The Newark Public Library is a public library established in Newark City in the state of New Jersey. The Newark Public Library (2016) traces the historical context of this institution back to 1897 when it was first chartered and thus came into existence. The Newark Public Library’s (2016) officials opine that the library was first established as a homestead belonging to Henry Rew who later on donated the homestead space to the library. By the year 1989, the library had grown tremendously to 16500 square feet in space (Newark Public Library, 2016). Over time, the growth and development of this library led to its transformation into a center of information and knowledge that allows users to pursue education, thus promoting both social and cultural growth in the community and society as a whole. Over the years, this library has been experiencing rather strong leadership. This is evidenced by the fact that the library is run by a team of brilliant librarians who are, in their turn, led by the library board. As for a public organization, this has the meaning that the overall control lies in the hands of the City of Newark. Presently, the library has established various efforts towards encouraging the free flow of ideas. It was done by organizing and providing a collection of materials that appeal to users.
Having discussed the organization’s background of Newark Public Library, it is essential now to identify the specific problem affecting this organization, which will serve as the subject of the capstone study. Accordingly, the issue that is to be addressed by the capstone research is the problem of poor and insufficient funding experienced by the Newark Public Library. The above discussion on the organization’s background has ascertained that the library is mainly funded by the local government of Newark. However, over time, this funding has been cut back; and currently, the budget that is allocated to this library is not adequate in assisting in running its operations. The situation was worsened by the 2008 economic recession that brought almost no funds from the government to the library receiving. Even when these funds have finally come, they were delayed and not enough. This is a serious problem for the library in terms of the expansion plan that has been developed in an attempt to improve the institution’s image and encourage more people to use it. It is clear that the poor and insufficient funding of this public library will curtail this expansion plan and bring it to a standstill. Nonetheless, it is quite critical to note that the problem of insufficient funding does not threaten the only expansion plans of this library but rather its general survival and sustainability in the coming future.
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Therefore, a thorough analysis of public libraries goes on to demonstrate that there is a fundamental issue when it comes to the funding of such organizations. This has the meaning that the problem is not limited to the Newark Public Library alone but to many public libraries around the country. These libraries continue to be subjected to the issue of poor and insufficient funding, thus having to deal with the repercussions of this problem. Some evidence of this current situation is given by Swan, Grimes, and Owens (2013), who postulate that between 2008 and 2010, most states in the US reported a considerable drop in the funding of their public libraries. This decline was most pronounced in areas that were experiencing poverty. Therefore, the real situation for public libraries operating in these areas is that they receive a minimal amount of funds from the government or no funding at all. While the Newark Public Library is yet to reach such a situation when it would be receiving no funds at all, it still remains within the category of receiving insufficient funds. This has mostly been a result of the lack of sensitivity by the government as evidenced by the fact that complaints made by this institution have fallen on deaf ears.
For this public library, the outcome that has been created as a consequence of poor funding is purely negative. One such outcome is related to the library being able to adequately provide services to its users. In this case, insufficient funding has greatly jeopardized the institution as attested by its inability to issue the latest materials and information resources to users. Real, Bertot, and Jaeger (2014) look into this and assert that some of the materials and resources that many libraries are unable to purchase include the latest editions of books existing in both hard and soft copies. For the Newark Public Library, the challenge has mostly rested in the purchase of the softcopy version of books. This has mostly been caused by the lack of an effective e-book system in the library since there have been no funds to develop this within the library. Further, this has also resulted in the reference material of this library to be outdated, which is another consequence of the lack of sufficient funds. It is essential to also note that the problem of funding is not limited to resources and materials only. The truth of the matter is that the problem spreads further and therefore goes on to affect the general maintenance of the library. As a consequence of all the above facts, the negative impact of the lack of funds for this library has discouraged people from using it. The result here is that the library has developed a somewhat negative public image and has worsened its finances since it is no longer able to make money from fees and fines as well as printer and fax services. Thus, this implies that the issue of insufficient funding of the Newark Public Library is not the one to be taken lightly. Instead, there is a need for finding a long-lasting solution that will work to ensure that the library is able to continue its operations without any kind of glitches as consequences of the lack of funds.
The evaluation of literature reveals that public libraries like the Newark Public Library are the institutions that serve as gateways to knowledge, thus providing basic conditions for lifelong independent decision making. At the same time, they also play the role of enhancing the cultural development of the people who make use of them. Sugimoto, Ding, and Thelwall (2012) define a public library as an organization that is established, supported, and funded by the community through the local, regional, or national government. Therefore, public libraries play a significant role in the communities where they are established. In this regard, the former provides access to knowledge and information and various works of imagination. This is done through a range of services that are available to all members of the community regardless of their diversity. According to Carpenter (2013), one major challenge that can be identified with relation to such public libraries as the Newark one is the issue of funding. This severe problem means that the realization of the goals of the institutions heavily depends on the availability of adequate funds.
Carpenter (2013) makes the observation that most public libraries have found it almost impossible to reach their set goals as a result of inadequate funding. Das and Paul (2012) look into this problem from the context of funds being essential in supporting the activities carried out in public libraries. In this case, for the libraries to be able to adequately run their operations and continue to provide services to users, it is essential that there are sufficient funds to enable this. It is, therefore, no wonder that many public libraries are finding it difficult to fulfill their set goals. The same observation is made by McKendrick (2011), who postulates that most public libraries end up accomplishing very little as a consequence of not being adequately funded. In this regard, poor funding results in the fact that these libraries become forced to use poor materials and infrastructure facilities in providing their services. From this observation, Siu-Runyan (2011) makes an observation that the problem of insufficient funding of public libraries is almost as old as the notion of their existence. Most literature that has been prepared on this issue makes the assertion that it is critical for a solution to be found whether the role of these libraries will be preserved in society.
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To be able to accurately illustrate this issue of inadequate funding among public libraries, Swan, Grimes, and Owens (2013) opine that between the years 2008 and 2010, more than a half of the US states made the admission that they are suffering from a considerable decline in funding while responding to the American Library Association. Similarly, Sugimoto, Ding, and Thelwall (2012) assess the library journal survey that was carried out in 201,1 which also confirmed the same problem among public libraries in the US. According to the survey, about 86 percent of public libraries in cities with a population over 1 million have reported the fact that there is a substantial cut in their allocated budget causing them to experience the impact of inadequate funding (Sugimoto, Ding, & Thelwall, 2012, p. 27). In the same way, Siu-Runyan (2011) confirms the budget cut by claiming that library funding for most public colleges has been in decline for some time. This decline has been felt mostly in areas affected by poverty such as poor neighborhoods in some urban centers. The problem is evidenced by the fact that the overall college spending on information resources within these areas had reduced by 9.4 percent between 2009 and 2010 (Siu-Runyan, 2011). It is essential to mention that this reduction has mainly involved books as well as periodicals, which amount has to a large extent undergone a reduction since the libraries can no longer afford to purchase them.
Various studies make the assertion that the issue of poor funding among public libraries has largely affected these institutions in rural areas. This is confirmed by Real, Bertot, and Jaeger, (2014) who postulate that public libraries in rural areas have been for a very long time subjected to carry out their operations with insufficient funding. That is, these are the libraries that have experienced funding in the process that can be considered as a haphazard manner. This has been worsened by the fact that many of these libraries are largely supported by funding from the government. This has the meaning that they have very little experience with alternative means of funding, thus having to depend solely on the government. With regard to this, Das and Paul (2012) make the assertion that rural public libraries receive funds from the local, state, or federal government. Conversely, the current situation shows that there is a lack of revenue when it comes to public services (including libraries) in rural areas. This is verified by Sugimoto, Ding, and Thelwall (2012), who contend about the fact that there has been a considerable reduction in government assistance for many public libraries in rural areas. Therefore, this offers an explanation as to why many of these libraries are formulating budgets on the assumption of receiving a low or no funding at all from the government. In this sense, this has the implication that public libraries in rural areas will continue to face the problem of lacking the funds for a long time while waiting for the government to make assumptions about them.
To further continue highlighting the problem of insufficient funding in public libraries like Newark Public Library, Carpenter (2013) asserts that this issue can be categorized as one of the largest problems that are faced by these libraries. This study attributes the problem to a number of factors that include a substantial insufficiency in the management of funds. This difficulty arises from libraries being not perceived as normal organizations that need to be treated with a business-like attitude. While it is acceptable to admit that since they are public libraries and are thus available to everybody, presenting these libraries as professional organizations will also have an impact in terms of the way how they are managed. This can also include the management of funds, which can be carried out by trained staff. Therefore, this will help to reduce the issue of inadequate funding within these libraries to a large extent. Siu-Runyan (2011) also makes the observation and thus asserts that a large number of college public libraries have been forced to operate under low efficiency due to insufficient funding from the government and the lack of alternative sources of funding. Next, the author attributes this to the fact that these libraries lack any form of public-private partnerships with other organizations. However, Real, Bertot, and Jaeger (2014) find that the lack of government sensitivity with regard to the problem of funding among public libraries as an issue to blame on. This is demonstrated by the fact that the funding of public libraries by the government has been reduced recently; moreover, in some libraries, this funding has completely come to an end. Such libraries have been forced to either close down or find other ways of fending for themselves and thus surviving.
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Another factor that has led to many public libraries such as the Newark one to continue experiencing the problem of low funding is related to the fact that the budget received by many of these libraries is in many instances only indirectly linked to their level of performance. Rosa (2014) makes the assertion that this is further worsened by the fact that decisions made in these libraries are based on the influence of powerful people and groups as opposed to the strengths of arguments. It happens because it has been difficult to achieve a reliable nexus between organizational performance and funding level. This has further led to another problem of creating the freeway effect. In the view of McKendrick (2011), the latter refers to a situation where a library becomes very successful in its provision of services, thus resulting in the creation of a demand that is deemed to be too great to be adequately met. This explains accurately the situation of the Newark Public Library. At it continues to serve the citizens of New Jersey, it is, in reality, quite successful in doing this. In its turn, this has thus created the demand for its services to rise among the members of the community. However, while it is expected that this kind of rise in demand will result in a positive impact for the library, the truth is that it has actually had a negative impact because the freeway effect causes a library to have a need for an increased amount of resources, which ultimately leads to an increased need for funds as opined by Swan, Grimes, and Owens (2013). Therefore, this has the implication that the success of these libraries becomes their failure. Sugimoto, Ding, and Thelwall (2012) also look into the freeway effect and come to the conclusion that as libraries continue to succeed and thus place more pressure on their services, the government becomes less willing to fund them. This has the meaning that there is an existing danger that public libraries’ funding might be cut by the amount that is earned in profits or saved through the efficiency of these libraries. It brings about the question of whether libraries need to cut down their efficiency and provision of services since this is impacting them negatively and preventing them from receiving the funds that they require.
To further paint a clearer picture of the problem of poor funding among public libraries, it is significant to have an idea of its impact on these institutions such as the Newark Public Library that have been affected. In this case, Sugimoto, Ding, and Thelwall (2012) go on to point out that insufficient funding of such public libraries as the college ones makes it difficult for this libraries to be modernized. Due to the lack of ability to be modernized, these libraries have become unable to offer top of the art services to their users preventing many of them from visiting such institutions. In the same way, Rosa (2014) affirms that the problem of inadequate funding among public libraries has worked to slow down the progress of these libraries with regard to providing literature that is up to date to many of their users. In her study, Rosa (2014) provides an example of e-libraries and the fact that most public libraries have found it difficult to set up because of inadequate funds. This has been one of the greatest reasons why many people have been gradually losing interest in visiting libraries while searching for the information. The problem is much worsened by the current technological advancement that allows doing it online; however, due to the lack of funds, these libraries are not able to take advantage of this technology to improve their services. In their study, Swan, Grimes, and Owens (2013) contend about the impact that poor funding has had on public libraries and whether it has frustrated their growth and development. Therefore, this has subsequently hampered the culture of reading among communities and the whole nation.
The issue of insufficient funding has continued to affect many public libraries such as the Newark Public Library, and the situation is expected to persist. This happens as a result of the uncertainty that is caused by the economic downturn. Siu-Runyan (2011), for instance, asserts that while it is true that much has been done to enable recovery from the economic downturn as a consequence of the recession in 2008, much still remains to be done. Further, McKendrick (2011) conceptualizes that the extent of uncertainty brought about by economic downturn has served to impact the process of planning and development of public libraries as it has resulted in no funding for many of these institutions. Thus, this has had the implication that the slow rebounding of the economy has meant there will be a decrease in the budget allocation made to public libraries. This has meant that the changing economic times have greatly contributed to the issue of poor funding among public libraries. This happens after the existing economic uncertainty has impacted government decisions in relation to funding public libraries. In this case, in a situation where the government is forced to choose between funding health care and libraries, the decision will be made on the basis of priority; therefore, health care will have a preference.
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While exploring the problem of inadequate and poor funding among public libraries, various studies have attempted to provide recommendations in relation to how this problem can be overcome. For instance, McKendrick (2011) makes the suggestion to solve the problem of insufficient funding of the affected libraries by establishing a competent and good practice of managing funds. On the contrary, Real, Bertot, and Jaeger (2014) come to the conclusion that the best solution for such libraries is to strengthen their efforts towards identifying the most appropriate alternative sources of funding. For example, this can include looking for grants and donations or offering simple services such as photocopying and having a bookshop. Next, Sugimoto, Ding, and Thelwall (2012) make the suggestion that it is best for these libraries to go on and make partnerships with various organizations in the private sector since the dependence on the government is not helpful. In doing so, this can include aspects such as information brokerage and formation of partnerships with the private sector that will facilitate an improvement in the situation of funding for these institutions. In the end, this will be essential in restoring the image of public libraries and restoring their significance among many communities throughout different countries.