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

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Improving Decision Making and Patron Service in the Library System

Library System

In 1897, according to "The library and the system of cataloging: Report of the committee on the library," a patron had to pay a fine of one cent per day for each overdue book. In addition, rules regarding patron's use of the library stressed: "Members may borrow books for home use, but no one shall have more than four books at any time, nor keep any book more than five weeks" ("The library and the system... 6). Rules enforced during 1897 appear to indicate that the library itself, not the patron, was the primary focus for the American library system. Patrons were warned:

Any person mutilating or losing a book shall pay for the damage, or replace the book.

Any one who violates the above rules shall, upon written request from the Librarian to the Board of Government, be debarred from the privileges of the library for such time, not less than three mouths, as the Board of Government may determine. (the library and the system... 7)

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American libraries, Kenneth E. Carpenter reports in "A Library Historian Looks at Librarianship," began in1876, with the founding of the American Library Association. In 1887, at Columbia University, the first library school in the U.S. officially opened. Since that time, seemingly contrary to the concepts warning patrons to cross particular lines, the library system changed and began to recognize the value of positioning the patron as its primary focus, and making decisions to best serve his/her needs. This paper, which examines components of the library system, relates a number of contemporary considerations relating to improving decision making and patron service in the system where librarians that once focused on fines and rules more than service.

Bits of History

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

In the past, a person manually "operated" the system of cataloging the library's books and pamphlets. These were readily "separated into a few classes having distinctive characteristics, and these large classes, in turn, could be easily and naturally subdivided into sets of books. This fact determined the general principles upon which cataloging and shelving should be done. Next, the librarian manually arranged the books in large groups called "sections" ("The library and the system... 11).

Sections were arranged in the following order:

Section 1 Included all publications of societies; Section 2, bound volumes of periodicals; Section 3, city and town reports; Section 4. (11) reports issued by the departments and commissions of various States; Section 5, publications of national governments; Section 6, reports and papers of expositions, congresses, conventions, etc.; and Section 10, text and reference books, and books of general interest. All library catalogs and indexes bound in separate volumes were collected onto one shelf and labelled "Indexes." Section numbers 7, 8, and 9 were left for possible future acquisitions of reports or similar publications which could not by any reasonable possibility be classed with one of the sections already established. ("The library and the system..."11)

Also, back in time, in line with the library system, when the librarian checked out a book for a patron, he/she was reminded to ensure he/she entered the book by catalog number and brief of title, by hand, in the library record. Written instructions reminded the librarian, who did not receive any salary for his/her services, to plainly record the name and address of the borrower, and to be careful to enter the number of the book correctly. When a patron returned a book, he/she had more "entirely reasonable" manual work to complete ("The library and the system...") During 1996, Kenneth E. Carpenter reports in "A Library Historian Looks at Librarianship," according to American libraries had the reputation of being the best in the world. They were reportedly easy to use, and offered collections of works/information appropriate to their purpose. Some libraries in the U.S. were noted to be among the largest in the world, with three of the five largest libraries, exclusive of those in Russia, located in the United States. Carpenter stresses that to maintain their reputations for being the best, U.S. libraries of all kinds, need to provide service that meets the needs of patrons. He notes that the tradition of service developed in American libraries partly in response to the fact that if they were to survive, various kinds of libraries had to provide service. Carpenter further explains:

This was true of the membership libraries that flourished from the late eighteenth century to the latter part of the nineteenth. These were libraries in which one bought shares and paid an annual fee, or to which one subscribed annually. These included, among others, athenaeums, mercantile libraries, young men's libraries, mechanics' libraries, and apprentices' libraries.... To survive it was necessary to provide the books that were wanted and give easy access to them. The very short hours of academic libraries were not typical. For example, in 1820 the Athenaeum of Philadelphia was open from 8 a.M. To 10 P.M., from the first of November to the first of May, and from the first of May to the first of November from 7 a.M. To 10 P.M., every day of the week except Sunday... To be sure, libraries generally did not have the financial means to be open such long hours, but this example illustrates the desire. (Carpenter 77+)

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Carpenter notes, publicly-financed libraries competed with the membership libraries. Competition was not stimulated by the desire for public funding, but for readers, and, consequently for the community's ongoing support. The ideology for the formation of the new kind of library, the publicly-financed library, also contributed to a service orientation. "Public libraries were seen to be, variously, a means of elevating the lower classes through good reading and by providing sources of information that would help the working man in his trade, of keeping peace between the classes, of inculcating democratic values in immigrants, of promoting civic virtue..." (Carpenter 77+). These concerns contributed to the rationale for the existence of libraries.

Change Management

Since the 1960s, Patricia a. Mclagan reports in "The Change-Capable Organization," the number of books and articles on Change Management has increased more than 100 times. As organizations succeed and/or fail to implement complex and organization-wide initiative, costs related to change failures reportedly rise. Surveys routinely note change management to be at the top of the list of executive concerns. Contemporary changes may include, yet not be limited to:

Reengineering, diversity awareness, globalization, quality and productivity programs, as well as complex alliances, mergers, and acquisitions (Mclagan)

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) asserts that change may not necessarily denote progress. "Change is one thing, progress is another," he stated. "Change' is scientific, 'progress' is ethical; change is indubitable, whereas progress is a matter of controversy" (Russell quoted in Columbia...). In Developing Effective School Management, Jack Dunham purports that organizations need to not only consider changes they need to improve performance, but also to determine specific strategies for implementing needed/desired changes.

Table 1 relates key stage actions Dunham notes for an organization to achieve its primary objectives.

Table 1: Identifying Key Stage Actions to Achieve Management Objectives (Dunham 34)

Key stages




Define objectives

Identify task and constraints

Involve the team, share commitment

Clarify objectives, gain acceptance


Establish priorities, check resources, decide, set standards

Consult, encourage ideas and actions, develop suggestions structure

Assess skills, set targets, delegate, persuade


Brief the team, check understanding

Answer questions, obtain feedback

Listen, enthuse

Support, monitor

Report progress, maintain standards, discipline

Coordinate, reconcile conflict

Advise, assist / reassure, recognize effort, counsel


Summarize progress, review objectives, re-plan if necessary

Recognize success, learn from failure

Assess performance, appraise, guide and train

In regard to changes in organizations, Jack Dunham presents the Three Circles Model in Developing Effective School Management." The Three Circles Model purports that effective management of staff occurs as a team leader attaches equal importance to the following three fundamental factors:

The task; the team; the individuals in the team.

John Adair, management consultant, originally formulated the Three Circles Model, which he notes as "Action-Centred Leadership" (ACL). Figure 1 reflects this model, regularly used in numerous management training programs, which relates three specific actions managers need to implement (Dunham 32).

Figure 1: Three Circles Model (adapted from Dunham 32)

Decision Making

Robert Mayo Hayes stresses in Models for Library Management, Decision-making, and Planning that in library management, decision-making, and planning prove vital. Not only do decisions made in house by the library matter, but those decisions by governments, at every level, "determine the economic, political, and legal environment within which the library must operate" (Hayes xix). These outside decisions often prove significant as many made within the framework of international, national, regional, state, and local policies directly impact decisions that may appear internally determined, albeit depend on the larger strategic contexts. To start any decision making process, the decision-maker must initially understand the problem, Hayes points out.

The objectives must be defined, alternative solutions to the problem need to be… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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