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Trustee Support Resources

Evaluating a Library Director

The board's ultimate concern is how well the library accomplishes its mission. It is important for the board to get feedback from the community on the effectiveness of library service. The bottom line is delivering service of optimum quality. The director is accountable for the goals and outcomes of the library's long-range plan.

Evaluation should be a positive experience, a time when the board can officially recognize the talents and skills of the director. Since evaluation is a constant process, suggestions for improvement can be offered by the board as part of a continuing effort towards a shared and dynamic future. An evaluation can:

  • Clearly state and review expectations.
  • Clear the air and strengthen the relationship of the board and director.
  • Provide criteria to reward positive performance.
  • Reaffirm the board's role in overseeing the work of the director.
  • Communicate to the director the board's satisfaction or dissatisfaction and vice versa.

An annual written evaluation is an essential management practice. It provides the director with a clear understanding of board expectations and whether expectations were met. It is also a formal method of communication between the board and the director, and a way to identify concerns that need to be addressed.

In addition to the formal annual evaluation, the library will benefit from a process of continuous feedback offered in a positive manner. Regularly touching base helps the director to know and understand board expectations as he or she works towards achieving the priorities established in the annual and long-range plans. In order to accomplish this continuous give and take, the board must generate a supportive, nonthreatening environment so the director is sustained as he or she may report "good news" as well as “bad news.”

The following steps will provide a framework for the evaluation process:

  1. Develop an annual work plan with the library director.

    One of the results of the formal annual evaluation will be a new, specific plan of work for the director. The board should work with the director to define the objectives in the work plan for the coming year. These objectives will be the basis for the next annual evaluation of the director and can also be assessed during the year to evaluate progress being made toward objectives. The director should make regular progress reports to the board, including a 6-month discussion of progress that may result in some revisions in the work plan.

    Note: The director may be directly responsible for accomplishing some objectives and may delegate others.

  2. Develop an evaluation process and criteria.

    Evaluation should be based on the director’s demonstrated ability to meet the objectives of the annual library work plan rather than a subjective appraisal of personality traits. It should take into account the full range of responsibilities contained in the directors’ job description. The board should work with the director to develop an evaluation process including criteria and a rating system. Neither the evaluation process, including the criteria used to evaluate performance, nor the content of an evaluation, should be a surprise to the director. The director should know the expectations of work and the criteria that will be used to measure success. The following indicators may serve as criteria to evaluate the performance of a library director in fulfilling the essential functions of the position.

    • Ability to use public funds wisely.
    • Ability to prepare budgets that can support library services and programs.
    • Ability to prepare accurate and clearly written financial reports.
    • Ability to meet milestones of both long-range and annual plans.
    • Ability to keep the board informed of library concerns and achievements.
    • Ability to serve as a technical advisor to the board with regard to library issues.
    • Ability to maintain good relationships with those the library serves, library supporters, library staff, other libraries, and political and professional entities.
    • Ability to learn from past mistakes by avoiding performance problems that had been raised in the past.

    United for Libraries offers help on evaluation with the following resource: Organizational Tools for Trustees has sample library director evaluations.

    The Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (MRSC) provides an overview on their web page, Personnel Performance Evaluations.

  3. Prepare the written evaluation.

    The written evaluation should be a consensus of all board members. The board writes their evaluation after reviewing and discussing with the director the director’s report and other relevant information. It is important for the board to reach consensus on the content of the evaluation.

    Note: The director should have the benefit of clear direction from the board as a whole rather than assessments of performance from individual board members.

  4. Discuss the evaluation with the director.

    After the trustees have reached a consensus, they meet with the director at a board meeting to review and discuss the evaluation. During that meeting, the director must have the opportunity to respond to the evaluation.

  5. Develop a plan to address any performance issues.

    The evaluation may identify performance problems and/or board concerns that need to be addressed. It is the responsibility of the board to develop a plan of corrective action to help the library director meet board expectations.