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Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State (2023 Edition)

Content from the latest edition of the Trustee Handbook.

Hiring a Library Director

During your tenure as a library trustee, you may be involved with the search process for a new director. If this is the case, here is some advice to help you construct a strong search that can help you hire the best possible candidate for your library. 

Hiring Plan

Once a director vacancy is on the horizon the board should act quickly to ensure that this important role is filled by developing a hiring plan: 

  • You may need to appoint an interim or acting director to bridge a gap, this should be done fairly and transparently. Public library Boards will need to consult with their local Civil Service Commission to appoint an interim or acting director. In no case should this be a Library Board member unless the qualified board member resigns from the board to take on this role.
  • Your Board must comply with the minimum education qualifications required as per Education Department Regulations (8 NYCRR) § 90.8 both for the hiring of a new director and the appointment of an interim or acting director:
    • Minimum Education Requirements
      Chartered Population Education Qualification
      2,500 - 4,999 Two years of college study
      5,000 - 7,499 Bachelor's degree
      7,500 or more 

      Master's degree in Library Science (MLS) and NYS public librarian’s professional certificate

  • As a Board, it is critical to clearly establish and prioritize the talents, skills and experience you believe your next CEO should have in order to lead your Library into the future. This must be your basis for evaluating applicants going forward. Each step in the process- application, resume review and interview, should be evaluated through this prism.
  • Next a search committee should be appointed, their charge made clear, a budget established, and a timeline established with check-in points for reports to the board. This committee will be made up of trustees and may include a representative from the staff or Friends of the Library. Committee members need to attend all committee meetings and be a part of all steps of this process. Just like all committees of the Board, this group will make a recommendation to the board, it is not empowered to hire a director on its own. 
  • The search committee should then:
    • Review the job description to ensure it is up-to-date and reflects the current job responsibilities. 

    • Review the salary and benefits package to ensure it is competitive. Committees are encouraged to compare the libraries package not just against area libraries, but also against other nonprofit and educational institutions’ salary and benefit offerings. If a gap exists, the search committee should notify the Library Board to inform them and recommend an improvement to the salary and benefits package for the Library to ensure you can attract top candidates to the position. Public Library Boards please note: Civil Service does not dictate salaries for positions.

    • Either reach out to the local Civil Service Commission (public libraries) or develop an advertising plan for the position (association libraries). (There is an introduction to Civil Service in the next section of the appendix.) Timely advertising of an opportunity is key. This minimizes disruption for the staff, board, and ultimately, the public. 

    • Prepare an information package for applicants. This can include the Library’s vision, mission, and values statements, the Library’s long-range plan, personnel handbook and a history of the library. Remember, it is not just the candidate that needs to “sell” themselves to you, the Library also has to be an authentically good employer to be attractive to top candidates. 

    • A review of applicants, interviews, and reference checks will be conducted by the search committee. This process can be customized to your Library and may involve multiple rounds of interviews, including interviews or events with groups beyond the search committee. For example, the candidates may be asked to give a public presentation to the staff and Board. The full Board may participate in the interviews with the finalists for the position. However, each candidate should be subject to the same review process. This process should be fair, equitable, and transparent. 

    • The search committee should document their process and retain records of the interview process.

  • Ultimately the Board approves the appointment of a new Director once they have considered the recommendation of the search committee. 

Where to Advertise

Public Library Boards will need to reach out to their local Civil Service Commission to discuss the process. This position will most likely fall into the competitive class.[2]  Your process will then follow this pattern:

  • Candidates must meet the minimum qualifications for the position by having a passing score and be “reachable” on an eligible list. (See “Rule of Three” in the Civil Service 101 Appendix below.) Candidates that are reachable must respond positively to a canvass letter.
  • The board must select a new director from the pool of available candidates identified through the canvassing process. The board should use an interview process and use any legal selection criteria amongst those deemed eligible to make their selection.
  • Once a selection has been made, the candidate of choice must be appointed “from the list.”
  • The person selected must complete a probationary period. The length of this probationary period is determined by the local Civil Service Commission. 
  • It may be possible to expand the candidate pool using additional hiring methods such as reinstatement or transfer.  You are strongly encouraged to discuss this with the local Civil Service Commission before considering these options.

Association libraries not tied to the civil service process will need to advertise widely for candidates. Your public library system will be able to provide guidance and help to get the word out regionally. Posts to NYLINE, the New York Library Association’s JOBLine service, and through your regional library council should ensure your job is findable by candidates in New York and many surrounding states. 

For Library Director roles in larger libraries, the Board may cast a wider net and advertise nationally. Outlets at this level usually have a posting fee, so hiring budgets should take this into consideration. Common outlets to get the word out at that level include the American Library Association’s JobLIST, LibGig, and INALJ

Libraries can also hire a search consultant to help guide your search and to leverage their networks to find quality candidates for your search. Check with your public library system for leads on potential executive search consultants. 

Check out the North Country Library System’s Succession Planning Toolkit for advice on:

  • Interview Questions
  • Reference Checks
  • Appointment Letters
  • Sample Contract
  • Sample Letters to Applicants
  • Orientation of a New Director

[2] Given the variations in the state, it is critical that the Board President or Chair of the Board’s Search Committee call their local Civil Service Commission and establish an open line of communication to ensure a Board is on the right side of the law in their efforts to hire a new Library Director.