Trustee job #1: Evaluating the Qualified Director

Trustee job #1: Evaluating the Qualified Director

Evaluating the performance of your director can be either disastrous or positively impactful for the library. We’ll cover some practices that can help make the process meaningful and helpful to the sustainability of the library program.

To start, your library would ideally have either or both a long range plan and a strategic plan in place that will inform the goals you set for your new director (or the goals you set in partnership with your not-new director). Contact me if you want help with the planning process, but at its most basic, use these questions from the trustee handbook to develop goals for the upcoming year:

  • What does the community need?
  • What is to be done?
  • Who is responsible and who should be involved?
  • How will it be done?
  • What is the timetable?

The evaluation measures for your director would then be tied to if what needed to done happened, if so, what were the outcomes, if not, were the responsible parties properly supported, etc.

Check out the United For Libraries Tips for Trustees on evaluation. This brief document has both sample evaluation documents and overall guidelines for the evaluation process: Short Takes 8 (.pdf). If you entered into a contract with your new director during the hiring process, your probationary goals, and maybe your first year’s measures, have already been outlined.

Know your role
The board is to govern the institution, the director is to lead the operations. When evaluating the work of the director, you can include appraisals of their ability to lead staff, but don’t do evaluations of staff directly.

Clear expectations & continuous evaluation
The contract should clearly define the job. The board should communicate clear goals based on the mission and vision to the director. The board should set the expectation that these goals form the structure of the Director’s report monthly to the board. This sets up a system of reflection and self evaluation for the director that can be useful to both groups.

The board should ask supportive and meaningful questions at the end of each Director’s report in the board meeting.

Remember, evaluation and assessment should be a part of your ongoing relationship with your director and your director’s relationship with the staff. No expectation should be a surprise given at the annual evaluation. No dissatisfaction or appreciation should wait a year to be expressed. And in both cases, no one board member’s opinion holds more weight than the views of the full board as a collective body.

Ending probation & setting the stage

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group

Trust the professionalism of your director and treat them as the CEO of the library from day one. Be supportive, encouraging, and engaged. After six months in the position have an honest conversation in executive session with the full board about the performance of the director and the boards behavior in supporting the director.

Is your director the one? Give a small raise at the of probation and discuss the upcoming year. How will the board and director work together to ensure the successful implementation of their vision?

As a board, budget to give a raise at the end of each evaluation based on an objective measure (equal to the percentage increase in funding? equal to a percentage up to a cap of grant funding brought in?) Align it with a goal that the board has prioritized to incentivize desirable performance.

Remember that support of your director should include ample time to attend training experiences, and administrative time (off the circulation or reference desks) to apply what they’ve learned to operations.

Check in daily, then weekly, then monthly. Be clear, honest, forthright, and supportive. Noses in, fingers out.

Ending the relationship: the unqualified director
If you are able to hire a qualified director, you should never have to do this. In the event that after supportive intervention and multiple evaluations, the performance of the Director by all objective measures is negatively impacting the library, you are duty bound to act.

Call us for context specific guidance on this topic.

I wrote this mini-series to help you develop a purposeful relationship with the Director as a role within the library. You need to be equally purposeful in the evaluation of that individual within that role, and the communication around that evaluation. It can feel difficult, but we’re here to help.

I encourage you to explore board self-evaluation as well. If we believe that great libraries are built by both directors and trustees (and the staff, friends, and volunteers they lead), then evaluating board performance is imperative. Check out this evaluation from the HATS team: Board Evaluation (.pdf).

Please complete the STLS Learning Survey at!
It will help me deliver what you want, the way you want it. One million thank yous!

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. Especially if you help out with programming! We have so many incredible programming and technology workshops coming up (way to go Erika, Keturah, and Lorie!).

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

In partnership,