Hiring a Library Director

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. When seeking a director some boards will place more emphasis on imagination and energy, others on administrative experience, still others on education and erudition. Local conditions, such as the library's size, staff and resources, are all factors affecting the selection of the library director.

Preliminary Assessment

The board should make a realistic appraisal of the situation. They should decide what qualifications the library requires in a library director and what the library has to offer the librarian. Offer the best salary possible to secure the services of a qualified person. Consider any added incentives or challenges offered by the job opportunity.

Begin with a hard look at the current status of the library.

Address some fundamental questions, such as:

  • What is the role of the library in the community today?
  • Have library needs changed? Has the library kept pace?
  • What do you really want or need in the next director?
  • What is the reason for the job opening? (An exit interview with the departing director is useful.)
  • Are you losing someone upward-bound or to retirement?
  • Was the previous director dissatisfied? If so, why'?

The answers to these questions will influence the development of the job description. The board may want to redefine the job, elevate the position and revise qualifications and statements of job responsibilities.

Draft the job description

Write or revise the job description. See Components of Performance Management for information on Results Oriented Job Descriptions. Consult professional literature and the Idaho Commission for Libraries to be certain that all legal requirements are met.

Affirmative Action

Libraries must abide by federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination in relation to hiring, promotion and all other working conditions of employment. See Employment Laws. It is illegal to discriminate against qualified applicants on the basis of sex, race, creed, color, religion, age, country of national origin, individual life style or physical or mental disability. Stated policies should demonstrate that the library board makes every effort not to discriminate. Library boards have responsibility for appropriately reviewing their policies and adopting corrections.

Search Committee

It is good personnel practice to advertise a job opening to as many potential candidates as possible. Conduct a search even if there are staff members eligible for promotion. Qualified staff members should be encouraged to apply and the board should stress the goal is to select the best person for the job. All applicants should receive consideration and due process in accordance with equal opportunity laws.

A search committee of the board should compose a carefully worded ad for selected publications. Reading ads published by other libraries will serve as a guide for your ad based on the job description for library director.

  • Be sure to specify a deadline for application
  • Request resume and references
  • Designate one trustee to receive applications.


Advertise among friends and colleagues to spread the news of an available position. Send announcements to LibIdaho and other regional and national listing services. See link below for job posting sites. Keep in mind continuing relations with other libraries who may resent what they perceive as raiding.

Interviewing and Selection

Prior to the conducting of the interviews, the search committee should adopt standards for:

Application rating system to evaluate applications and resumes.

List of questions to be posed to each candidate.

  • When each candidate is asked to respond to the same questions, there is an equal basis for evaluation.
  • Ask staff for suggestions.
  • Ask only job related questions, it is illegal to ask questions about an applicant’s family life or outside interests.
  • The interview will proceed smoothly and legally when appropriate information is discussed.

An evaluation sheet to be used by the interview committee to note the candidate’s responses and members’ impressions.

Reference forms to send, with self-addressed, stamped return envelope, to former employers and references given. A phone call may produce a more candid evaluation, and the form can be used during the conversation.

Other decisions to be made prior to interviewing:

  • Decide if the director will be offered a contract, schedule or open-ended agreement
  • Budget for interviewing expenses.
  • Determine if the library will offer relocation costs
  • Be sure to inform all invited candidates of the board's policy on these expenses
  • Interview and Selection Process
  • Promptly acknowledge receipt of all applications. Notify applicants who do not meet established qualifications.
  • Check references for potential candidate using standard form.
  • Decide on the number of applicants to be interviewed, usually 3-5 people.
  • Determine the order of preference for interviews and send letters to scheduled candidates.
  • Designate one person to conduct interviews with others assisting. Keep the interview team to a reasonable size, usually 3-5 people.
  • Plan the location for the interview, accommodations for the candidate, a tour of the library and community, etc.
  • 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, working conditions and expectations.
  • Allow time between interviews to complete evaluation sheets while the members' reactions to candidates are still fresh.

After All Interviews Are Completed

  • Select the best potential director through discussion and by ranking candidates based on interview evaluations
  • Seek consensus of the committee
  • Telephone the top candidate to formally offer the position and let him/her consider
  • Follow up with information letter and/or contract which include details of appointment, duties, salary, benefits, evaluation, starting date, etc.
  • Include a second copy for new director's signature and specify return date
  • Write all other candidates interviewed, thanking them and informing them of your decision only after acceptance has been received.
  • If the first choice declines or is unavailable, the board can quickly contact the second choice.

New Director

Orient the new director and assist her/him with relocation. Provide help with school and housing information and additional information on the library and the community. A subscription to the local newspaper is a valuable tool to acclimate the new library director.

Welcome the new director. News releases and photographic coverage should be arranged. Personal introductions to staff members, trustees, community representatives and local government officials should be scheduled promptly. An open house or reception hosted by the board is a standard courtesy.

A probationary period of six months to one year allows time for the board and the director to develop a working relationship and to evaluate library administration. Early in this period some short- and long-term goals and expectations must be mutually agreed upon.

Midway through the probationary period an informal review of the director's performance should be conducted. See the section on Director Performance Appraisal. A "final" evaluation should be developed by the board and discussed concerning the decision to retain or dismiss the director. If performance is in doubt, problems should be documented carefully. Dissatisfaction should be recorded and discussed. The board should never retain a director if a majority of the members are convinced that no improvement is possible.

If the board finds itself in this position, they should seek help from an outside impartial consultant.

Adapted from the Georgia Public Library Trustee Handbook 1984 published by the Georgia Library Trustee and Friends Association, in cooperation with the Division of Library Services, Georgia Department of Education and Dekalb Library System



LibIdaho – Idaho’s library listserv - http://www.idaholibraries.org/libidaho
Idaho Commission for Libraries Job Posting sites - http://libraries.idaho.gov/page/library-jobs
Trustee Toolkit: Hiring a New Library Director - COSLA - http://www.cosla.org/content.cfm/id/trustee_toolkit_hiring_a_new_library_director