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How to Write a Good Performance Evaluation for a Library Staff

by Mark Applegate

Library staff face a daunting task from sorting and organizing books and periodicals to managing media and technological resources. Your library staff's competence can make or break your organization. With a limited payroll budget, you should seek to use performance evaluations to reward and grow good staff and to improve or begin the process of removing poor employees.

Method to the Madness

Your employee evaluation system should be uniform and completely transparent. You should clearly explain your evaluation scoring system and ask for questions and feedback on it from the staff member. Create a numbering system to score the evaluation and use the same system for all employee evaluations. Maintain this system for future evaluations so your staff can see quantified areas of improvement or regression from previous reviews. Separate the review into subheadings such as organizational skills, research savvy or customer service, so you can follow up periodically between reviews.

Cover the Library Job Essentials

All employees should have a job description and a defined set of goals when they join the library staff. This description and goal statement should make up the content of many of the categories that you will review. Your staff goals should not be a list of tasks that can quickly be resolved, but a list of big-picture roles that they should work toward completing. For example, you could set a goal to refresh the technology books and periodicals for graduate-level research, and create a plan to cycle recurring replacements for commonly obsolete items. Much of your evaluation, then, should be an evaluation of your progress toward this replacement plan. Reviewing in this way not only rewards good behavior and corrects poor performance, it provides an incentive to stay on task with large projects.

Cover General Items

Though every type of library employee has a different job description, be sure that your evaluation for every employee covers basics such as attendance, customer service, ability to work in the team and follow-through. These traits are important for a maintenance worker and a head librarian alike. Use library patron feedback as a portion of these scores by creating a satisfaction survey for frequent guests. Employees that are not courteous to your patrons and other employees, even if they perform other aspects of the job well, can harm the reputation of your library.

Use Constructive Feedback with Action Items

This evaluation should be an opportunity for your staff member to grow, not merely be an opportunity to give a raise or write up your worker. Evaluate your employees by comparing the current evaluation to his previous ones, not to other employees. Add a section of action items that your employee can begin working on immediately, and praise or correct his progress on these items.

Require Employee Feedback

Every evaluation should allow the one evaluated to reflect on her own performance and to evaluate the organization as a whole. Allow considerable space on a written self-appraisal to offer opinions on these two areas and review what she wrote when performing the face-to-face evaluation. This will also allow you to hear about employee issues, morale problems and other concerns, and to address them as needed. Ask open-ended questions about your organization as a way to evaluate your employee's commitment to improving it. When your employee lists a concern, follow up on it to show that you empathize with her in the situation.

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