement soon after appointment has been made.
  • Include announcement in staff email, a library newsletter article, local newspaper article and on library website.

5. Provide orientation for the new director

  • Make sure he/she is orientated with library building and operations that involve local municipalities
  • Make sure director receives an orientation from the North Country Library System
    • NCLS staff will reach out to the new director and will schedule this orientation. 

6.  Advise the candidates not selected for the position

  • See Hiring Packet for sample letter