Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Hunt for a New Director

At the September 10 meeting, the Trustees announced that Bob Burger - a retired University of Illinois librarian - would helm the search committee for the Urbana Free Library's new executive director and that the process would proceed, as President Scherer noted, with "all due haste."

Following that announcement, a lively and chaotic discussion ensued in which the Trustees wrangled with logistics: who would appoint the other members of the committee? to whom is the search committee accountable? what will the committee use as criteria for evaluating candidates? The answers to most of those questions seemed to reside in the person of Bob Burger. It is he, the Trustees concluded, who will appoint the committee, determine its direction, and develop evaluative criteria.

What seemed most clear from this discussion is that the Trustees don't understand the search process.

In looking back at the Board minutes from the last director search in 2006, the process worked much differently.

For instance, here's what the minutes from May 2006 state,
Kate McDowell passed out for review a new time line for hiring a new Executive Director. She also passed out the job description and the job advertisement and revised them on her laptop computer as Board members and staff made suggestions. The Board discussed a number of points, including the best way to present the salary range, whether specific details should be in the job description or a job contract, and whether specific job expectations and experiences should be required or preferred.  
The Board also discussed where and when to advertise, who should be on the search committee and advisory committee, and who should meet the top candidates. 
It was moved by Charlie Smyth, seconded by William Golden, and passed unanimously that Jane Williams and Kate McDowell co-chair the search committee. The Board will discuss at the next meeting who else should be a part of the search committee. Kate mentioned that the search committee will have two main tasks, the initial screening of candidates, followed by selecting and interviewing candidates to be interviewed in Urbana.
In this scenario - even before a committee was appointed - there was a sense of process and a concrete job description.

Here's a little more from August 2006.
Kate McDowell presented several items to the Board for their consideration.
It was moved by Jane Williams, seconded by Charlie Smyth, and passed unanimously that the Director Interview Template be approved as presented.  
It was moved by Charlie Smyth, seconded by Barbara Gillespie, and passed unanimously that the Director Hiring Process Timeline be approved as modified.

It was moved by Charlie Smyth, seconded by Jane Williams, and passed unanimously that the Search Committee should consist of Kate McDowell, James Quisenberry, Jane Williams, one other Board member, a member of the staff, and a member from the Foundation. The Search Committee will screen applications and conduct the phone interviews. The whole Board will take part in the interviews which involve bringing in candidates. It is anticipated that six to seven people will be interviewed by phone, and the top two or three candidates will be interviewed in person.  
It was moved by Charlie Smyth, seconded by Chris Scherer, and passed unanimously that the letter asking for staff input be sent out to staff as modified. 
We learn, thus, that the composition of the search committee - determined by the Board - and that there was an interview template.

Several of the current Trustees (Mel Farrell, Jane Williams, Chris Scherer) were also Trustees in 2006, so surely there is some institutional memory that can serve as a starting point. For whatever reason, it was Farrell who seemed insistent on giving power to Burger.

I'm certain more will be revealed in the next few weeks, but at the moment I am concerned that the Trustees are abdicating their responsibilities by investing an individual external to the Board with so much authority. Certainly I hope that there will be opportunities for people outside of the Library's administration who can provide input on hiring, but it would be unfortunate if in their haste to hire a new director, the Trustees don't proceed with purpose and direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment