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Problem Definition

This essay focuses on public libraries and their consequent improvement through embracing current technology that has been largely ignored but highly implemented by rival private libraries. Public libraries are non-profit avenues patroned by members of the public or the surrounding community as a crucial source of information gained either through books, journals, articles or free online material provided therein. Vital services such as internet access, book lending, learning centers, ESL, programs and activities, community meeting and exhibition and a myriad of other services need to be improved to ensure maximum service to the public who support such government run institutions. Therefore, there is a need to install up-to-date information technology to aid in service improvement and cut down on budged reduction. This shall go a long way in catching up with their counterparts in the private sector (Mohamed & Walczyk, 2009).

Problem Statement

 In retail businesses, services are always consumer-centered.  To enhance the customer service, business owners (a) accelerate the check out process through self checkout machines,  (b) make it possible for customers to browse the entire store searching for the needed products from home through online store catalog, (c) allow customers to create personal accounts and register as store users to be part of the store social network, and (d) search for products in the store and check prices through (RFID) Radio Frequency Identification  self check.  In order to accomplish this, retailers always search and implement new technologies.  In public libraries, technology is also an important facet of the institution.  Technology increases the accessibility of library items and resources through online cataloging, speed the check in and checkout procedures, and help keep the library open by using technology to replace the staff during budget cuts. However, regardless of  the benefits of technology, public libraries usually implement technologies later than any retailer. Library services require significant investment in technology in order to provide access to knowledge collections required by today’s knowledge requirements. 

While the demand for technology requires significant investment in order to stay current with technological innovations, library funding for leading edge technological support remains slow. At best, libraries are known to be fast followers (Porter, 1989).  To be a fast follower means that library organizations as a whole adopt technology which is tried and true, following the use and implementation strategies of other areas of industry. Hence, the study will investigate the reasons behind the delay in implementing technologies in the public libraries of New York City.  The problem is that public libraries in NYC are not able to stay current with implementation of the newest technologies to facilitate library efficiency and good customer services

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this case study is to identify the barriers that prevent libraries from implementing new technologies that can save time, money, and have a significant impact on whether libraries can survive in an increasingly difficult economy.

Significance of the Study

In the past 20 years urban public libraries have integrated new technologies (e.g., Bar-coding systems, RFID Systems, Online Catalogs, Self-Checkout Machines, and Social Networks) to increase the accessibility of library services.  Additionally, technology allows the library to remain open and running at its full capacity by filling the gap left by missing library staff as a result of layoffs during a budget reduction. However, the above mentioned technologies were implemented in the private sector long before they were adopted by public libraries.  This study will investigate the reasons behind the lag in implementing new technologies in public libraries, and propose an approach to speed up the implementation of new technologies in the library system.

Nature of the Study

This qualitative case study will propose a qualitative study methodology to investigate the services that need to be provided by the library to its community.  How can libraries replace the human factor with new technologies to save money and time and maintain the quality of its services during budget reduction? The reasons behind the library’s delay in implementing technologies compared to private sector also are investigated.  Further, the study will provide recommendations that would help library administrators remain abreast of the new technologies in the market that may help the library to advance its services with high level of customer service.

The needed data for this study will by collected through surveys with library patrons, community library managers, and librarians from different communities.  The library patrons’ surveys will be developed in order to collect data regarding the patrons’ opinions on different technologies that may be used in the library and their expectations from these technologies. The librarians’ surveys will be developed to collect data regarding their experience using the existing technologies in libraries. The community libraries managers’ surveys will be developed to collect data regarding the effects of using new technologies on themselves and on the library staff from the management and leadership perspective. 

Research Questions

Why are the New York City libraries late in implementing new technologies?

What is the leadership role in implementing new technologies in libraries?

Methodology

In this qualitative case study I will investigate the essential need for technology implementation in today’s industries and compare it to the public library services that might enhance by implementation. Thus, library services require significant investment in technology in order to provide access to knowledge collections required by today’s knowledge requirements.  While the demand for technology requires significant investment in order to stay current with technological innovations, library funding for leading edge technological support remains slow. At best, libraries are known to be fast followers (Porter, 1989).  To be a fast follower means that library organizations adopt technology which, is tried and true, following the use and implementation strategies of other areas of industry.

This qualitative case study serves to investigate the technology affects on the services that required to the community.  Further, the study seeks to investigate the affects of technology implementation in libraries and answer questions such as the implications of replacing the human factor to save money.  Issues of time management and maintaining the quality of library services during times of budget reduction, and the reasons behind the library’s delay in implementing technologies compared to private sector will be investigated.  The study will provide recommendations that would help library administrators remain abreast of the new technologies in the market that may help the library to advance its services with high level of customer service.

Research Method:

This study will propose a qualitative study methodology to investigate the services that need to be provided by the library to its community and investigate? How libraries can replace the human factor with new technologies to save money and time and maintain the quality of its services during budget cut. Further, investigate the reasons behind the library lateness in implementing technologies compared to private sector. Further, the study will provide recommendations that would help library administrators to be abreast of the new technologies in the market that may help the library advancing its services with high level of customer service.

Data Collection

The needed data for this study will by collected through developing  surveys with library patrons, community library managers, and librarians from different communities. The library patrons’ surveys will be developed to collect data regarding the patrons’ opinions regarding different technologies that may be used in the library and their expectations from these technologies. The librarians’ surveys will be developed to collect data regarding their experience using the existing technologies in libraries. The community libraries managers’ surveys will be developed to collect data regarding the effects of using new technologies on themselves and on the library staff from the management and leadership perspective.

Populations

Business leaders and decision makers have new technology implemented in their business. Decision makers, technology managers, community library managers, Librarians, and public represent different communities in New York City.

Data Analysis

Qualitative data analysis software NVivo9

Research Design

Explanation how Research Design is appropriate to the Research Method

The case study to investigate and explore the reasons behind the delay in implementing the technologies in Public Libraries in New York City compared to private businesses.

New York City population increased due immigration and community’s exodus due economic rescission which increased the need for using public libraries in New York City. However, because of the lack in funding public libraries, the technology implementation will expedite the services. New York City contains five boroughs served by three public library systems. New York Public library serves Manhattan, Bronx, and Staten Island through 92 libraries, Queens Public Library serves Queens Borough through 63 libraries, and Brooklyn Public library serves Brooklyn Borough through 60 libraries.

Limitations

Potential weaknesses of this study can be that the sample size is not large enough to give good cross section representation of the library patrons. Also since various demographics visit the library at different times, observation at all hours of the library would give a better representation, but may not be feasible. In addition, with the current unemployment rampant among all sectors, the survey may be biased negatively.

Delimitations

Although it would be better to run surveys in all branches of the library system to get a comprehensive view, this study will are focus in three branches only to be economical and feasible. The three locations will be selected on the basis of diverse demographics.

Summary

As technology implementation help businesses expediting customer service and reduce staffing from the financial perspective, public libraries also using the technology for the same purpose. Technology implementation becomes the final solution to keep public libraries open when public libraries face funding reduction. However, instead, technology implementation in public libraries always comes long after implementation in the private sectors. Due the economic recession, public libraries become crucial resource for free public service including job hunting, creating and polishing resumes, free internet access, GED help, homework help and ESL classes, etc. This qualitative study is to investigate the reasons resides behind the delay in technology implementation in public libraries. Further, the study will explore the effects on library services as a conclusion of technology implementation.

Literature Review

In the business world, different technologies have been implemented in order to speed services and replace labor without affecting the services provided to customers. For instance, due to technological advances such as the self check-out kiosks available in airports, hotels, banks, supermarkets and many other businesses customers no longer have to wait in long lines for a representative to help them with simple tasks. Libraries, like any other business, use technology to speed customer service interactions and increase the accessibility to library materials and resources. Because public libraries are non-profit organizations that depend predominantly on public funding from city, state, and federal governments, budget reductions are always a very real possibility.

Drastic budget cuts can result in a decrease of public libraries’ services, hours, or even force a library to close completely.  In the face of budget alterations and layoffs, libraries should be able to expect and even depend on new technologies to fill in the gaps.  However, in reality, this is not the case.  Public libraries always delay when implementing new technology, even when such advances could prevent a loss of services, staff, or closure.  This study will investigate the various reasons why public libraries are often the last to employ technology.

Self Check out Machines

In 1992, Howard Schneider invented an automated retail point-of-sale machine that allowed customers to check out their purchases with minimal staff assistance.  Moreover, the machine had the ability to weigh items and adjust the purchase price depending on the weight (United States Patent, 1992).  In 1994, the Price Chopper Supermarket chain was the first business that implemented self check out machines to speed the services with minimal human interaction (Clarke, 1994).  Since that time, self checks out machines have been implemented in many supermarkets and other businesses.  In 2003, Queens Library in New York was the first public library in New York City to put into use a self check out machines that read barcodes.  These machines increased the speed at which items could be checked out, thus filling the missing staff gap without affecting the circulation services in Lefferts Community Library (Queens Library, 2005).

In libraries, library staff strives to provide the best service possible to their patrons.  Hence, with the self check out machines that require little to no intervention by library staff, librarians have more time to provide reference and instruction services to public.  However, librarians fear the use of technology in libraries and the elimination of the human factor, which may be one of the reasons behind the delay in implementation (Balas, 2008).  In Danville Public Library, CA, it was hoped that self check out machines would increase circulation by allowing the library patron to check out their items themselves.  The library was remodelled, the circulation desk was refurbished and self-use machines were installed.  Patron’s now had the ability to check out and check in materials themselves.  Further, both the adult and children’s reference desks were combined with the main desk.  This centralized all reference services and created more space in the library to accommodate an expanded collection (Benca, 2007). 

Hanover Public Library, NH, considered self-check machines during their own expansion phase.  In the beginning, the library considered using third party self check out machines.  However, they were too expensive for Hanover Library’s size and budget.  The library faced a growing disconnect between serving the needs of patrons gathering in long lines to check out their items and the library staff afraid of a staff reduction as a result of implementing self check out machines in the library.  Circulation staff argued against the need for check out machines, stating that the library patrons preferred the human interaction to machines and the interpersonal communication.  Moreover, the circulation staff was also concerned about an increase in missing items if the machines failed to detect one or more checked out materials.  Weighing the both sides of the argument, library management came to the conclusion that implementing the self checkout machines was necessary to enhance customer service and to expand the interior library size.  After implementation, the staff size remained the same not only because most library patrons in this community prefer to interact with humans than machines, but because the self check machines need staff to correct any error that may be caused by the machines or library items (Smith, 2008).

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

The RFID technology is not new, it was invented 1915 in United Kingdom and used during World War II to correctly identify whether or not aircrafts were enemy forces.  Throughout the middle and late twentieth-century RFID technology continued to evolve.  A paper titled  "Communication by Means of Reflected Power" (Proceedings of the IRE, pp 1196–1204, October 1948) was published by Stockman (1948) and explained various uses of RFID technology, highlighting its ability to track subjects.  Iin 1969, Mario Cardullo was the first to receive a patent for a passive, read/write RFID tag.  In 1979 the NEW York Port Authority demonstrated the first RFID device that would be used as a method to pay bridge and highway tolls in an attempt to relieve congestion (Anonymous, 2005).

While it could be assumed that libraries would quickly follow, they did not.  It was twenty years later, in 1999 that RFID technology implementation in libraries began in both academic and public libraries.  The Rockefeller University library in New York was the first academic library while the first public library was Farmington Community Library in Michigan.  Today there are more than three hundred libraries which have implemented RFID and more than 35 million items have been tagged. However, there are some unresolved issues regarding RFID technology.  Therefore libraries have to consider many variables before converting to RFID technology, such as programming and library applications.  (Singh, Brar, & Fong, 2006).

In 2005 Queens Library was the first library in New York City to implement RFID technology as a means to attempt to fill the gap in library staff created by budget alterations as well as deal with a tremendous increase in the resources and services required by New York City residents.  The implementation of RFID and self check machines created a customer service model that did not yet exist in public libraries.  The interpersonal interactions between library staff and patrons increased because by freeing library staff from routine work, they were able to concentrate more on quality public service (Mohamed, & Walczyk, 2009).

Libraries around the world are using high-tech ways to track their collections, to the benefit of librarians and patrons alike.  A book that goes astray within the Vatican Apostolic Library, home to more than 1.6 million volumes, is a piece of world history that is as good as lost.  A full month is set aside each year just to search for and re-shelve the misplaced, priceless items.  Due to the nature of their items, and the amount of time that is needed to search for missing material, the Vatican has embraced RFID technology.  It started tagging its collection with radio frequency identification microchips that also act as homing devices.  Librarians can pinpoint any book simply by waving a portable wand to pick up the microchip's signal.  If someone tries to take the book out of a reading room, the chip also sounds an alarm.  No more lost masterpieces.  It is a scenario repeated worldwide as libraries became some of the earliest adopters of RFID, the same technology retail giant Wal-Mart is considering to track merchandise as it moves from warehouse pallet into the store (Shahid, 2005).

In the United States and Canada the introduction of RFID has made it simpler to check out materials, increasing circulation and customer satisfaction.  Santa Monica Public Library in California had been implemented and used RFID technology for several years successfully pleasing its patrons with the fast check out for more than one item in same time.  Salt Lake library conducted satisfaction surveys from public regarding the RFID technology and results were 95% of the participant patrons graded the system grade B or above, especially with the added wireless new feature to the RFID (Hadro, 2009). Canada's largest library system, the Toronto Public Library, will begin inserting radio-frequency chips into every item and at least 20 Canadian libraries have them in place.  They join about 130 major North American libraries now using RFID, and more are expected to adopt the technology in coming years.  

It is easy to see why libraries like RFID.  With traditional barcodes, lost books can not be found unless you can physically locate them in the library.  Later, at the checkout counter, a librarian or clerical staff member must be on hand to open books and swipe their hidden magnetic strip. The process is not only time consuming, but also physically demanding.  A study by the San Francisco Public Library, which voted to adopt RFID, found the repetitive motion of opening and closing books provoked complaints of carpal tunnel syndrome.  RFID, on the other hand, allows a librarian to stand back and swipe entire shelves in search of missing books.  While borrowers can speed through checkout by themselves, simply by aiming their chosen tome at a device that records the book to their account.

Despite all the benefits of RFID, there have been a number of concerns regarding the privacy of library patrons.  Many people want the books they are reading and the other materials checked out on their library cards to remain confidential.  Both librarians and publishers understand the library patron’s desire and work toward protecting patron information.  In the past ensuring confidentiality was not a problem.   However, the use of RFID tags makes it difficult to guarantee privacy because the tagged books can be read from afar using an RFID reader  (Lichtenberg, 2004).  These concerns have caused delays when trying to adopt RFID technology in some libraries.

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