Further Questions: How are Oral Boards or Search/Hiring Committees Formed?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

When hiring, what committees are formed at your library? Do you use an oral board, a search committee, and/or a hiring committee?  How are the members chosen? What do they do and who are they accountable to?

Laurie PhillipsAt our library, we have a search committee and we always do national searches. The supervisor of the new hire is always the chair. Other people are usually chosen from the librarians (or staff, in some cases) who will work most closely with the person and one person from outside the new hire’s main area. We have been trying to keep membership to 4-5 people to facilitate scheduling so we don’t get bogged down. Members of the search committee help write the ad, set the guidelines for reviewing applications, review the applications, choose candidates to move forward at each step, call references, and participate in hosting the candidate on campus. The search committee comes to a consensus decision then makes a recommendation to the Dean of Libraries.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Samantha Thompson-FranklinAt our library, we use search committees. The members of the committee are chosen by the library director and are accountable to that person. After reviewing applications and interviewing candidates, the search committee makes a hiring recommendation to the library director who then forwards that recommendation on to the Academic Dean (to whom the library director reports).  The Academic Dean is the one who formally hires the candidate and sends out the letter of hire, based upon the recommendation of the search committee and the library director.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Cathi AllowayAt Schlow Centre Region Library, we have a small committee that usually includes one “outsider”, esp. when we have internal candidates. This is a usually the local government HR person, or a retired librarian from an academic library.  The retirees are people who share our vision and passion and understand the kind of person we are seeking.  We usually have 3-4 on the committee.

– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

We use search committees but committee members are all approved by the dean. The chair of the search committee is the department head and generally selects the committee members. We also typically have the assistant dean for the division on the search committee, one person from the department, and two people from outside of the division. Of the two from outside the division, one of them may be from outside of the library depending on how much interaction the person will have with faculty.

Every search committee is responsible for reviewing applicant application materials, selecting who to phone interview and who will come to campus for in person interviews. The dean approves the in person interviews. The search committee make a recommendation to the dean on the candidate the library should hire. The dean will either approve or ask the search committee to recommend a different candidate.

The libraries as a whole are accountable to Equity and Diversity and our Human Resources for the university as a whole when hiring.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Marge Loch WoutersWe use a hiring committee at our medium size public library. The manager filling the position does all of the initial work in reading resumes, designing and setting a rubric for essay questions/answers and selecting interview pool. Then we convene the hiring committee for the actual interview process. We look for insightful members who look at candidates from multiple perspectives. You don’t have to be a children’s librarian to recognize positives or negatives in behavior, philosophy or expressed knowledge. But a sharp set of minds on a team bring that valued multi-layered perspective that has saved me from myself more times than I can say!

I usually include our HR/business manager and either the head of reference who is smarter than a whip or our system director. They contribute interview questions and we all conduct the interviews together. After each interview we discuss the candidate briefly and then have a longer final meeting to rank our candidates. Then we go out to eat when our selected candidate accepts!

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

We are a small library, so our hiring committees may be different from others responding this week.  Hiring committees tend to be 3 people; our Management Team has only seven members, and only four (plus the director) actually oversee staff.  So, any three of those five are generally the first approached to be on a hiring committee.  There are also a few other positions in the library that have served on hiring committees: the circulation head’s assistant and my assistant position have participated in hiring for those specific departments.  We also have a part-time staff member in technical services who used to be our circulation head, and she will sometimes serve on those committees.

For an open Management Team position, all remaining Management members participate in the process.  Hiring committees for entry-level circ and shelving positions have been made with only 2 people.

All members of any given hiring committee are active in the entire process, which usually includes reviewing applications and cover letters/resumes, optional phone interviews, in-person interviews, skills test or exercise, and final recommendation.  The committee usually meets once after looking at applications to decide who to interview, after any phone interviews to decide who to bring in, and after in-person interviews are completed to compare notes and make a selection.  All parts of the process, from beginning to end, are graded or ranked; our final numbers have to support our chosen candidate, and all this goes back to city HR. 

– Anonymous

John FeltsIn my experience we do nothing fancy or out of the norm here at Kimbel Library (Coastal Carolina University) regarding the search and hiring process.  As with other institutions at which I’ve worked, for all positions that aren’t at the level of department head or higher, our Dean of Library Services selects members for the search committee and gives the committee its charge.  The committee chair is typically a department head and not a member of the department for which a position is being advertised in order to help maintain and facilitate impartiality and perspective.  For the sake of consistency the chair handles all communication from the library to potential candidates, organizes meetings, itineraries, and basically just keeps the process organized and moving along.

Search committees typically consist of 3-5 members, most of whom are members of the department since they have the most knowledge of what they’re looking for in a candidate for a given position.  I’m also personally a fan of this approach because they’ll be the people spending the most time with the successful applicant; it just makes sense to me to give them as much time with each candidate as possible.  The committee thoroughly assesses each application, conducts phone interviews with those applicants who are better qualified for the position than others who have applied, and speaks with each potential interviewee’s references before extending an invitation to visit with us for an on-site interview.

We like to bring candidates in the day before their interview for dinner.  It’s always nice and sometimes surprisingly informative to meet and informally chat with a candidate the night before the typically hectic and more formal interview day.  Although I don’t personally see the necessity of having non-instruction librarians deliver a presentation, it’s just something the library requires from each candidate.  Since the successful candidate will be on a tenure track it certainly can’t hurt to observe a candidate’s presentation style, although there may have been a candidate or two who experienced a bit of temporary pain from this part of the interview process!  Hey, public speaking isn’t for everyone! 🙂  We then schedule time for librarians, the department head, the search committee, and obviously the Dean to spend time with each candidate.  We also try to squeeze in tours of the library, the campus, and the area just to offer as much information as possible about the library and the university since hopefully the candidate is interviewing the library just as thoroughly as the library is interviewing each candidate!

The search committee is an advisory body; it makes its recommendation to the Dean and the Dean chooses whether to accept the committee’s recommendation, extends any and all offers of employment, and negotiates salary.  Obviously serving on a search committee is lots of extra work and can sometimes be a bit overwhelming when coupled with one’s daily responsibilities; however, I find this to be one of the more rewarding aspects of librarianship and one of the most important and vital services a librarian can offer their institution.

– John Felts, Head of Library Technology and Systems, Coastal Carolina University

Alison M. Armstrong Collection Development & Cataloging Specialist McConnell Library Photo by Lora Gordon/Radford UniversityAt Radford University,  we have a hiring committee for librarian positions, the Library Personnel Committee. It is made up of 4 librarians plus the position’s supervisor. The terms are 2 years and staggered so 2 people are rolling off each year as 2 new members come on. The library faculty (librarians) make nominations and vote on two members each year. The Committee has a Chair, secretary, someone who does policy revisions and someone who serves as secretary for the Library Faculty Committee.

This committee does phone interviews, selects candidates to bring to campus and manages their schedule. The Committee is responsible for getting them to and from the airport and the hotel, has dinner with them the night before the interview and gives them tours of the area and the campus in addition to keeping things on schedule as they go through the day.

Staff positions are much more informal and are made up of the position’s supervisor and a few others that may work with that position.  They come to campus, are interviewed and, the interview style is up to the supervisor. They may choose to take them out for coffee or give them a tour of campus to get to know them a little more informally.

– Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, McConnell Library, Radford University


When hiring at our small (30 FTEs, 21 FT, 35 PT) public library, it depends on the job. For a librarian position, the Department Head reviews applications, selects 3-5 to interview; then the DH interviews potential candidates; 2-3 candidates meet other librarians in that department and librarians get an opportunity to meet informally with the candidates. The Director will also meet with the 2-3 candidates with the DH present. There is a consensus about who to hire among the Director, DH and other librarians. For other non professional positions a similar process is followed, with the DH having the final choice. Our HR person gets involved placing ads and explaining benefits etc.

– Kaye Grabbe, Director,  Lake Forest (Public) Library,  Lake Forest, IL 

Thank you as always to the above for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

And thank you for reading!  Oh, it’s such a perfect comment, I’m glad I spent it with you.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

2 responses to “Further Questions: How are Oral Boards or Search/Hiring Committees Formed?

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