Tag Archives: Probation

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: How can new hires start off right?

It seems to be a new hire focused week here at Hiring Librarians.  This week I asked:

After hiring, are your new hires put through any sort of probation period?  Have any of them been unable to make it through this period? Do you have any general tips for new employees, to help them start off on the right foot? 

J. McRee Elrod

There is no formal probation period, but failure to deliver quality records in a timely matter can result in getting no more work.

Best to double check quality of records, and complete work in a timely manner.

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

The state of Virginia has very specific timelines for classified staff. There is a one year probation period with an evaluation at 6 weeks, 6 months and one year. This is in addition to the annual evaluation that is also done during this time. This is the opportunity for their supervisors to identify issues and find a way to work through them in a clear plan and a time for both parties to determine if this is a good fit. After the 1 year probation, staff are given a performance plan that may just be position expectations or may have special things for the staff person to work on/learn. They are later evaluated based on that PP&E (Performance Plan and Expectations.) The PP&E can be changed during the year to reflect a new need or a change in duties. Once a staff person finishes the probation period, termination is much more difficult, if that is necessary.

I think the probationary period is good for the staff person and the supervisor because it forces both sides to be very clear about expectations and, the staff person knows if they need to change how they do something. It puts the onus on the supervisor, which is where is should be and, if the supervisor finds that their staff person is not responding appropriately, they had time to address it and give the staff person an opportunity to address it.  That is assuming those issues surface in the first year. But, the annual PP&E and evaluation can be beneficial in terms of getting a staff person back on track.

– Anonymous

Marleah AugustineWe have a six-month probationary period for all new hires (from part-time support staff to full-time librarians and all in between). At the end of the six months, the employee has an evaluation to determine whether employment will continue.
 
I have had instances in which a new support staff hire was let go during the probationary period. They received the same verbal and written warnings as any employee would. 

For employees in positions that include benefits (the basic support staff position does not receive benefits), their benefits kick in after the six month probationary period (sick leave, vacation leave, holiday pay, etc.). They do not accrue sick leave or vacation time during the probationary period.

 
In the hopes that all hires start off on the right foot, supervisors go through a thorough orientation process with each hire. It covers basic tasks and how-to’s, as well as just getting the employee familiar with different areas of the library and different people on staff. 

My general tips – learn as much as you can, ask questions any time they come up, and never say “No one told me …” (my personal pet peeve). If you make a mistake, be honest about not knowing how that works and ask questions so that you get it right the next time. If you really weren’t told about something, it’s much better for a supervisor to hear “I wasn’t aware of that” and have you recognize your own responsibility in learning some of those tasks. Librarians are in the question-answering line of work, so take advantage of that when you are a new hire.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch WoutersOur library has a six-month probationary period. I would not hesitate to let someone go in that time if they failed to meet the requirements of the job.  While one always allows time for new employees to gain their sea legs and become familiar with routines, procedures and policies, it is usually clear when a new employee is not up to the job.   My best advice for new hires is learn as much as you can as soon as you can and show your skills and talents in a way that supports your colleagues.

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

We do have a general probation period which is 9 months for librarians. At our institution the librarian and supervisor should be working together to create a job description and a performance agreement within the first month. The supervisor and librarian should be meeting regularly the first few months of employment to make sure they are on the same page and the librarian is meeting goals. At nine months the supervisor will write a review with a recommendation for continued employment or the librarian will be notified that their appointment will end at the 12 month mark.

If this is not the policy or does not appear to be at the place where you are hired, I would request something in writing regarding expectations for performance.

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

 

Sherle Abramson-BluhmAt University of Michigan Library – there are different probationary periods for staff and for librarians.
Staff have a six month probation.  I have not had any staff who did not make it through.  A staff member who was hired for a term (1 year) position was not renewed – and might have been let go durring probation if it had been a regular position.
 
my best tip – is to ask if you are not sure of something – much rather answer a question than fix a problem.
 
For librarians it is a two year probation.

Supervisor

  • Prepares a training program based on the new librarian’s job description.
  • Trains the librarian for two months.

Supervisor and Librarian

  • Meet to discuss the librarian’s progress to date at the end of the initial training period.
  • Prepare performance goals to be applied to the remainder of the performance appraisal year. 
I have not hired a librarian in my area since I have been here and have no direct experience.  I was very new to Acquisitions when I was hired and had a great deal to learn
and I believe I followed my own tip very well – and 8 years later I am still here
 
I do know of Librarians who did not make it through, but have no knowledge of the specifics. It is pretty rare.
– Sherle Abramson-Bluhm, Head, Print Acquisitions, University of Michigan

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 me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

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