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The New Director Search Process

An MBLC Guide

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners' New Library Director Search Process Guide

Welcome and congratulations — on behalf of your community, you’ve been entrusted with managing a search to find your next library director.

The New Director Search Process will guide trustees and municipal officials through the process of hiring a new library director, from initial steps to hire, by providing advice informed by best practices and experience. This guide has been developed to help communities of all sizes, who may or may not have human resources support locally. There is no one approach that will meet the needs of all communities, so this guide offers options and considerations.

In any community, working with your municipality early can positively impact the process and will establish a solid foundation for the incoming library director. Efforts should be made immediately to understand the municipality's expectations and role in the search process. This partnership will set a good foundation for the incoming library director.

Recruiting and hiring a qualified library director is one of the most important duties a board of trustees will have.

Trustees may often serve for a period of several years and never face the challenge of selecting a new library director. It is not surprising, therefore, that the selection of a director can be a strange and new experience for board members. A trustee’s apprehension about the process may be further compounded by the fact that in some cases board members have had little or no experience in personnel selection or understand their role in the process. Nevertheless, hiring a new library director is a major responsibility of the library board and one which they should not delegate.

A realistic assessment of the amount of time needed to find a new director is important.

It may take four months or longer to advertise, consider applications, interview several top candidates, and wait for a decision from the candidate selected. Factors like the state of the job market may impact the process.

Boards should resist the tendency to postpone action, even if a competent person is available to direct the library during the interim period. Establishing a calendar and an action plan for the search process minimizes delays.

This guide breaks the process into various steps, highlighting important events and decisions the board will make through the process.

Preparation will help boards execute their director search process. A good candidate will be assessing the board to decide if the library and board is a good match for them, and boards should endeavor to put their best foot forward.

Director Verification and Resignation

MBLC requires director verification and resignation forms to verify compliance with library director staffing requirements to maintain library certification. These forms include and are found on the State Aid Page.

  • Permanent Director Verification required when permanent director is appointed.
  • Permanent Director Resignation required when a permanent director resigns.
  • Acting Director Verification, required when an acting director is appointed.
  • Acting Director Resignation, required if an acting director resigns.

Action Plan

An action plan is necessary to start the search process promptly and lead to a successful conclusion. The action plan should be developed as soon as the board receives a resignation in writing from the departing director. It should include target dates for completion of each step, including any revisions to the job description, advertising, interviewing candidates, offering the job, having the new director begin work, and orienting the new director to the library and community. See the Sample Action Plan to the right. An editable action plan is available in the digital resource guide.

This guide is split into two phases, Prepare and Execute. The first phase: Prepare will guide trustees through exercises to answer questions, edit job descriptions, determine finances. Phase one will have the board determine what resources are available to conduct a job search or hire an outside consultant; what salary they are able to realistically offer. Some of phase one tasks can be completed concurrently or out or order.

The second phase, Execute puts all the planning into motion, and provides a framework for considering the screening committee, interview structure, personnel to be involved and more.

The more advanced planning the board completes will help lead to a smoother interview process. There are always unforeseen bumps in the process, and the more tasks and issues that can be resolved before candidates are interviewed, the smoother the process.

Sample Action Plan:

Phase One: Prepare

  1. Consideration of whether a member of the staff should be made acting director
  2. Review of the library’s existing personnel policies and procedures regarding hiring
  3. Review the required and preferred Qualifications and experiences desired in a director
  4. Determination of the salary range that can be offered, and whether the starting salary is negotiable
  5. Review and, if necessary, revise the written job description
  6. Allocation of funds for advertising, recruitment, selection, and hiring expenses.

Phase Two: Execute

  1. Preparation and posting of job advertisement
  2. Decision on procedures for the screening process
  3. The Interview
  4. Selection of a final candidate and making a job offer