Sunday, 26 August 2012

What Do You Want in a Library Director?


Introduction
 The Fawville Public Library director, Sam Grillo, is leaving after completing his six month probation period. The director replaced by Sam Grillo had served the library for sixteen years. According to the library staff, none of the two directors’ leadership style was professional. Sam Grillo was viewed as an abdicator while the other director was autocratic. When the six month probation period for Sam Grillo ended, the board of trustees for the library saw it fit not to confirm him as the new director. As a result of their decision, the post of library director is now vacant. The board has noted the need for having a professional director and has decided to involve the library staff in the interviewing process. Aside from the excitement, the staffs are grateful for this decision and want to make proper use of their chance to ask questions to the interview candidates. They hope their involvement in the interview process will lead to the hiring of a new director who is not as bad as the previous two. The library staffs want a new director who has the skills in the art of management. Since this is the first time, the staffs are involved in the interview process; they need assistance in vetting candidates, especially on the ways of detecting hidden character aspects of an individual that may not be clear when only interview questions are relied upon. On its part the board has noted that the previous recruitment exercise for library director only attracted one applicant. Therefore to attract more applicants, the board is looking at the option of raising the salary perks to match those of directors of similar sized libraries.

The Best Alternative to Resolving the Case
In order to be best prepared for the interview, the staff must understand the reasons that made the previous recruitment a failure. First, the board of trustees was inexperienced and did not know how well to conduct the interview for a new director. They must have omitted necessary steps that would have pointed out in advance the unsuitability of the candidate. Secondly the experience with an autocratic director might have blinded the board to immediately hire Sam Grillo on a probation term since he elucidated an opposite character. In coming up with interview questions and strategies, the staffs should observe the following guidelines to avoid pitfalls. The staffs should avoid using the performances of the previous directors as yard sticks to measure the expected performance of the potential candidates. Secondly, they should not rush the process and should suggest a postponement of the interview if they feel that there has not been adequate time to prepare and attract favourable candidates. One may argue that the staffs have demonstrated a high degree of self-motivation, responsibility, are adaptive to the various library needs and tasks and have an eagerness to learn and innovative (Hull et.al. 2005). However this argument shouldn’t make the staff take the easy way out of choosing one of their own. They should understand that they have demonstrated those qualities collectively and at a staff’s capacity and not a director’s one (Alliance Library System, n.d.).

 The staffs have been frank in mentioning that they have no previous experience. To remedy this, they should engage a reputable recruitment consultant. Attracting the services of such a consultant will require that the staff and the board be willing to offer an attractive payment package. This should be viewed as a price to pay for the best service (Article Alley, 2011). Lastly, the staffs must avoid over emphasizing on the technical abilities of the candidates and recognize that a good director will be visionary and regularly communicate properly with the board, staffs and other stakeholders like interest groups and community leaders. Before the actual interview, the staffs should have an informal exit interview with Sam Grillo the leaving director (Hull et.al. 2005). This will serve as a learning experience on what to emphasize on while formulating interview questions. Using this opportunity, the staffs will be able to know any unique attributes that has served them well that should be in possession of the new director. Most importantly, the staffs will get a description of the job from a real director and this will assist in cementing or trashing their biases and expectations (Serrat, 2008).

 Lowville library is a public institution and therefore the staffs should be aware of the legalities of their interview questions. Secondly they should note the government’s requirements for public library directors (Eggett, 2008). The staffs have demonstrated that they already know the qualities to look for in a candidate. Their main challenge is how to spot those qualities in the candidates. First they should check the references provided and look for others like the employees of the institutions that a candidate has indicated in his working experience. In checking the references, information about the quality and amount of work done as well as the exact areas of competence should be asked (Wynn, 2010). The task of checking references will spare the staffs agony of knowing the candidate’s managing style, their relationships with their former boards and staff as well as their abilities to work in stressful conditions.

Implementation plan and Conclusion
During the interview, the staffs should capture the feelings of the candidates as they answer questions, and should listen carefully to what the candidates say and avoid saying. Any negative response should be checked again and the currency of the candidate’s experiences should be considered (Hull et.al. 2005). It is expected that all candidates called for the interview would have passed the screening process; the staffs should therefore avoid the obvious questions that seek basic career information from the candidate. It is important the questions are structured to provide answers that show evidence or lack of it for the following competencies. First, the candidate should be a strategic thinker, be able to deal with stress and have a proper customer service attitude. Secondly the candidate’s answers should demonstrate proper handling of workplace politics, cultural sensitivity, and a high degree of problem solving ability. Finally, the candidate should be able to multitask with ease (Interview Skills Consulting, n.d.).

One of the ways to be able to achieve all this is to formulate a case study problem using the previous experiences of the library staffs, board and the users. Each candidate should then be presented with the crafted problem and asked to solve (Tellis, 1997). Presentation of the problem may be in a dialogue form, in writing or by use of a hybrid setup that captures the candidates written and oral communication qualities as well as their feelings while tackling the problem. In this way the staffs will be able to have the closest resemblance of an actual work performance by the interview candidates. The Lowville Public Library staff have only been invited to attend the interview process, and formulation of a case study is the most appropriate way the can use to find out if the interview candidates possess skills and qualities they are looking for.

References
Hull, H. A., Custer M. L., Gavey J. F., Tabor J. M. & Hage L. C. (2005). A library board’s practical guide to finding the right library director. Detroit Suburban Librarians’ Roundtable Succession Planning Committee. Retrieved 10 March 2011 from http://www.owlsweb.info/L4L/trustees/GuideToFindingTheRightLibraryDirector.pdf
Alliance Library System. (n.d.) Hiring a new library director. Retrieved 10 March 2011 from http://www.alliancelibrarysystem.com/CEpdf/Hiring_a_%20new_director.pdf
Serrat, O. (2008).Conducting exit interviews. Knowledge Solutions. Retrieved 10 March 2011 from http://www.adb.org/Documents/Information/Knowledge-Solutions/Conducting-Exit-Interviews.pdf
Interview Skill Consulting (n.d.). Competency based interviews. Retrieved 23, February 2011 from http://www.interview-skills.co.uk/competency-based-interviews.aspx
Tellis, W. (1997). Application of a Case Study Methodology. The Qualitative Report, 3(3). Retrieved 23, February 2011 from http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR3-3/tellis2.html
Eggett C.B. (2008). Orientation manual for new library directors. 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, UT.: Utah State Library Division
Article Alley. (2011). Recruitment consultants – a benefit for employers and companies. Retrieved 10 March 2011 from http://www.articlealley.com/article_1987446_36.html
Wynn, B. (2010). Making the right hire first time, every time. Recruitment Views. Retrieved 10 March 2011 from http://www.recruitment-views.com/making-the-right-hire-first-time-every-time/1295

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