Tag Archives: Probation (workplace)

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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Further Questions: Could You Hire Two Probationary Workers?

This week’s question is from Twitter (check out @HiringLib).  I asked people who hire librarians:

In filling a position, could you hire two probationary workers, maybe each half time, and then decide a couple months later who got the job?  Why or Why not?

Marleah AugustineWe do hire staff for a 6-month probationary period and do an evaluation at the end of that time. I would not hire two employees and make a decision later. I think that would cause conflicts and bad feelings between those two hires and possibly among the other staff. Additionally, having a half time job vs a full time job could affect salary levels and benefits, especially if these are state- or board-mandated. I also think it would look bad to the library board if the person hiring was not able to make a decision.

If I hired someone and it didn’t work out, I would reach out to the other person that I didn’t hire and see if they were still available.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Emilie SmartOur City will not allow us to hire 2 PT workers on probation and then choose which one to keep full time.  That being said, we can do a job share where we hire 2 PT people to share a FT job.  Both would be subject to our 6 month probationary period, but if we let one go, the other would still be part time.  We have not done this with new hires, though — only with permanent FT employees who requested that they be allowed to share the job (they both wanted to work part time and they worked in the same department).

– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Dusty Snipes GresI think the answer should not  be based on could you hire but should you or would you?

For me, no. It seems a wishy-washy employment practice, at best, and as far as I am concerned would neither  bring out the best in either candidate, nor would it be fair to either candidate. Applying for a job is a stressful task. Having to compete in the workplace against another person takes the job to the level of a reality television show.  Make a decision. Allow the other candidate to continue to look or to take another position. If, after a reasonable probationary period, according to your personnel policy, the one you chose does not work out – see if the other is available or try again.

– Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

I think there may be some HR issues in such a ‘contest’. I hope some people with more knowledge than I weigh in on that aspect. As I have said before, I hire people on a temp-perm basis through an agency to fill a position. I try them out to see if they will fit in with the rest of the staff and whether it takes them too long to learn the job. If a person doesn’t work out, it is the job of the agency to tell them and to get me someone new.

I also see a problem with the type of jobsharing your Tweep is suggesting. If people are job sharing, they would have to work together. Since it sounds like a competition for a job, I can see people sabotaging each other’s work, which would not benefit the organization.

– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP

Laurie Phillips

We cannot do this. We do national searches for tenure-track faculty librarians. We couldn’t ask someone to move here for a half-time probationary position and it would jeopardize our ability to keep the tenure-track line. I would also think that this would be extremely awkward for the two people involved.

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

At my library, hiring is very tightly controlled by the Human Resources department at the City. Part time and full time are hired very differently, so this would never work for us. Part time staff are considered temporary employees (even if they work for the Library for 30 years). They have no guaranteed hours, no vacation/sick, and no benefits. They can be hired at the local branch level and the application tends to be pretty short. Full time staff is a totally different story and the hiring process is much more rigid. There is a probationary period.

Manya ShorrI think this is an interesting question, but I’ve never heard of a library doing something like this. To me, there are some troubling implications. We try to encourage applicants from around the country and I’m not sure why anyone would move to Omaha if this was the scenario. I also worry about the environment that this would create. Are these two people working side by side and potentially sabotaging each other’s work? How would this contribute towards a healthy team environment? I’m all for getting the right people in the right job, but if we want to trial new staff, we already have a probationary period. I see no reason to create a cage match to the death environment.

am interested in talking about developing internal staff so that they can advance in the organization. This seems like an excellent way to trial staff for more responsibility.

– Manya Shorr, Senior Manager, Branch Services, Omaha Public Library

Randall SchroederThat is an interesting proposition. I would not be opposed to the idea but I wonder about how it would work out practically. If nothing else, it would probably be a hard sell to the Dean or Provost that the library reports to. Also, would the staff get habituated to the idea of having the resources of having two people even if only half time.

I worked at a college where two people shared one faculty position. It worked in their special situation because they were also married with young children. I recall one, however, saying that it seemed like it was two half-time people working 75 percent of the job each. It was great for the college, but they wondered if the college was taking advantage of them somewhat.

In your scenario, someone would put their lives on hold for a potentially unfavorable outcome, although I suppose the benefit would be getting some experience.

It would have to be very special circumstances, not the least of which being the unlikely event that one candidate could not be differentiated over the other.

– Randall Schroeder, Department Head of Public Services, Ferris Library for Information, Technology & Education

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 contact me.

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