Wal-Mart and the Grandtown Public Library: A Case Analysis
The decision to create a joint use of space between Grandtown's new public library and a proposed Wal-Mart carries with it no small number of questions regarding that which is best for all parties involved. Indeed, while an array of clear advantages are reflected in the opportunity to build a new and modern library with the resources contributed by Wal-Mart, it is not fully clear that the results would be fundamentally positive for either the mission of a public library or the people, families and children of Grandtown. The discussion here conducts a case analysis, primarily channeled through the SWOT template here below. Integrating concerns relating to the Wal-Mart band name with those relating to the priorities of a new public library space, the analysis below provides a thorough assessment of the proposed new space in Grandtown.
As the largest retailer in the world, U.S.-based Wal-Mart has relied largely upon an intensive strategy designed to undercut local and small-scale retailers through bargain basement prices. Therefore, Wal-Mart chooses market penetration generally in rural and suburban areas where smaller businesses are generally unable to compete. Major constructs of this strategy are the use of cheap foreign labor and the acquisition of retail items in bulk.
This underscores Wal-Mart's greatest strengths. Namely, Wal-Mart has long maintained a distinct competitive advantage by operating, producing and distributing at a minimum of cost, passing on bargain standards to the consumer. As the largest corporation in the world, its most powerful retailer and the single largest employer in the world, Wal-Mart would enjoy the resource capacity to seize cost-potential advantages as they have emerged, enabling it to stay at the forefront of the global retail market.
According to Holtreman (2000), given its enormous scale, Wal-Mart does appear to be in the unique position of being unlikely to be subsumed by a market substitute. (Holtreman, 1) This is to say that more modestly sized firms and retail operations do not seem to relate to the target and product orientation of a chain such as Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart's political scenario is one which distinctly favors the expansive retailer. Global trade initiatives have made it especially easy for retailers whose operations are based on finding ways to a produce and distribute affordable consumer commodities to find contexts which inherently amenable to aggressive growth strategies.
As this relates directly to the proposal at hand, there is little question that the insertion of a Wal-Mart in Grandtown will change the retail landscape dramatically, with the new retail giant becoming the most imposing draw to consumers in the region. This may function as a strength for the joint library/retail project in to major respects. It bears noting first that this singular consumer draw will have the capacity to attract more traffic in the public library. As the ambition of the library would be to extend its draw in order to benefit the education of children, the involvement of the community and the extension of the values of literacy, its connection with Wal-Mart could significantly enhance its ability to meet its chief goals.
With these strengths noted, Wal-Mart has significant weaknesses, mostly in terms of its reputation. And as a consequence, these are weaknesses which impact the overarching proposal. This is particularly so given the wealth of evidence that Wal-Mart may deserve this reputation. Wal-Mart is consistently cited as possessing one of the most troubling records for worker treatment amongst major American employers. Criticized for its exploitation of laborers both at home and abroad, as well as cited for its resistance of union organization and campaigning, the consumer giant has suffered a damaged public reputation for the manner in which it selects, recruits and retains employees. Indeed, "Wal-Mart is now notorious for wage abuse, sex discrimination, and antiunionism. They impact all Wal-Mart's sales associates, from managers to clerks, and women in particular who comprise 70% of Wal-Mart's employees, most at non-supervisory levels." (Rosen, 31) In its emphasis on reducing the retail cost to the customer, the expense both to the quality of the employee and to the treatment of said employee have tended to be rather high.
This demands consideration of several extremely pressing concerns for city planners. First and foremost, Grandtown's governing leadership must consider whether it truly wants to enter into a partnership with a firm reputed thusly. In many ways, active patronage of Wal-Mart's practices and use of its resources for public purposes may make the city complicit in some of the firms more objectionable behaviors. Key among them would be the city's willing endorsement of practices that are exploitive of local laborers and that are destructive to the town's domestic economy. To speak nothing of the impact that the patronage of Wal-Mart by the city's government would have on the library itself, Wal-Mart's historical record of dismantling local ownership by out-pricing smaller businesses has levied a devastating toll on many local economies. This is a very disconcerting weakness in the proposal as it implies the city's active support of a firm that may ultimately have a damaging impact on Grandtown.
On a strictly strategic level, involvement with Wal-Mart actually underscores a host of new opportunities for the public library to improve its ability to meet certain public educational and literacy goals. Because its involvement with the powerful private enterpriser would create an infusion of resources and technologies, it is incumbent upon the Grandtown library to take the opportunity for effective technology training. To this end, the effectiveness of the institution will be very integrally affected by the staff's preparedness for the challenges which are inbuilt to the integration of new technologies. The diversity of specialized capacities represented by the staff will create a solid foundation for the assimilation of pertinent qualifications to helping the new library serve to its greatest potential as a multitudinous access point for informational media. According to a study by Rodney et al. (2002), libraries with effective strategies of media provision and maintenance are those "whose staff are actively involved leaders in their school's teaching and learning enterprise. A successful library media staff is one who has the ear and support of the principal, serves with other teachers on the school's standards." (Rodney et al., 11) Such is to say that the staff's ability to deliver on the promise of the library's technological and organizational potential will hinge very much on management's openness to advisement from leadership outside of the institution itself, including technology experts dispatched by Wal-Mart.
Because of the resources that Wal-Mart brings to this partnership, the assessment here denotes that it would be a lost opportunity where the library failed to use this patronage for improvement not just of technology and training for its usage but also of the procedures relating thereto. Indeed, another crucial element of the strategy which needs be assessed carefully will be its consideration of the improved networking and automation processes which will be necessitated in proper execution of the integration plan. Even with an informed and effective staff, the ease with which users can find, access and utilize sources will be central in determining how well stakeholders may stand to improve on their initial investments. This means that the media strategy must be designed to abide the demands of libraries in the 21st century, where the diversity of media has drastically impacted the ways in which people search for information. As Rodney et al. assert, "an effective joint-use library will be one 'that embraces networked information technology. The library media center of today is no longer a destination; it is a point of departure for accessing the information resources that are the essential raw material of teaching and learning. Computers in classrooms, labs and other school locations provide networked access to information resources -- the library catalog, electronic full text, licensed databases, locally mounted databases, and the Internet.'" (Rodney et al., 11) In terms of the maintenance of anticipated operational capacities of the new library, ongoing costs to the hosting of the various capabilities suggested in the budgetary analysis of technological needs will be offset by the involvement of Wal-Mart.
The simple fact of improving library access is itself an opportunity of considerable note. Griffiths et al. (2004) report that "public libraries allow users to share knowledge and services at a cost to them as taxpayers and in the time they spend using the libraries; however, all taxpayers . . . benefit from the public libraries through their considerable contribution to education, the economy, tourism, retirement, quality of life, and so on." (Griffiths et al., 5) By consideration of the benefits rendered to education, opportunity and professional ability as they are evaluated in the case history here referenced, it is apparent that Grandtown stands to gain considerably from this new library. Griffiths et al. go on to report that in the context of their study, which took place in Florida, "the benefit to the state (in terms of availability of Florida's public libraries)…