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Washington Public Library Trustee Wiki

Library boards, whether governing or advisory, are involved in personnel issues. It takes people to provide library services and programming. The board, director, and staff all share the same objective - providing the best possible library service to meet the needs of the people in their community. It is natural that they may wish to share ideas about service and work together to identify and solve problems. However, board members need to be aware of their role and level of authority in personnel matters, as well as the distinct roles and responsibilities of the library director and staff. The Role and Authority of Advisory Boards compares their responsibilities.

This is not to say that library trustees and staff should not know each other. Indeed, trustees should make an effort to know the library personnel and to encourage opportunities for contact. Some appropriate options include asking the director to have staff:

  • Make occasional reports to the board concerning special projects;
  • Introduce a new service or explain how an existing library service works;
  • Tour board members through branches or library departments to describe operations;
  • Participate in long-range planning committees and task forces.

The board can also plan social opportunities to celebrate staff successes and to introduce new board members and new staff.

Getting to Know You

There are a number of ways to minimize confusion on the part of management and staff regarding designated roles and authority including:

  • Defining appropriate protocols for interactions between the board and staff in the board’s code of ethics;
  • Clarifying personnel roles and responsibilities and communication protocols in orientations of new trustees and library staff:
    • Trustees and staff should refer to the library director any:
      • Complaints from the public regarding library staff or operations;
      • Complaints from library staff;
      • Suggestions related to library services or programming.
    • Trustees need to refrain from:
      • Giving directions or instructions directly to library staff;
      • Exerting pressure on the director to influence decisions;
      • Abandoning or undermining staff if there is a community controversy, especially when they are following policies established by the board.
    • Who does what?
      • The library board is responsible for creating policies;
      • The library director is responsible for implementing policies
      • The library director is responsible for hiring and supervising library staff;
      • The library director is responsible for library operations.
  • Assuring that board members, the director, and library staff have current and clearly written job descriptions;
  • Having personnel policies, procedures, and protocols in place and reviewing and revising them on a regular basis;
  • Circulating board agendas and minutes to help library staff understand the role of the board of trustees and the issues that they address.


“…the state of Washington or a county or city, and any of its agencies, institutions, boards, or commissions.” RCW 49.48.210(11)
“…an employee who is employed in the business of the employee's employer whether by way of manual labor or otherwise.” RCW 49.12.005
“Conditions of labor”
“…the conditions of rest and meal periods for employees including provisions for personal privacy, practices, methods and means by or through which labor or services are performed by employees and includes bona fide physical qualifications in employment, but shall not include conditions of labor otherwise governed by statutes and rules and regulations relating to industrial safety and health administered by the department [of Labor and Industries].” RCW 49.12.005
“… a person of either sex under the age of eighteen years.” RCW 49.12.005

Hiring a Library Director

Hiring a library director is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs that a library board can undertake. The prospect of new library leadership offers an opportunity for the board to:

  • Assess the library's present position and the desires of the community;
  • Establish plans for the future;
  • Review library goals and direction;
  • Identify conditions that may need correction;
  • Redefine the job of the director, revise qualifications; and review the position’s salary and benefits.

Library boards should work with their human resources director to ensure that federal and state laws are followed throughout the hiring process. They should also be sure that the library is in compliance with the law with regard to personnel practices affecting the hiring and oversight by the director of library staff.

This list, although by no means comprehensive, provides a brief overview of some of those laws. Specific questions should be addressed to your library's legal counsel.

Topic Legal Authority Resources
ADA/Reasonable Accommodation RCW 49.60.040;
RCW 70.84.010;
RCW 70.84.080;
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III;
WAC 162-26-080.
ASCLA. Library Accessibility - What You Need to Know;
JAN (Job Accommodation Network);
MRSC. Americans with Disabilities Act;
National Council on Disability;
Northwest ADA Center;
U.S. Department of Labor. Accommodations;
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Disability Discrimination;
Age discrimination RCW 49.44.090;
29 C.F.R. Part 1625;
29 C.F.R. Part 1626;
29 C.F.R. Part 1627.
U.S. Department of Labor. Older Workers;
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Age Discrimination.
AIDS/HIV RCW 70.24.300;
RCW 49.60.172.
U.S. Department of Labor. HIV/AIDS.
Benefits RCW 48.68;
RCW 49.64.
United States Department of Labor. Health Plans & Benefits.
Breaks WAC 296-126-092 MRSC. Meal and Rest Breaks for Public Employees;
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Breaks & Meal Periods.
Indoor air quality RCW 70.162.040 Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Indoor Air Quality.
Job discrimination RCW 49.12.175;
RCW 49.60.180;
RCW 49.12.200;
RCW 70.84.080;
MRSC. Discrimination;
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices;
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Complaints/Discrimination;
Washington State. Human Rights Commission. Self-Assessments.
Labor disputes RCW 49.32;
RCW 49.36.015;
RCW 49.44.100.
Public Employment Relations Commission.
Labor unions National Labor Relations Act (NLRA);
RCW 41.56;
RCW 49.12.187;
RCW 49.36;
RCW 49.60.190.
American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA). FAQs about Unions;
National Labor Relations Board. Employer/Union Rights and Obligations.
Leave time Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA);
RCW 38.40.060;
RCW 49.12.265;
RCW 49.12.270;
RCW 49.12.360.
U.S. Department of Labor. FMLA;
MRSC. Military Leave;
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Leave & Benefits.
Minimum wage Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA);
RCW 49.46.020;
WAC 296-128.
MRSC. Fair Labor Standards Act;
U.S. Department of Labor. Wage and Hour Division (WHD);
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Minimum Wage.
Minors RCW 49.12.121 U.S. Department of Labor. YouthRules!;
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Teen Workers.
Overtime RCW 49.46.130 Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Understanding Overtime.
Personnel records RCW 41.06.450;
RCW 49.12.050;
RCW 49.12.240;
RCW 49.12.250;
RCW 49.12.260;
WAC 296-17-35201.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Recordkeeping Requirements;
Washington State Archives. Local Government Records Retention Schedules - By Type of Agency;
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Payroll and Personnel Records.
Religious freedom Artitle I, Section 11, Washington State Constitution;
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Religious Discrimination.
Retaliation against whistleblowers RCW 42.41;
RCW 49.60.210
MRSC. Whistleblowing;
U.S. Department of Labor. The Whistleblower Protection Program.
Safety Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) OSHA. We Can Help;
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Safety Complaints.
Service animals RCW 9.91.170;
RCW 49.60.215;
RCW 49.60.218;
RCW 70.84.020;
RCW 70.84.021;
WAC 162-26-060;
WAC 162-26-070;
WAC 162-26-135;
JAN (Job Accommodation Network). Service Animals in the Workplace;
U.S. Department of Justice. Service Animals;
Washington State Human Rights Commission. Guide to Service Animals and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination;
Sexual orientation/gender identity RCW 49.60.180 Washington State Human Rights Commission. Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity.
Smoking RCW 49.17.010;
RCW 70.160;
WAC 296-800-24005
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Tobacco.
Unemployment Compensation RCW 50 U.S. Department of Labor. Unemployment Insurance (UI).
Volunteers RCW 51.12.035;
RCW 51.12.050;
RCW 51.12.170.
U.S. Department of Labor. Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor. Volunteers;
ALA. Volunteers.
Wages RCW 49.48.200;
RCW 49.48.210;
RCW 49.12.020;
RCW 49.12.041;
RCW 49.12.091
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Equal Pay/Compensation Discrimination.
WISHA (Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act) RCW 49.17 Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. WISHA Poster.

The entire board of trustees should be involved in the hiring process. Because the director is the board's only employee, it is important for trustees to work as a team and reach consensus as they develop the job description, as well as determine the interview method, the hiring criteria, and other procedures and decisions. In the process of hiring a new director, boards may find help by consulting:

What Does a Library Director Do?

The library director is entirely responsible for library operations including staff hiring and supervision, interpreting policies to staff, and achieving the goals of the library’s plan. Each library board should seek a director with qualities, strengths, and professional background that meet the library's current circumstances, plans, and needs. The professional knowledge gained while earning a master’s degree in library and information science, or its equivalent, from an ALA-accredited program, combined with several years of experience working in the field, will equip librarians with the skills they need to fulfill their responsibilities as directors.

In addition, RCW 27.04.055 sets forth qualifications for librarians working in the state of Washington:

“No library serving a community having over four thousand population, nor any library operated by the state or under its authority, may have in its employ, in the position of librarian or in any other full-time professional library position, a person who does not hold a librarian's certificate issued by the state librarian or its predecessor. A full-time professional library position is one that requires, in the opinion of the state librarian, a knowledge of information resources and library/information service delivery equivalent to that required for graduation from an accredited library education program. This section does not apply to the state law library or to county law libraries. The state librarian shall:

  1. Establish rules for, and prescribe and hold examinations to test, the qualifications of those seeking certificates as librarians;
  2. Grant librarians' certificates without examination to applicants who are graduates of library schools programs accredited or otherwise officially recognized by the American library association for general library training, and grant certificates to other applicants when it has satisfied itself by examination that the applicant has attainments and abilities equivalent to those of a graduate of a library school program accredited or otherwise officially recognized by the American library association; and
  3. Charge a fee to recover the costs associated with the application to be paid by each applicant for a librarian's certificate. Money paid as fees shall be retained by the state library as a recovery of costs.

The Washington State Library provides additional information on their Certification of Librarians page.

How to Hire a Library Director

Trustees need to carefully determine the qualities, knowledge, and skills that they expect their next director to possess. From the candidates’ point of view, the size of the community served by the library, the qualifications of its staff, the depth of library funding, and the location and status of the library will all be of great interest. The goal of the board is to match their criteria for the “ideal director” with the candidate whose experience, skills, and interest in the community result in the best possible fit. The public expects a smooth transition to new leadership, and that the board will hire the best possible candidate for the job while using public funds judicially to secure such a candidate - a daunting task, indeed!

Boards of municipal libraries must abide by the process set out in the municipal code or they may need to work with city authorities to clarify the roles and procedures that will be followed when hiring the library director. Advisory boards may make recommendations to their governing authority throughout the hiring process, but do not have the authority to hire - that is in the hands of the governing authority.

As stated above, trustees must ensure that the hiring process complies with all applicable federal and state laws, regulations, policies, and procedures such as:

  • Not discriminating against qualified applicants on the basis of sex, race, creed, color, religion, age, marital status, most handicaps, and country of national origin;
  • Using questions at interviews that fall within legal parameters;
  • Meeting all open public meeting and public records requirements;
  • Handling requests from candidates regarding confidentiality.

Steps for Hiring a Director

  1. Appoint an interim director;

    Tip: It may be several months before a new director is hired and on board. In the meantime:

    • Appoint an individual who can carry out the duties and responsibilities of the director and pay them a commensurate salary;
    • Announce the interim appointment to the community, to library staff, and to other libraries;
    • Be sure to provide the interim director with the assistance needed to carry out operations and services. It is usually necessary to hire temporary staff to assure that services do not suffer due to the absence of the interim director from daily library operations.
  2. Assess the library and its current needs;
    • Conduct an exit interview with the departing director:
      • What are the strengths and successes of the library programs and staff?
      • What key activities and priorities would best contribute to future successes?
      • What knowledge, skills, and abilities should be added to, or removed from, the current library director’s job description?
      • What needs to work better?
    • Gather opinions from library users and non-users:
      • How successful is the library in presenting library services that meet community needs and interests?
      • Is the library keeping pace with technology?
      • Does the collection meet community expectations and needs?
      • What segments of the community use the library?
      • What segments of the community do not use the library and why?
      • What are community’s priorities for library programs?
  3. Draft a job description;

    Work with your organization’s human resources specialist who is usually the person responsible for drafting job descriptions. Job Description Components - Library Director offers some suggestions for content.

    Tip: Look at positions currently being advertised. Sites to explore include the following:

    Current data about public library funding, including salaries and benefits, may be found in the annual online publication from the Washington State Library, Washington Public Library Statistics. Information about employee benefits may be found in the EBRI Databook on Employee Benefits. Economic data for Washington, including pay and benefits may be found on the Western Information Office (Washington) page from the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom of this page also provides a number of tools, including one for Inflation.

  4. Prepare information that will accompany the job description;


    • Information about the library and the community it serves such as:
      • Current description of the community;
      • Library mission statement;
      • Strategic plan for the library;
      • Any anticipated significant trends or changes.
    • Application deadline;
    • Request for resumé and references;
    • Release form that allows the library to check references of former employers and/or personal references;
    • Any other pertinent information.
  5. Establish a search committee;

    Even though there may be highly qualified applicants among current library staff, it is good practice to conduct an external search in order to select the best person for the library. Internal promotion is a very desirable goal, but it should be balanced with the added value of outside expertise.

    • Determine the search process:
      • The board as a whole may constitute itself as the search committee, drawing in representatives from staff, local officials, Friends of the Library, foundation members, citizens, local librarians who will regularly work with the library director, and others;
      • The board may appoint one or more of their members to chair a search committee that includes representatives noted above. The committee will usually recommend the top candidates to be interviewed by the board as a whole;
      • The board may contract with a consulting firm to carry out the search and structure the interview process, again involving staff and community. Some boards decide to accept the recommendations of the consultant and proceed directly to interviews. Others may decide to collaborate with the consultant to evaluate the candidates and select interviewees.
    • Create a timeline, defining critical dates and responsibilities;
    • Determine criteria that will be used in the initial screening of job applications and how applications will be scored;
    • Develop the evaluation form to be used during interviews to rate the candidates;
    • Develop policies for:
      • Reimbursing candidate travel, lodging, and per diem expenses during the interviews;
      • Reimbursing successful candidate for relocation costs.
    • Determine how the job will be structured:
      • Decide if the new director will be offered a contract or an open-ended agreement;
      • Determine the length of the probationary period.—Note: Legal counsel should be included in the discussion and in preparing any contracts.
    • Create a budget for:
      • Search committee costs;
      • Any consultant fees;
      • Advertising costs;
      • Reimbursing candidate travel, lodging, and expenses during interviews;
      • Relocation costs for successful applicant.
  6. Advertise the position;

    Advertisements should include:

    • Job qualifications;
    • Salary range;
    • Description of the community served by the library;
    • Application deadline;
    • Request for any accompanying documentation, such as references, resumes, required certifications, etc.
    • E-mail address, URL, or mailing address for submission of applications.

    Positions may be advertised in a number of ways, including the following library-specific job sites:

  7. Screen applications;
    • Make an initial review of applications to identify viable candidates for the position;
    • Check references;

      Note: Some candidates may request that their applications be kept confidential and that their current employer not be contacted. During the initial screening this is not unusual but if the applicant is one of the top candidates being considered, the search committee should ask permission to investigate all references.

    • Acknowledge receipt of all applications and notify candidates who were not selected for interviews.
  8. Interview candidates, requesting input from staff and the community;
    • Make reservations for accommodations for candidates as needed;
    • The following interview processes and topics require board decisions:
      • The number of applicants to be interviewed (usually 3 to 5);
      • The order in which candidates will be interviewed;
      • Whether candidates will be interviewed on the same day;
      • Who will chair the interview process;
      • The time and place for board and/or search committee interviews;
      • The time and place for staff and community interviews and public announcements announcing same;
      • Who will host the candidates and provide a tour of the library and of the community;
      • The process that will be followed if members do not agree on the best candidate.
    • Before the interview, provide candidates with:
      • Scheduling information;
      • Policy and procedures for reimbursement of travel, lodging, and other costs associated with the interview;
      • Copies of the library mission, planning documents, budget, financial history, organizational and staffing structure, and other applicable documents.
  9. Select the new library director based on agreed upon criteria in a public board meeting;


    • Facilitate an open discussion that clearly outlines the expectations of the library board, the current status of the library, and the working conditions;
    • Ask the same questions of all candidates;
    • Allow adequate time for in-depth conversations, questions, and follow-up;


    • Ask questions that do not have anything to do with the job or are not vital to determine the applicant’s ability to perform the essential functions of the position;
    • Make promises or leave illusions that the board will be offering the job to the candidate being interviewed.

    After the interviews are completed:

    • Complete evaluation sheets and discuss candidate qualifications to gather immediate reactions;
    • Gather and review evaluation forms and comments from staff and community interviews;
    • Rank candidates based on the interview evaluations, taking into consideration the comments of the search committee, the staff, and the public;
    • Determine whether the second choice candidate will be offered the position if the top candidate declines;
    • Seek a consensus of the search committee. The committee and/or board may decide to do an additional interview with selected candidates, ask further questions of references, or re-advertise the position.
  10. Make a conditional job offer;
    • Contact the candidate with a conditional job offer, requesting a response within a reasonable time period. The conditional offer protects the library during this period and allows the library to:
      • Ask about needed accommodations;
      • Require a medical examination;
      • Negotiate with the candidate regarding salary, starting date, reimbursement of moving expenses, etc.
    • If the candidate declines the offer, or if negotiations are unsatisfactory, the position may be offered to the second candidate or the search may be reopened;
    • If the offer is accepted, send 2 official copies of the agreement or contract that include details of the appointment, duties, salary, benefits, probationary period, evaluation process, starting date, etc. Provide space for the candidate’s signature of acceptance and instructions for returning the signed copy of the agreement;
    • After acceptance, contact all other candidates, thanking them for their interview and informing them of the decision;
    • Immediately after the candidate accepts the position, the board should notify the interim director. Be sure to express gratitude to the individual at that time, as well as more formal appreciation when the interim appointment is completed.
  11. Develop a written contractual agreement, spelling out the relationship and expectations of the board and director;

    Note: Many boards and directors develop and sign a formal contract that is reviewed annually.

  12. Orient the new director;

    The board and new director need to agree on goals and the work plan as one of the first actions after the director arrives. The initial work plan should take into account the learning curve of a new director as well as the skills that the new director brings. It will form the basis for formal and informal reviews during board meetings.

  13. Evaluate the new director’s performance during the probationary period;

    Take full advantage of the probationary period to assess how well the director is meeting the expectations of the board, and vice versa. This is the time to identify and deal with mutual concerns to avoid future problems and to mutually agree on opportunities for counseling or education to assure that expectations can be met. Be sure this is done before the end of the probationary period, normally, at a minimum, within the first 3 to 6 months of employment. The final probationary evaluation will determine whether the library will retain or dismiss the library director.

    Note: If the library director will not be retained, the board should have objective documentation of the causes for dismissal prior to the final probationary evaluation.

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 resources:

    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.

Corrective Action

Corrective action is a counseling process that defines performance expectations. It is not a disciplinary action, but provides a way for the board and director to mutually address issues that may be hindering progress towards meeting library goals.

Corrective action is normally progressive, but circumstances may warrant stronger or lesser actions. When determining the appropriate level of corrective action to take, the board may wish to consider the following factors in consultation with their human resources specialist:

  • Has the board made the director aware of their concerns through:
    • Orientation sessions;
    • Recent evaluations;
    • Discussions with the director;
    • Providing training to the director.
  • How serious is the performance problem, the incident or concern?
    • Is this a misconduct issue that requires investigation and is more appropriately classified as a disciplinary action?
    • Are there any mitigating or aggravating circumstances?
  • Is this a first time concern or a repetition of the same or similar issues(s)?
    • If this is a repetition, how long ago was the first incident or issue discussed with the director?
    • What action was taken previously?
    • To what extent do you believe the employee has made an earnest effort to correct the situation?
  • What has previous library practice been in similar situations?
  • To what extent will a more severe level of corrective action cause irreparable damage to the board and director working relationship? If the action is likely to cause irreparable damage, the board may decide to work with their human relations specialist and/or legal counsel to discuss termination of the library director.

Developing a Corrective Action Plan

For a corrective action plan to be successful, it will need mutual participation by the board and the library director. A corrective action plan is similar to a contract in that the board and director establish an agreement to correct a specific problem or deficiency.

Who does what

Library Board Responsibilities:

  • Work with the human resources specialist to:
    • Define the problem(s)
    • Identify a method to correct the problem;
    • Determine the seriousness of the problem;
    • Confirm if this is a new problem or one that had been previously corrected;
    • Develop a plan that includes:
      • Measurable objectives stated as expected results;
      • Provision for specific training or other assistance as needed;
      • A timetable for effecting change;
      • A regular schedule for discussing progress.
  • Follow through with any actions promised on their part, monitoring progress and deciding on the next steps if the desired change does not occur.

Library Director Responsibilities:

  • Acknowledge ownership of the problem and take responsibility for correcting it;
  • Participate in developing the solution(s) and defining reasonable timelines to correct the problem and commit to the plan;
  • Ask for education or assistance if needed;
  • Meet agreed upon timelines and discuss progress with the library board.

Human Resource Staff Responsibilities:

  • Provide advice, consultation, examples, and resources to both the board and the director;
  • Assist by asking questions to elicit the nature of the problem, the degree of severity, and desired results;
  • Interview or investigate as appropriate;
  • Recommend when legal counsel should be consulted.

Contents of a Corrective Action Plan

  • Measurable objectives stated as expected results;
  • Provision for specific training or other assistance as needed;
  • Timetable for effecting change;
  • A regular schedule for discussing progress.

Steps for Corrective Action

  1. Have written documentation of the problem.

    This should include:

    • A description of the unacceptable performance or behavior;
    • The reason(s) why the performance or behavior is unacceptable and/or inappropriate;
    • The impact of unacceptable performance or behavior on operations, staff, the community, or other governmental personnel;
    • A description of the desired performance or behavior and how it can be achieved, as well as an offer of assistance by the board;
    • Specified job expectations needing improvement;
    • A signature line for the director, accompanied by a statement such as "I have seen this memorandum and it has been discussed with me." This wording is suggested so the signature is only an acknowledgement of receipt of the document.

    Note: A copy of the document should be given to the director.

  2. Conduct the corrective action interview:
    • Appoint a board member to take notes;
    • Clearly state the problem, using examples;
    • Focus on performance deficiency, not personal characteristics;
    • Be honest - share the blame if it is appropriate;
    • Ask the library director to present an explanation and pose questions or proposals for correcting the concern;
    • Work out a joint solution with timelines for accomplishing change and set a date for the next review;
    • Explain results if director doesn’t correct problem by stated time or if there is a recurrence;
    • Be positive that the desired performance can be achieved and that the board stands willing to help the director;
    • Verbally summarize discussion and the agreements made by the board and the director.
  3. Prepare a written summary of the interview;

    Note: Ask the human resources manager to maintain the file with the corrective action memo, action plan, and written summary.

  4. Monitor progress and document results:
    • The board should be sure to provide any promised assistance or education;
    • The board should meet regularly with the library director:
      • Maintain a record of those meetings;
      • Issue follow-up memos as needed.

Disciplinary Action—When corrective action fails

If the expectations of the corrective action plan are not met, the board may then proceed to disciplinary action that may result in a reprimand or termination of employment.

Letter of reprimand

A letter of reprimand is the first step in disciplinary action. A letter of reprimand is intended to provide a formal written admonishment concerning the library director’s problem performance. It acts as a final warning, following documented corrective actions, that failure to discontinue inappropriate conduct and/or improve inadequate performance will likely result in formal disciplinary action or termination of employment.

At a minimum a letter of reprimand should:

  • Clearly indicate it is a letter of reprimand;
  • Describe:
    • The specific performance or behavioral problem;
    • The incident or behavior upon which the action is based, including specific date(s) time, place, etc., as appropriate;
  • Include a history, if applicable, of previous corrective action counseling, training, and agreements made with the director;
  • Describe the expected performance or behavior - this may include specific action steps stated as a directive;
  • Provide a warning concerning the potential consequences of not correcting the performance problem.


Justifiable terminations should be spelled out in a policy handbook or personnel manual. Some of these reasons may include:

  • Incompetence or failure to respond to training;
  • Gross insubordination;
  • Responsibilities not being accomplished due to extensive absences;
  • Sexual harassment;
  • Verbal abuse;
  • Discrimination;

  • Physical violence;
  • Falsification of records;
  • Theft;
  • Drunkenness on the job.
Steps to take if terminating a director
  1. Discuss termination of employment in an executive session of the board:

    Hold an executive session to discuss potential termination of the director. Note: If the decision is to terminate the director, the actual termination must be authorized in a public meeting. (See RCW 42.30.110(1)(g))

  2. Review ramifications with human resources and legal counsel;

    The board should immediately consult library human resources staff or city specialists as well as legal counsel whenever considering dismissal. Sometimes the board and director may mutually agree that the situation is not beneficial. It is still necessary to consult with human resource experts and legal counsel to assure that any mutually agreed upon plan for departure is lawful and the board fully discusses and understands potential implications of any agreements. Be sure to:

    • Confirm that you are not violating any local, state or federal laws that protect specific classes of individuals from discriminatory hiring or firing based on their classification such as race, sex, color, disability, religion, age, national origin, ancestry, or marital status;
    • Review any employment agreements made in your offer to the library director or in a subsequent employment contract. Check to make sure there were no verbal contracts that would reasonably alter the employment agreement. Implied contracts or practices in termination also need to be examined, especially if the personnel handbook sets out a standard disciplinary pattern and the board has not followed the usual pattern;
    • Confirm that your rationale for terminating employment is objective, documented, and with cause. For example, citing a “personality problem” without objective documentation of a detrimental effect or without evidence of corrective action effort is unlikely to assist the board if the library is sued for unfair dismissal;
    • Review previous evaluations to substantiate that the board has documented the circumstances leading to dismissal.
    • Review with counsel the implications of potential release and settlement agreements such as:
      • Agreeing to allow the employee to resign instead of being terminated;
      • Agreeing to provide a reference for the employee, at least at the level of acknowledging that they occupied the library director position;
      • Agreeing to severance pay;
      • Agreeing to continue insurance beyond standard expectations;
      • Agreeing to assist person with job search, training, or other options.
    • Determine with human resource staff and counsel the need for a factual investigation or other course of action if the reason for dismissal is gross misconduct, refusal to do work that was directed by the board and would be reasonably expected, wrongful use or taking of property, or a felony conviction.
  3. Loudermill Hearing;

    Based on the 1985 U. S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill (470 U.S. 532), the director is entitled to a final hearing to contest a termination decision. A letter from the board will advise that dismissal is being considered and give the library director an opportunity to review the charges, examine the board’s evidence, and indicate why dismissal is not appropriate. The board of trustees will utilize the Loudermill hearing to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges are, or are not true, and determine whether they continue to support the proposed dismissal action. Additional information about the Loudermill Hearing may be found in:

  4. Final disciplinary letter;

    Before dismissing the director a final disciplinary letter must be delivered. This formal letter delineates:

    • Performance issues/behavioral problems;
    • Negative impacts on the library caused by those issues or behaviors;
    • The agreed upon expectations that have not been met;
    • Steps that have been taken to correct the problem(s) such as counseling, corrective action agreements, and training.

    The letter concludes with a statement that the board has adopted the motion to dismiss the director.

  5. Letter of termination;

    The board then issues the letter of termination, although the human resources specialist or the library attorney will most likely write the text of the letter. The letter documents any release and settlement agreements and includes:

    • Reasons for dismissal;
    • Effective date of termination.
  6. The library director is terminated at a meeting of the board open to the public.

Other Personnel Issues

As stated in RCW 27.12.210, it is the responsibility of the board of trustees to employ a librarian, and upon the librarian’s recommendation employ such other assistants as may be necessary, prescribe their duties, fix their compensation, and remove them for cause.

To fulfill these duties, the board should:

  • Approve the collective bargaining agreement if the library has employees represented by a labor union. This agreement should include a section on hiring and conditions of employment to be administered by the library director;
  • Adopt a personnel policy for non-union employees that includes, but is not limited to, hiring and conditions of employment to be administered by the library director;
  • Adopt an employee classification plan that outlines the responsibilities and duties of all employees;
  • Review employee compensation annually as part of the annual budget approval process;
  • Monitor and review all personnel actions filed against the library relating to allegations of violations of collective bargaining agreements, personnel policies, or civil rights.


Is the evaluation of the library director subject to the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA)?
The OPMA authorized closed meetings for specified reasons. RCW 42.30.110(1)(g) authorizes a closed executive session to “review the performance of a public employee.” An annual personnel evaluation for the library director would meet the requirement for a closed meeting because it is to “review the performance of a public employee.” However, if the board wants to set or modify the salary of the library director or discipline or fire the director, then that action must be done in an open public meeting.
Is Washington an “at will” state?
Washington is an “at will” state. This means that employees who are not covered by an individual contract with the library or by a union contract may be dismissed “at will.” Most library directors have an employment contract with their boards and, as such, may not be dismissed “at will,” but only according to the terms laid out in the contract. Additional information concerning at will employment may be found in the following sources:
What is the legal authority for recovering funds from a public library employee who was overpaid by mistake?
In response to this question, legal counsel at MRSC responded:

“In my opinion, RCW 49.48.200(1) applies. According to RCW 49.48.210(11) the definition of ‘employer’ as used in RCW 49.48.210 49.48.200 and 49.48.220, ‘means the state of Washington or a county or city, and any of its agencies, institutions, boards, or commissions…’ A library district is a creation of a city or county (or combinations thereof) pursuant to ch. 27.12 RCW.

“Consequently, I believe the process laid out in ch. 49.48 RCW is the applicable authority since it applies to ‘government employees’ and provides for the recovery of overpayments’ by the employer by deductions from subsequent wage payments as provided in RCW 49.48.210 or by civil action.

“For public employers, such as a regional library district, the 90-day limitation on recovery does not apply. See WAC 296-126-030. Adjustments for overpayments:

“(10) This regulation does not apply to public employers. See chapter 49.48 RCW Wages - Payment - Collection.

“For local governments, the underlying principle is that a government entity cannot constitutionally make a gift of funds (unless for the support of the poor and infirm). See Washington State Constitution Art. VIII, section 7. If an overpayment has been made, that is, a payment in excess of the amount owed an employee, the district must take steps to recover the overpayment, or else there would be a gift involved, which is forbidden.”

Is it legal for library management to tell an employee not to speak out?
As long as the employee’s advocacy is on his or her own time away from the workplace and using his or her own resources, they may speak out.

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has adopted two rules interpreting RCW 42.17A.555 in the Washington Administrative Code - WAC 390-05-271 (general applications of RCW 42.17A.555) and WAC 390-05-273 (definition of normal and regular conduct). Those rules are discussed in the PDC Guidelines. They read as follows:

(1) RCW 42.17A.555 does not restrict the right of any individual to express his or her own personal views concerning, supporting, or opposing any candidate or ballot proposition, if such expression does not involve a use of the facilities of a public office or agency.

What constitutes procedural due process to terminate employees?
An MRSC Legal Consultant provided the following process to ensure due process rights are protected:
  1. The termination notice to the employee should include the following:
    • Reasons and evidence for poor performance;
    • Final performance appraisal;
    • Termination recommendation.
  2. There is an acknowledgement by the employee of receipt of previous appraisals that documented problems with work performance;
  3. An opportunity has been provided for the employee to meet with the employer, discuss the notice of termination, and refute the evidence.
What types of checks are required and/or allowed to run on new hires and volunteers? Are additional checks required for individuals who work with children and vulnerable adults?
A legal consultant from MRSC responded as follows:

Although each agency has latitude in establishing volunteer policies, including new hiring and background checks, there is one primary legal requirement. Under RCW 43.43.832, an employer is required to have criminal background checks done only for those potential employees and volunteers who would have "unsupervised access to children, vulnerable adults or persons who are developmentally disabled." So, each agency will need to look at the particular volunteer position to determine whether a person hired to fill that position will be subject to a criminal background check. "Unsupervised" is defined in RCW 43.43.830(13) to mean:

not in the presence of:

  1. Another employee or volunteer from the same business or organization as the applicant; or
  2. Any relative or guardian of any of the children or developmentally disabled persons or vulnerable adults to which the applicant has access during the course of his or her employment or involvement with the business or organization.

According to the Washington State Patrol guide, "access" means being left alone in the presence of a child, vulnerable adult or person who is developmentally disabled for any period of time. So, for example, in some libraries a volunteer who works "in the back" sorting books will likely not have such unsupervised access, and so a prospective or new hire for that position would not be subject to the background check. But I suspect that in most libraries, volunteers are moved around to different jobs such as shelving books, helping at the desk, answering questions. In a situation like that, all volunteers should have a background check.

Employers must inquire about an applicant's criminal history and certain civil adjudications for jobs having unsupervised access to children or developmentally disabled adults. Nursing homes, hospitals and other licensed health care facilities also are required to obtain written disclosures, check such applicant's conviction records through the Washington State Patrol, and may not employ individuals convicted of certain "crimes against persons."

There is no mandate in state law that libraries adopt a policy for volunteers, but there should be and it is highly recommended by insurance carriers. Here is a good sample policy from the Washington Cities Insurance Authority:

A. Selection and Screening

Individuals volunteering their time to the Member should be properly screened for acceptance by the Member. All individuals should complete a volunteer application form. The application form should contain the following:

  • A criminal history disclosure including a statement that a WSP background check may be performed
  • At least three personal references that are not family members
  • Waiver of liability related to obtaining personal history information
  • Emergency contact information
  • A section for the applicant to disclose any physical limitations that the Member should be made aware of

Selected applicants should then be requested to sign a Volunteer Agreement. The Volunteer Agreement should include:

  • A waiver of liability and hold harmless agreement
  • Rules of conduct and pertinent policies and procedures
  • The scope of the volunteer's duties
  • A release for a WSP criminal background check

Background checks should be performed in accordance with RCW 43.43.830-839 for all volunteers who have regularly scheduled unsupervised access with children, the elderly or the developmentally disabled. Volunteer applicants should be provided a copy of their background check if one is performed.

Washington State law (RCW 43.43.832) requires organizations that provide services to children, developmentally disabled persons and vulnerable adults submit a Request for Criminal History Information form to the Washington State Patrol for a background check.

Also, see our web page on Volunteers - it has a section on background checks.

As to your second question, about "how often" background checks should be conducted, the background check provision in the statute, RCW 43.43.834 is only to be used in making the initial employment/hiring decision:

(5) The business or organization shall use this record only in making the initial employment or engagement decision. Further dissemination or use of the record is prohibited, except as provided in RCW 28A.320.155. A business or organization violating this subsection is subject to a civil action for damages.

There is, however, an exception when an employer knows of employee misconduct where the misconduct may also constitute a criminal offense. RCW 43.43.815 provides that, upon written or electronic request, employers may obtain conviction records from the Washington State Patrol in order to conduct post-employment evaluations where the employee or prospective employee "may have access to information affecting national security, trade secrets, confidential or proprietary business information, money or items of value" or to assist in an investigation of employee misconduct where the misconduct may also constitute a criminal offense.

Once again, state law doesn't give much guidance about when postemployment background checks can be done, and I cannot find any guidance in case law. In my opinion the only specific authority is preemployment hiring and postemployment misconduct (of a criminal nature). You can advise your libraries that they can and should run background checks for new volunteers, but should not run them later unless they know of specific criminal misconduct.

Are there any restrictions regarding the use of volunteers in libraries?
In response, a legal consultant from MRSC states:

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA”) requires employers, including public agencies such as library systems, local libraries and library districts, to pay their employees time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a given week if the employees in question are not exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA. The regulations are concerned with overtime that gets triggered if an employee is volunteering in a similar area of work. The basic rule under the FLSA is that a true volunteer is not subject to the FLSA and does not trigger overtime concerns. However, an individual may not be a volunteer for a public agency when the volunteer hours involve the same type of service which the individual is employed to perform for the same agency.

When Congress amended the FLSA in 1985, it made clear that people are allowed to volunteer their services to public agencies and their community, with one exception—public sector employers may not allow their employees to volunteer without compensation. Public sector employees may volunteer to do different kinds of work for the public agency by which they are employed, or volunteer to do similar work for a different public agency. For example, police officers can volunteer different work (non-law enforcement related) in city parks and schools, or can volunteer to perform law enforcement for a different jurisdiction than where they are employed. The United States Department of Labor's regulations define "same type of services" to mean similar or identical services. Equally important is whether the volunteer service is closely related to the actual duties performed by or responsibilities assigned to the public agency employee who are "volunteers."

The classic example of this is when a full-time firefighter wants to also be in the volunteer fire department - the FLSA indicates that all hours must be counted as compensable work time for someone in this situation. The issue is whether these hours count as regular compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The 1985 Amendments to the FLSA provide that when local government employees, at their option, work occasionally or sporadically on a part-time basis for the same agency in a different capacity from their regular employment, the hours worked in the different job do not have to be combined with the regular hours for the purpose of determining overtime liability. The decision to work must be made freely and without coercion.

Washington State municipalities must also comply with the state Minimum Wage Act, which is codified in Ch. 49.46 RCW.  Many of the provisions of the state law and the federal FLSA are identical but there are some differences. When there is a difference, the municipality must comply with the most liberal law when viewed from the perspective of the employee. If the state law provides greater benefits than the FLSA, then the city must comply with state law. If the FLSA is more generous for the employee, then the city must comply with the FLSA.

Are local governments obligated to provide medical benefits coverage for volunteers?
A legal consultant from MRSC responds as follows:

Any coverage is entirely optional UNLESS it is required by city ordinance.

From the statutes it appears that a local government can “elect” to cover their volunteers (for “medical benefits” only). If a local government decides to provide medical benefits coverage to volunteers, then they are obligated to pay for it.

Here’s what RCW 51.12.035 provides in pertinent part:

2) Except as provided in RCW 51.12.050, volunteers may be deemed employees and/or workers, as the case may be, for all purposes relating to medical aid benefits under chapter 51.36 RCW at the option of any city, county, town, special district, municipal corporation, or political subdivision of any type, or any private nonprofit charitable organization, when any such unit of local government or any such nonprofit organization has given notice of covering all of its volunteers to the director prior to the occurrence of the injury or contraction of an occupational disease.

A "volunteer" shall mean a person who performs any assigned or authorized duties for any such unit of local government, or any such organization, except emergency services workers as described by chapter 38.52 RCW, or firefighters covered by chapter 41.24 RCW, brought about by one's own free choice, receives no wages, and is registered and accepted as a volunteer by any such unit of local government, or any such organization which has given such notice, for the purpose of engaging in authorized volunteer services: PROVIDED, That such person shall be deemed to be a volunteer although he or she may be granted maintenance and reimbursement for actual expenses necessarily incurred in performing his or her assigned or authorized duties: PROVIDED FURTHER, That juveniles performing community restitution under chapter 13.40 RCW may not be granted coverage as volunteers under this section.

Any and all premiums or assessments due under this title on account of such volunteer service for any such unit of local government, or any such organization shall be the obligation of and be paid by such organization which has registered and accepted the services of volunteers and exercised its option to secure the medical aid benefits under chapter 51.36 RCW for such volunteers.

In our public library, circulation is soaring, and frankly, we need more staff. Is there an ALA standard for how many staff are needed?
From ALA Public Library Staffing Measures:

Neither the ALA nor our public library division, the Public Library Association (PLA), sets prescriptive standards for public libraries, including a number of staff needed per capita. Instead, we advocate an outcomes-based assessment process set forth in a series of books on Planning and Assessment—the PLA "Results" books. The reason for this is that each library serves a different community with different needs. For example, a library serving a community with many young families wants and needs a library with different facilities and services than a library serving a similar size population with a high percentage of empty-nesters and retirees.

For additional information, see Budgeting and Finance, Collection Development, and Human Resources on the ALA wiki.

However, individual states may have standards, which should be reviewed and observed as appropriate. These, where they exist, may be found at the sites listed on these directory pages:

Additional information may be found at Public Library Standards, including a Sample benchmarking process.

Jeanne Goodrich, provides additional thoughts on library staffing in “Staffing Public Libraries: Are There Models or Best Practices?,” which appeared in the September/October 2005 issue of Public Libraries.


The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel for specific concerns.

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