Scene In Passing: Library trustees failed to ask 2 pertinent questions
October 27, 2013
When Carson City’s Library Board of Trustees played 20 questions with candidates for library director, using a format supplied to members, the format fell 10 percent short of goal.
At least 22 questions were needed. The ones asked were fine, but two were missing. They were: Have you ever hired, fired and supervised people? How do you handle each of those?
Sena Loyd of Carson City, the director chosen, was a fine candidate and may make a wonderful librarian. No quibble here with her selection. But Amy Geddes of the San Diego area acquitted herself with what looked like equal aplomb and had impressive credentials, including more experience. Two others also were qualified, so human resources screening worked well.
The board evidently wanted a young, tech-savvy person with vision, though two members hesitated initially. Yet Loyd interviewed well and the pair supported her in the end.
“This kid can come up to speed pretty fast,” said Sandy Foley, board chairwoman. Foley lavishly praised Loyd, 29, as well as Geddes, 44, saying she wanted both at the library.
Had Geddes won the day, that would have occurred for certain, of course, as Loyd has been manager of the @Two Digital Learning Center on the library’s second floor the past year. Geddes likely undercut her own chances for the directorship. She let it be known prior to the decision she would like to come to Carson City’s library in some other capacity if she didn’t get offered the top job.
Trustees hesitating initially were Bob Kennedy and Diane Sollinger, who made the local candidate second to their top choices. Kennedy favored Mary Wallace of Reno and Sollinger touted Geddes.
Sollinger nailed the prospective problem without criticizing, saying it can be tough for someone promoted from within to take over a staff in such situations. Kennedy already had pointed out there are 20 people on the library staff.
Absence of full-throated probes regarding applicants’ attitudes about hiring, firing and supervising loomed large. City human resources personnel, who provided the format, should have included them or a trustee ought to have kicked over the traces to pin down each candidate on such issues.
Directors at libraries need said executive skills even if a board makes final hiring and firing decisions. Citizen boards must trust an executive’s supervising skills and ultimate recommendations.
The late George Carlin, a comedian, was spot on regarding most of us as employees. It’s unfortunate, but hasn’t changed throughout history. As he put it:
“Most people work hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.