Dover looks to fill key public library staff positions

Librarian Hallie Lightfoot helps a customer on at the Dover Public Library on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — It takes a full team effort every day, yet somehow the Dover Public Library staff is managing to get along after longtime director Margie Cyr retired on Dec. 12 and assistant director Michelle Hughes left in October.

Matt Harline, assistant city manager, said he has tried to fill the void, but his national replacement search them has been unsuccessful thus far.

That spurred the city manager’s office to request Dover City Council allow officals to contract with a library management services firm from Rockville, Maryland, to run the public facility downtown.

City Council voted 9-0 Monday to hire, on a one-year contract not to exceed $210,000, Library Systems & Services LLC to find a full-time library director, along with an assistant. Any extension of the contract would require a full Request for Proposal process.

“In an ideal world we would have found a candidate who lived in Dover, but we went through our original position search in hiring a library director and that did not happen,” Mr. Harline said. “We did advertise, and we did do a process, but we did not get a candidate that we liked.

“We hire people all the time and this is a difficult position in this market. Apparently it’s a very difficult hire to find. We had a couple of candidates and one of them took another position before we even did the hiring and the other candidate just wasn’t what we were looking for.”

Mr. Harline said LS&S does library consulting and has a companion company that does recruiting.

The company requires a one-year minimum contract to allow them to find a person to move to the city and get established and be effective as a chief administrative officer of the library.

“As far as we are aware there are no equivalent options for full-time, trained library management,” said Mr. Harline. “LS&S would immediately bring in an interim director who would assist in identifying areas of emphasis for management, as well as working with city personnel and the recruiting wing of LS&S to help guide the search for the new director.

“LS&S has a person who has done this before ready to go. She could start as early as January 20th. Her main job would be to evaluate the operations, manage staff and assist with the curating and purchasing of materials. In addition, she would gain valuable insight into the particular needs for the hiring of a new director that would inform the hiring process.”

Dover’s Assistant City Manager Matt Harline at the Dover Public Library.

Mr. Harline added that the person they would eventually hire would become identified as the Dover Public Library director, not a hired contractor of LS&S. If the city opted to terminate the contract with LS&S, the assumption would be that the director would stay and transition to a full-time, salaried city of Dover employee.

City Councilman David Anderson was initially skeptical about hiring LS&S. However, he did eventually vote to bring them in for one year.

“If we do a long-term hire, and (LS&S) control(s) the hire, then, of course, we have certain issues,” the councilman said. “One is when you start the hiring process, they have a data base. Are they just going to look at their data base and have no regard for the hard work we’re trying to do with diversity and inclusion and with encouraging local applicants? Are they going to reach out in that regard?

“We’re looking at essentially a quarter-million dollars, no-bid contract. It’s a situation we could see coming for nine months ago and that concerns me.”

Mr. Harline agreed with Councilman Anderson but said this is just an unusual situation.

“I think you’re right about process,” he said, to the councilman. “There just aren’t a lot of other options. We could delay it for two weeks, but I don’t think you’re going to find another contract option.

“The only other option would be to go out for another full recruiting process … We will (eventually) make sure it’s a Dover hire. This system guarantees us that we’ll have a library director for the next 12 months.”

The fee charged by LS&S is based on hiring a director at $70,000 per year and an assistant at $57,000 per year. They estimate the all-in costs as $9,100/month for the director and $7,100/month for an assistant. The estimated cost for the entire 12-month contract is $190,900.

“However, to be safe I am asking for authorization for up to $210,000 in case it takes 22 weeks to hire the director,” said Mr. Harline.

He added that with a full year budgeted for the director position with benefits, including pension payments, and a full year budgeted for the assistant director, there are funds available for the contract in the FY 2020 budget.

Mr. Harline is splitting his time between the city manager’s office and the library.

“Right now, what you have for a library director is me, and I’ve never trained for that,” he said. “I’m doing what I can going over there signing the invoices, but in terms of developing programming and continuing to find the materials for the excellent programming they do over there, I mean, they’ve got a great staff. They are doing their best to keep things moving and it’s going fine.

“At this point we are starting to get somebody in as quickly as possible. They won’t start the recruitment process until they have the contract. I think the best thing now for the library is to move forward with this service. There isn’t another service like this that I could find.”

City Councilman Fred Neil said he hopes the city can find somebody that can continue to wide variety of programming that the library has traditionally offered for both children and adults.

“I’m a big fan of the library,” Councilman Neil said. “I think the programming there is amazing and all of the training programs and programs for the kids and great movies that are available for free … I just hope that whoever comes in can basically uphold that standard of programming, which is truly outstanding, so that’s what I’m going to be looking for (with) this contract and beyond.”