Probably the most painful situation a public library board can face is the dismissal of the library director. Boards that hire carefully, communicate well, nurture positive working relationships, and evaluate effectively should not have to experience this unpleasant task. When all potential solutions have been tried and the problems still cannot be resolved, dismissal is a last resort.
Directors are usually dismissed only after serious infractions of board policy, violation of the law, or very poor performance coupled with unwillingness or inability to improve. It is important that reasons for dismissal are carefully documented. The board has a responsibility to ensure that personalities and biases are not factors in any dismissal decision. The dismissal and/or appeals procedure should be described explicitly in board policy and allow the director a full hearing to discuss specific charges. A board should not begin a dismissal process unless it understands the implications, has consulted with the appropriate local government officials, believe its position is defensible, and has obtained appropriate legal advice from an attorney.
The following factors should be considered prior to making a final decision to dismiss a library director:
- Was there notice given to the employee?
- Was the reason for termination reasonably related to library employment?
- Was there an investigation and documentation?
- Was the investigation fair and objective?
- Was there proof of a violation?
- Is there equal treatment of other library employees in similar situations?
- Is termination of the library director an appropriate disciplinary action? Even if the library director has done something wrong, has been given notice, and has not ceased the activity, is termination too harsh a penalty? Or would some other consequence be more reasonable?