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Public Library Board of Trustees: Evaluating the Library Director

Evaluating the Library Director

Just as the Library Director regularly evaluates the staff, it is the responsibility of the Board to regularly evaluate the Library Director. Informally, trustees are constantly evaluating the director by noticing and responding to what they see in the library and what they hear from the public. But that informal consideration doesn't take the place of a formal review of the Director's performance. The best way to evaluate and monitor director effectiveness is by providing a good job description for the Director and then doing a formal, annual evaluation to determine how well the Director is meeting the job description and accomplishing library goals. An annual evaluation ensures that the director is aware of the board's expectations and allows for a formal line of communication about how those expectations are being met. It is also a time for the board to voice their concerns to the director and shows good management practices to local government officials and the community.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the director evaluation, and each board should work out a procedure and format that works best for their library. As with any performance evaluation, it is important for the board and director to be on the same page at the beginning of the evaluation period and for the board to address performance issues as they arise instead of only at the evaluation. 

The director should be evaluated according to their job description and the previous year's goals. Here are some example criteria:

  • Preparing and Managing the Budget
  • Staff management (if applicable)
  • Maintaining current knowledge of best library practices
  • Collection Management
  • Implementation of Board decisions
  • Library Use
  • Long-Range Planning
  • General employment factors such as initiative, avoiding bias, accomplishments, and professional attitudes

Some boards request the staff to review the library director. Information on this process can be found on this page by clicking "Staff Evaluation (Directors/Managers Only)."

Sample evaluations of the director by the board can be found below:

Director Dismissal

Probably the most painful situation a Public Library Board can face is the dismissal of the Library Director. Boards that hire carefully, communicate well, nurture positive working relationships, and evaluate effectively should not have to experience this unpleasant task. When all potential solutions have been tried and the problems still cannot be resolved, dismissal is a last resort.

Directors are usually dismissed only after serious infractions of Board policy, violation of the law, or very poor performance coupled with unwillingness or inability to improve. It is important that reasons for dismissal are carefully documented. The Board has a responsibility to ensure that personalities and biases are not factors in any dismissal decision. The dismissal and/or appeals procedure should be described explicitly in Board policy and allow the Director a full hearing to discuss specific charges. A Board should not begin a dismissal process unless it understands the implications, has consulted with the appropriate local government officials, believe its position is defensible, and has obtained appropriate legal advice from an attorney. Working with the community’s HR staff is very helpful in this process to ensure all procedures are followed correctly. The following factors should be considered prior to making a final decision to dismiss a Library Director:

  • Was there notice given to the employee?
  • Was the reason for termination reasonably related to library employment?
  • Was there an investigation and documentation?
  • Was the investigation fair and objective?
  • Was there proof of a violation?
  • Is there equal treatment of other library employees in similar situations?
  • Is termination of the Library Director an appropriate disciplinary action? 

Information on Performance Improvement Plans and a sample termination checklist can be found at the bottom of this page.