Improving Decision Making and Patron Service in the Library System Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

Components contributing to the library's decision making process include the library per se; its purposes' its structure and organization' its functions and forms/kinds of data; its resources in/for staff/volunteers; its facilities; its equipment.

Management teams and other groups play a key role in strategic decision making," Nancy H. Leonard, Laura Beauvais, and Richard Scholl (2005) relate the importance of involving groups in strategic decision making. "These groups include top management teams (Hambrick and Mason, 1984), boards of directors (Forbes, 1999; Pettigrew, 1992), and planning task forces (Van de Ven, 1980)" (Leonard, Beauvais, and Scholl ¶ 2). To effectively manage work groups and decision-making teams, Leonard, Beauvais, and Scholl stress, managers must understand that underlying psychological cognitive styles and social interaction of an individual impact them and their decision making. When mangers better understand the concept of group cognitive style, they may be able to create groups with various strengths based on the composition of group members. When the organization need information from outside the group or the organization, for example, an extraverted group may prove more effective in determining an issue than an introverted group. When time does not a factor in the decision-making process, a perceiving group may more likely submit more alternatives, and potentially a better decision than perhaps a judging group that tends to make a decision quickly without obtaining additional information. (Leonard, Beauvais, and Scholl).

Patron Must be Primary Focus

An affective library system, according to Diane Tobin Johnson (1995) in "Focus on the library customer: revelation, revolution, or redundancy?," ensures components of the system possess intrinsic value will match the customer's needs. A library system that works "...matches the customer to the offerings of the system and evaluates based on the number of matches" (Johnson ¶ 15). For the system to work efficiently, managers need to ensure the patron or user remains the central focus for the services the library provides. According to the Council of the American Library Association, the library profession needs to ascertain who/what organization and/or service provides the best information for the system(s) the patron utilizes. Those who manage the library system also need to ascertain the role(s) the professional fills to best meet the patron's needs. As the staff also keeps abreast of activities and technologies that help encompass refinements of the library's system for information storage and retrieval, the patron will also ultimately benefit (Johnson).

When the objective for the library and/or any other organization centers on customer satisfaction, and management/staff adopt a customer or marketing orientation, success will follow.

The library that best determines the patron's perceptions, wants and needs, and consequently satisfies them through the design, communication, and delivery of appropriate information/services will in turn operate an effective library system. In fact, the basic conceptual framework of the library and information profession mandates that management understand the patron's needs regarding information and activate this understanding (Johnson).

Customers Constitute Core Business

In Jeremy Hodes' book review of Customer Satisfaction Is Becoming Increasingly Important to Libraries, written by Peter Hernon of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simons College and John Whitman, president of Surveytools Corporation, a customer satisfaction research company, Hodes also stresses it to be vital for the patron to be the primary focus. "Customers are now seen as core business" (Hodes ¶ 1). Those who manage the library system need to understand and cater to the patron to provide quality, responsive, library service.

Hodes notes Hernon and Whitman to explain that the following nine considerations prove vital in ensuring library systems are effective:

Understanding customer service; understanding service quality; understanding customer satisfaction; framework for improving service quality and customer satisfaction over time; developing and implementing a service plan; assessing and evaluating satisfaction; using computer technology to conduct surveys; analyzing survey results; and challenges to being successful. (Hodes)

Global Interest in Improving Library Systems Interest regarding library systems is not limited to the United States as the recent report, "Edutech holds UAE's first 'Virtua Integrated Library System Users Meet' in Dubai, confirms. This meeting which stressed the need for major streamlining within the library systems highlighted the benefits of "Virtua Integrated Library System" (VTLS) for users in the Middle East. Best practices noted by other library solutions may enhance the capabilities of the library management system, speakers at the conference stressed. The advantages noted from using VTLS, include user-friendliness, and "integrated functionality, which covers OPAC, cataloguing, acquisitions, serials, circulation and reporting" ("Edutech holds UAE's..." ¶ 2).

SWOT in "Applying Strategic Management to Economic Development: Benefits and Challenges, K.T. Liou recounts that one common strategic management model or process contains a minimum of five extensive, closely interrelated components, which compliment a SWOT analysis. These include the following components presented in Figure 2:

Figure 2: Components of a Strategic Management Model (adapted from Liou 28)

Scanning its internal and external environment constitutes a vital component of an organization's strategic planning process. "Environmental factors internal to the firm usually can be classified as strengths (S) or weaknesses (W), and those external to the firm can be classified as opportunities (0) or threats (T)" (SWOT Analysis). This type analysis of the strategic environment is known as a SWOT analysis.

The SWOT analysis proffers an organization insight into what may best match its resources and capabilities to the competitive environment it operates in. Figure 3 depicts components of a SWOT analysis:

Figure 3: SWOT Analysis (adapted from SWOT Analysis).

SWOT for Library System

The SWOT for a library system may include:


Cost balanced by funding

Staff is team oriented


Limited budget hinders growth

Managers do not encourage teamwork


Increase funding

Encourage interaction with community



Lack of community support

Staff/Management on the Same Page

In "Thirteen basic things to put everyone on the same (computer) page," Rachel Singer Gordon, previous head of computer services at Franklin Park Public Library in Franklin Park, Ill.; current consulting editor for Information Today, Inc.'s book department; author of column published in Computers in Libraries, along with Jessamyn West (2008), who alternates writing Gordon's column, relates relevant knowledge frontline staff members in most libraries, particularly public libraries, may benefit from. The thirteen basic steps, condensed from 23 formerly published practical tips, relate to computer include:

Reboot; reboot; reboot: Rebooting a malfunctioning computer may resolve an issue. Use Ctrl-Alt-Delete to restart staff PCs; hold the power button in on patron PCs to restart.

Minor reboot troubleshoot: Leaving CDs and flash drives in USB ports may lead to the error, "non-system disk" on boot.

Copy/paste: The copy/paste practice serves as a major small habit that can make computing easier. Instead of laboriously retyping URLs into a list, simply paste them out of the browser's address bar.

Save, move, and copy files: Although a basic practice, saving files onto a shared network drive will ensure they are regularly backed up.

It's OK to ask for help: Reassure staff and patrons that asking for technical support when they experience a problem may keep a smaller problem from mushrooming into a major one and/or "slow down their workflow or annoy patron. Make it easy to ask for help: create troubleshooting forms; make any tech staff available via phone, email, and IM" (¶ 9).

Management also needs to train staff on customer and technical service issues/concerns.

Deal with printer issues: To effectively meet patron's needs relating to printed pages, staff members need to know basics regarding the printers, including how to load paper into the library's printers; how to change cartridges, and particularly how to clear paper jams. They also need to know that one may extend the life of laser toner by removing the cartridge, gently shaking it side to side and replacing back into the printer. Wait for it staff to clear a jam or change a cartridge wastes time - particularly the patron's.

Determine printer options: Printing options are also necessary "need to know" things for staff. They include changing from portrait to landscape printing, from color to black-and-white (if available), printing multiple copies of a document and/or printing only a single page out of a document. If staffers have multiple printers as options; it may help to give printers easy-to-use names "(such as 'children's department' or 'north reference desk,' rather than 'HP8002387384791')" (¶ 11).

Print frames: Another point in printing that staffers need to know, printing selected text, such as Web pages in frames, may also be a skill that some patrons need to know.

Basic word-processing functions: Staffers need to know basic Word or equivalent functions.

The everything is plugged in confirmation: Checking to ensure equipment is correctly plugged in serves as the number one check on the checklist.

Network and/or Website issues: Staff needs to know when he/she cannot log onto a system or Website if the problem is internal or on the Web.

When a patron insists that a public internet terminal is "broken"…

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