Further Questions: Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires? If so, can you tell us the typical length of this time and how employees are evaluated during probation? If not, are there other ways new hires are evaluated during the early days of their employment (first three to twelve months or so)? Generally, do you think probationary periods necessary for professional positions–why or why not? Feel free to provide answers for other types of library positions, if relevant.

Marleah AugustineI hire specifically part-time, entry level circulation desk staff, and yes, we have a six-month probationary period for each of them. At the end of the six months, we do a formal evaluation at which the employee also gets to set goals for themselves (maybe creating a new program or improving their skills with Microsoft Office, etc.). During those first six months, however, I am not hands-off. I talk with the employee frequently, ask them if they have questions, welcome their questions, and make sure they understand the expectations. I think it helps employees feel that there is a “safe zone”, that they can ask any questions that come up and get comfortable in the position.

For full-time, professional positions, there is also a six-month probationary period, after which the employee receives their full benefits.

I think it’s important for employees to have some time to get comfortable and feel free to make “mistakes”. It can also help the director, or whoever is directly supervising them, remember to check in and verify that the employee is fully trained and able to complete the tasks they are responsible for.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Laurie Phillips

We are faculty, so the only probation is the pre-tenure period. New hires are mentored, supervised by their supervise, but there is an annual peer evaluation by a group of three tenured library faculty. That group evaluates progress toward promotion and tenure and makes contract renewal recommendations. There is also input on the contract recommendations by the supervisor. The way it works is that, if you start in the fall, you have your first evaluation in January and you are recommended or not recommended for a contract the next year. Then, in October of your second year, you have a peer evaluation and a contract recommendation for the following year. Then there is another evaluation in late January where the recommendation is for the year after that. Henceforth, you always have a buffer where, if you are not recommended for a contract, you’d be awarded a terminal one-year contract. You would apply for tenure in your 6th year. So not exactly like a probationary period, but close.

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

Celia RabinowitzAt libraries where librarians have faculty status and can earn tenure and promotion, sometimes the first contract is for three years.  The formal review at the end of three years includes a recommendation to renew the contract for three more years when the person comes up for tenure or a recommendation not to renew the contract.  At my current institution faculty have a developmental review after year 1 and year 3 but the initial appointment is for five years.  Librarians come up for promotion in that year and if they are not promoted there isn’t much likelihood that they will receive tenure in the following year.  I like to meet monthly with library faculty in their first year so they get feedback and support from me as well as their peers.  And annual self-evaluations provide an opportunity for feedback and communication.

Other library staff positions have a one-year probationary period.  If used effectively I think probationary periods can be very important.  They create clear expectations for progress or accomplishments in the first year which provide an opportunity for assessment which might lead to an extension of probation, removal of probationary status, or termination if warranted.  The first three-year contract for library faculty serves much the same purpose. Goals should be clear with good feedback mechanisms.
Whatever the evaluation process the most important thing is to use the process effectively.  The initial employment period is there to help new faculty and staff learn the job and the culture, and to demonstrate what they bring to the position.  This is often the time when it will be the least difficult to separate someone from an organization if they are not working out. It is important to communicate and to document.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

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One response to “Further Questions: Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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