Association of College & Research Libraries

Model Statement for the Screening and Appointment of Academic Librarians Using a Search Committee

In colleges, universities, and other institu- tions of higher education, the selection and appointment of librarians rank among the most important and consequential decisions to be made. To improve the decision-making pro- cess many library administrators use a consul- tative arrangement in the selection process. In some cases, the administrator chiefly respon- sible for the final decision simply requests com- ments and evaluations from the appropriate individuals. In others, this process is formal- ized by the establishment of a search commit- tee.1 Consultation through a search committee solicits a breadth and range of opinion, and it facilitates objective consideration of the candi- dates’ qualifications. It also promotes a sense of participation in the selection process by in- terested constituencies. Because selection is a two-way process, the benefits of using a search committee accrue to the candidates as well as to the institution. Candidates receive a clear and balanced view of the institution if they have the opportunity to be interviewed by several representatives of the institution. Search com- mittees provide a forum for discussion, includ- ing an opportunity for the development of con- sensus among the interviewers and for the consideration of varied representative viewpoints.

The term “search committee” as used in this document designates a committee constituted for the purpose of performing any or all of the functions of compiling lists of candidates for vacant positions, screening (and eliminating) candidates in accord with agreed-upon selection criteria, and recommending the list of candidates to fill the position.

The following model is provided for those institutions that choose to use search committees. Institutions recruiting without search committees may also find these procedures useful.

I. The role of the personnel officer

If the institution is large enough to have a library personnel officer, that position would be responsible for administering the search for the search committee. Normally, the personnel officer sits on all search committees (either as a member or ex-officio).

II. Formation of search committees

Search committees may be elected or appointed. In either case, the immediate goal in the formation of such committees should be to create a body representative of the constituencies affected by the position. Persons accepting appointment to the committee automatically disqualify themselves as candidates for the position.

The administrator to whom the committee is responsible should instruct the committee in writing at the outset of the process as to the following:

A. The approximate date for submission of a list of nominees and proposed date of appointment;

B. The number of finalists to be recommended;

C. The affirmative action/equal opportunity requirements;

D. The arrangements for financial and staff resources;

Prepared by ACRL ’s Academic Status Committee and approved by the ACRL Board of Directors on June 30, 1992. This statement replaces ACRLs "Guidelines and Procedures for the Screening and Appointment of Academic Librarians, ” published on pages 231-33 of the September 1977 issue of C&SLNews

E. The responsibility for documenting com- mittee actions and for preserving those records;

F. The need for confidentiality and discretion;

G. The unique concerns with respect to the position.

A copy of the position description should accompany this information.

III. Development and use of the position description or position announcement

A written position description and a summary for advertising purposes should be prepared by the supervisor of the position at the outset of the search and should serve as the standard against which candidates’ qualifications are judged. It should include a full account of the responsibilities and describe the educational background, experience, and competencies re- quired or desired of the candidate. Qualifica- tions should be written with equal opportu- nity and affirmative action considerations in mind.

IV. Posting the position

The responsible administrator or the chairper- son should file notification of the position with the local institution and in appropriate publi- cations, taking care that all groups protected by equal opportunity/affirmative action legislation are made aware of the vacancy. Notifications should include a brief description of responsibilities, qualifica- tions, salary, de- scription of benefits, date position is available, applica- tion deadline, name of the person to whom applications should be submit- ted, and a list of items to be submit- ted by the candidate.

V. References

A candidate’s refer- ences are those in- dividuals who the candidate lists to speak or write in support of his or her candidacy. Ref- erences should be requested only for those candidates under active consideration. References should be solicited from individuals whose names are provided by the applicant, and the contents should be held in strict confidence by the committee. The names of references submitted by candidates should be limited to those individuals who can provide substantive information about the candidate’s professional qualifications and should include, whenever possible, an administrator in the direct reporting line. Candidates are entitled to receive upon request a full list of those individuals from whom references have been solicited. Additional references may be solicited with the prior permission of the candidate. At the time of the request, referees should be advised whether or not the contents of the references will be made available to the candidate in accordance with local practice.

VI. Fair and uniform treatment

All candidates, whether external or internal to the institution, should be accorded equal treatment in the screening and interview process. The search committee should be aware of institutional guidelines when developing questions to ask the candidate before the screening and interview process.

VII. Selection and interview procedures

A. Selection Process

Each committee should establish its own plan for screening and evaluating nominees and applicants consistent with library and institutionwide policies.

All applicants should be screened with reference to the qualifications and requirements stated in the position description. The purpose of initial screening is to identify and eliminate, early in the search process, nominees and applicants who are clearly unqualified. A letter should be sent to unqualified candidates stating that they will not be considered. The list of persons who remain under consideration after the initial screening should be those to whom the committee will be giving further consideration and from whom it will be seeking additional information. Fair, objective, consistent, and equitable processes should be used to narrow the field of candidates to the desired number of finalists, who will be invited for interviews.

B. Interview Process

Based on the candidates and the institution’s needs for information, the committee and the appropriate administrative officer shall determine the composition of the interview schedule. Before the interview, the candidates should be sent information about the library and its parent organization. Such information could include guides to the library, promotion and tenure guidelines, organization charts, and bylaws.

The interview schedule should be sent to the candidate several days before the interview occurs. Both the candidate and the interviewers should recognize the constraints of time during the interview process and should follow the schedule as closely as possible.

The cost of travel, meals, and lodging for candidates invited to the campus for interviews should be borne by the inviting institution. When this is not the practice, candidates should be so apprised when an invitation is issued. If an off-campus site is selected for the interview, the candidate’s expenses should be paid by the inviting institution.

VIII. Recommendation of candidates

The committee should consider and evaluate in a timely manner the information gathered regarding the candidates in order to select a final list of candidates. The final list of candidates should be communicated by the chairperson to the administrator to whom the committee is responsible.

IX. Communications with candidates

Once a decision has been reached to offer the position to a particular candidate, the chief administrative officer or his/her designee should convey this information to the successful candidate. While the initial form of this communication may be oral, the official offer should be in writing and should include the specifics of the offer. The successful candidate should be allowed a reasonable period of time, acceptable to both parties, to reach a decision on the matter.2

A letter should be sent to unsuccessful applicants thanking them for their interest in the position and indicating that the candidate selected possessed attributes which are more congruent with the needs of the department.

X. Extending searches

If the committee is unable to reach a decision based on the applications received or if the position is readvertised with a new set of desired qualifications, all active candidates should be notified of the intention to extend the search.

XI. Announcement of appointment

Upon receipt of the successful candidate’s formal written acceptance, the chief administrative officer, the committee, or its designee should coordinate the announcement of the appointment with the successful candidate and should notify all other active candidates in writing.

XII. Reports, files, and records of proceedings

The responsible administrator should instruct the chairperson of the committee as to what official reports are to be filed. The chairperson should complete the necessary reports promptly and accurately. The responsible administrator should discharge the committee and thank the members for their service. The files relating to the search should be stored or disposed of in accordance with laws, regulations, and practices currently applicable in the local setting.

Copies of the statement are available upon request from the ACRL office, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611-2795. ■


  1. See “Model Statement of Criteria and Procedures for Appointment, Promotion in Academic Rank, and Tenure for College and University Librarians,” C&RL News (May 1987).
  2. Ibid.
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