Improving Decision Making and Patron Service in the King County Library System

Everyone’s life has been touched by experience with a library. That familiarity allows a quick and vivid understanding of the value of the service and what must be managed and decided to ensure the quality of service. At the same time, the King County Library System in the case displays classic tensions between customer service priorities and the needs in a service delivery system to have standardized policies and effective resource allocation. At the same time, the top decision maker must reconcile the library's progressive, forward moving mission with a top-down management structure that discourages innovation at the lower levels of authority.

The case series is divided into three parts allowing three distinct themes to be explored. First, the A case allows an analysis of organizational problems that threaten service delivery and successful completion of a long-term service expansion plan. The B case prompts a discussion of implementation considerations, which turn out to be crucial to the ultimate quality and acceptance of the changes. The C case details the new system, developed by a staff task force, for making policy and management decisions in the library that would place authority at more appropriate levels and involve people more knowledgeable about and able to implement policy decisions.

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