Trustee job #1: Onboarding the Qualified Director

Onboarding the Qualified Director

You have found the new leader of the library. The Chief Executive Officer who will implement the mission and vision of the library organization through their operational practices. Or at least, we all hope they will. The most impactful thing you can do as the collective supervisory body over this new leader, is to support them with clear expectations. We cannot be successful if we don’t have the same vision of success.

The director should receive a tour of the facility on their first day from either the board president or the staff person in charge of doing their operational training. Within the first week the director should be introduced to all trustees, all staff, the primary contact for the Friends group, and all principle/weekly volunteers.

Schedule staff overlap for all director hours for at least two weeks, allowing the new director to meet with each staff person off the circulation desk, meet with key people in the community, and to have ample opportunity to ask questions.

During the first welcoming day, the director should receive a schedule for both themselves, their staff, and library programming for the first month. This will allow the new leader to manage their time and expectations.

If the previous director left with projects left incomplete, include project deadlines and target dates in the schedule. No one like to feel that in their first week of work they have already fallen behind. Giving a schedule in the beginning hands the power over that time back to the director.

Policies & Procedures
Policies give the director a road map to follow. In many of our libraries, directors are hired without any previous library experience. There are some practices and policies that are very library specific and should be given to the director on the first day with a scheduled date to discuss them within the first two weeks on the job. This will help the director understand the board’s priorities, and to feel secure that their actions are legally supported.

Part of having this information, is also having immediate access to all the information library decision makers need access to, including the budget, the vendor lists, and past meeting minutes. Many boards don’t want to overwhelm the new director with all the information in the beginning. It is better to give access to all the operational information at the outset and leave it to the director to determine their pace, than to restrict information they may need.

Training Opportunities
Professionals need a place of professionalism. The Southern Tier Library System can help reinforce the importance of training and professionalism for you, within our consultant visits. Within the schedule given to your new director in their onboarding packet, make time for professional training. If that isn’t part of current practice, include explicit guidance on attending training opportunities within the system and online, how the time is compensated and how mileage is (or is not) reimbursed.

Directing a public library isn’t easy. If you are in a mid-size or larger library, time is consumed with finding balance with legacy staff, diverse library stakeholders, volunteers, friends, and balancing budgets. In a small library, it is learning the full suite of activities that must be proficiently accomplished during every open hour of the library, so that one can accomplish them without support, from patron registration to running reports for the board to downloading ebooks for patrons with diverse devices.

Show your understanding and support for your new hire by checking in daily, then weekly, then monthly, as the director becomes more competent and confident.

The work of onboarding your new director sounds labor intensive, but laying a strong foundation and building solid relationships at the outset will help everyone in the library be successful.

Upcoming Learning Opportunities for Trustees

In January we bring back the popular workshop Get the Grant!, this time with Keturah Cappadonia. This session will be held on Saturday, January 13th in the Friendship Free Library from 10 am – 11:30 am. Registration is required so we know how many take home resources to bring. Register here.
For all upcoming events, please visit the STLS program calendar.

As ever, please contact me with questions, concerns, and ideas.

In partnership,