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Library Director Search This Time Is Deliberate And Comprehensive

Thoughtful, diligent, thorough, and complete are a few of the words Michael Talluto chose to describe the work being done by the New Director Search Committee of the Board of Trustees of C.H. Booth Library. Mr Talluto, a member of the board, is the chairman of the committee, and has been selected by the group to serve as spokesperson.

The role of the search committee is to qualify candidates for the position of director of the C.H. Booth Library through a process that includes formulating interview questions, advertising for and promoting the position, reviewing resumes, and conducting the initial interviews. The top qualified candidates, along with dossiers on each, will be presented to the full board for further interviews and consideration for the position.

The New Director Search Committee is made up of seven members. Mr Talluto, Colleen Honan, and Robert Geckle represent the board of trustees. Joan Petersen and Christine Stowe are representatives from the community, and Kim Weber, young adult librarian, is the representative from the C.H. Booth Library staff. Peter Stern represents the Friends of the C.H. Booth Library and serves on the board. Together, said Mr Talluto, they make up a team with “eclectic viewpoints and diversity of thought that has been beneficial” to the process. Additionally, the search committee has invited an “experienced library director from Bethel” to take part in the initial interview process.

Mr Stern agreed with Mr Talluto’s assessment of the committee’s cohesive nature.

“We’re working like we’ve known each other for years,” he said. “I’m totally impressed with it, and my personal hope is that sometime in the next three to four weeks we will be able to present some people to the board,” Mr Stern said. He appreciates the input from the representatives from the community, and said that he believes it has been helpful to have non-board members staffing the search committee, as well.

“Part the search process was to see that more voices than just board members were heard,” said Mr Geckle. “[Having non-board members] has worked very well. It has met the intentions and hopes of what we planned when we put [the committee] together.”

That intention, he clarified, was that there would be broader input for the search committee. For example, Mr Geckle said, Kim Weber is the representative from the staff.

“Having someone with that kind of understanding and expertise is valuable to us,” he said.

Of Ms Petersen and Ms Stowe, Mr Geckle said that one has worked her entire career in the public sector “and brings a wealth of experience that none of [the other committee members] has.” Both offer a different perspective from their own experiences, as well as contributing comments from their colleagues and peers, he said.

Being part of the search committee has been a good experience, Mr Geckle said.

“I’ve met people I’ve never known before. This community has been good to me and my family,” he added, “and I want to give back.”

The New Director Search Committee, which has transitioned from the original Director Search Process Committee, has been meeting weekly since January, focusing on developing a means of moving forward to a positive conclusion that results in the selection of a director best suited to overseeing C.H. Booth Library. The meetings have been productive and progressive and show a collaborative effort to move forward, Mr Talluto said.

 

A Different Approach

There is a difference between this search committee, according to Mr Talluto, and the last director search in 2013, when a smaller committee made up exclusively of board of trustees members selected a new director who was not embraced by staff or community and who left after less than 12 weeks on the job. The difference this time is that the current committee includes representatives from the community who are library users and a representative from the staff, which, Mr Talluto said, has been helpful in the process.

One criticism of the last selection process was that staff had little to no input as to what might be desirable in a director.

“Our representative from the staff, Kim Weber, is a practicing librarian. I think the staff is being heard,” Mr Talluto said. There are four ways that the staff has been involved this time around.

“They have a representative from the staff. We have received written comments from the staff,” he said. One of the recent focus groups facilitated by Dawn La Valle and Mary Engels of the Connecticut State Library was specifically for staff members, and staff members were encouraged to take part in the online survey conducted this past winter.

In March, Mr Talluto made a point of meeting with the department heads of the library.

“It gave me an opportunity to meet them and hear their concerns and bring that information back to the search committee,” he said.

 

Casting A Wider Net

As the process has unfolded, Mr Talluto said the committee has been very grateful for the assistance of Ms La Valle.

“She has been very complimentary of our process,” he said. She and others at the Connecticut State Library have helped in determining the best way to cast a wider net for candidates than happened in the 2013 search process.

The posting for the job and job description are found at the C.H. Booth Library website, and “several professional websites,” Mr Talluto said, including the Connecticut Library Association website and WebJunction. Ms La Valle was valuable in the creation of a focused ad and job description, he said.

“We want to sell the wonderful attributes of our library,” he said.

The ads have already attracted a number of resumes, and while the search committee has set milestones and markers for the goal of hiring a new director, they are committed to quality and not speed of selecting candidates. At the April 8 board of trustees regular meeting, Mr Geckle stated that a target date of hiring by June 15 was desirable.

“We want to keep the application process open-ended for now,” Mr Talluto emphasized, and while the June 15 date is a goal, if the search committee does not have enough qualified candidates to present to the full board by a reasonable date, “We will have to readjust that date. We want to fill the role with a qualified person, so we are not going to give a list of candidates just to meet a date,” he said.


Creating A List

At the community focus groups facilitated by Ms La Valle and Ms Engels in March and April, Ms La Valle noted that input on skills and personal characteristics deemed important in a new director would be used to formulate interview questions. Ms La Valle presented a long list of characteristics and skills with a common thread collected from five focus groups at the April board meeting.

From that list, the search committee has gleaned top characteristics they will seek in recommending a candidate.

“We see that there is a need for someone who can be a mentor to the staff, be supportive. It has to be someone with broad knowledge of librarianship, and someone who can work effectively with the town and community and foster relationships,” said Mr Talluto. A new director must be confident, honest, welcoming and approachable, mature, and empathetic.

That information has been useful in formulating questions, he said, and overlaps with responses to the survey.

“The survey validated assumptions we had,” he said.

Interview questions are a mix of questions already compiled by the Connecticut Library Association, “weaving in considerations from the focus groups and survey,” Mr Talluto said. The search committee sat down with Ms La Valle, went through the CLA questions to find ones that focused on the key things they were hearing from the community and staff, he said, “rather than reinvent the wheel,” so far as coming up with appropriate questions.

Mr Talluto is confident that the candidates that the search committee ultimately presents to the board will result in a positive outcome. “I am exceedingly proud of the work we are doing. It is my good fortune to work with the people on the Search Committee,” he said.

“Everyone’s heart is in the right place.”

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