Clayton County Library System: A Developed Policy Scenario

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 16
Words: 4434
Reading time:
17 min
Study level: PhD

Abstract

This section describes the Clayton County Library System concerning issues of public policy development, enactment, and implementation. In the process, it considers the library’s policy on children. It, therefore, explains how the policy issue was addressed in the organization, a clarification of desired outcomes, the actual approach used to attain the outcomes, and a detailed description of the actual policy outcomes.

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A Description of the Clayton County Library System

The Clayton County Library System was established in 1941 through the initiatives of the infamous Jonesboro Women’s Club (Clayton County Library System, n.d). The first room from which the library operated was situated above a departmental store on the South Main Street. The library began its operations with a collection of only 200 books. The first director of the library was Mary Barnette. The library is currently headed by Yvonne Carmicheal, the Interim Library Director (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

The Clayton County Library System provides public computer workstations and research assistance; in addition, it provides services to both adults and children. The library has categorized its services according to the needs of adults and children.

It is important to note that the library has been developing and expanding its services within the county (Clayton County Library System, n.d). Currently, it has more than four branches across Clayton County. Its latest developments include the construction of the New Forest Park Branch and the introduction of fiber optic internet services (Clayton County Library System, n.d). Beyond these developments, it is anticipated that the Clayton County Library System is still yet to satisfy the needs of the local community members. This implies that it continuously develops and expands its library services (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

It is worth pointing out that as the Clayton County Library System developed as a public facility, it was faced with several policy issues that it needed to address. This is the subject of the next section (Marco, 2011).

The Description of the Policy Issue

Clayton County Library System, like any other public organization, had several policy issues to deal with as it enhanced its services (Marco, 2011). One of the most prominent policy issues the library faced was that of the safety of children who utilized its services (Marco, 2011). As a public facility, the library was keen on ensuring that children within its premises were safe from kidnappers and harmful internet content (Marco, 2011). Generally, the library endeavored to ensure a safe environment for all individuals who sought its services.

Concerning its use, the leaders acknowledge that the library’s environment is a public space. Given this fact, certain risks can potentially affect or harm unattended children and youths (Kemp, 2009). For instance, unattended children may be tempted or enticed to leave the library premises with total strangers who may have ill intentions, a situation that may be tragic.

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To solve the policy issue, the Clayton County Library System came up with a specific policy on children (Clayton County Library System, n.d). One of the salient features of the policy was the leadership’s categorical stand that it did not assume parental responsibilities concerning children who came to the library to read and complete their school assignments (Clayton County Library System, n.d). As such, the library, through the policy, advised that parents had to take care of their children during the periods they were in the library (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

The policy issue required that the library’s leadership should design some anticipated outcomes to mitigate the potential risks that its clients, especially children, faced while using the library (Clayton County Library System, n.d). Therefore, the next section provides several expected outcomes that the leaders of the library set to achieve after a successful implementation of the policy regarding children.

The Desired Outcomes

When the Clayton County Library System came up with the policy on children, one of the desired outcomes was that the parents would not let their children be in the library unattended. The other outcome was the leaders’ expectation that parents would teach their children to know or memorize the contact numbers through which they could be reached, especially where children using the library services would not be accompanied by their parents. This was specifically important where some parents would not be able to accompany their children to the library for an entire day due to commitments at work (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

Moreover, the library, by enacting the policy, anticipated that all children left unaccompanied would be picked before the library’s closing hours. However, the library authority was very categorical that the children who would not have been picked at the right time would be placed under the care of the police. The library also wanted to ensure that all its clients, especially all vulnerable children, remained safe as it provided them enhanced services (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

To achieve the foregoing outcomes, the Clayton County Library undertook some actions with a specific focus on the plight of children who went to read and complete school assignments in the library (Clayton County Library System, n.d). The next section details the specific actions that were taken to achieve the outcomes.

The Actions Undertaken to Achieve the Outcomes

Dealing with policy issues requires that certain steps are taken. In light of this, the Clayton County Library System took some specific actions to deal with the issue of risks that had the potential to harm the children who visited its premises (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

Therefore, the library took the step of establishing a specific library policy regarding children; it came up with a policy document that had specific requirements for both parents and children (Marco, 2011). One of the requirements was that children below the age of eight years old should not be left in the library without the accompaniment of their parents or legal guardians (Marco, 2011). Also, the youths who intended to use the internet services were required to show that their parents had permitted them to use the internet while utilizing the library facilities (Marco, 2011). The other requirement included the need for children to know the telephone contacts and addresses of their parents; it was also a necessity for children aged four years old and below to be always accompanied by their parents or legal guardians while coming to the library (Marco, 2011).

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Given the foregoing facts, it is clear that the library enacted and implemented a policy to deal with the issue that affected children and youths who used its learning services. Coming up with a specific library policy was also an affirmation of what the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) spelled out; the CIPA was enacted by Congress in 2000 to protect children from harmful internet contents (Grama, 2010). In this case, the Clayton County Library System incorporated the federal laws on child protection into its organizational policy.

The Actual Policy Outcomes and the Reasons for the Outcomes

The Clayton County Library System seemed to have achieved most of its anticipated outcomes after implementing the policy regarding children. In this regard, after the implementation of the policy, parents have been careful about the safety of their children as they study within the library premises (Serritella, 2005). Even though the library has been finding it difficult to strictly implement the policy provisions, because some parents still find it challenging to accompany their children to the library premises, most parents and legal guardians have been able to comply with the requirements of the policy since it came into force (Serritella, 2005).

The other actual outcome is the fact that the library’s internet services can only be accessed by underage youths who have parental permissions indicated on their library cards. In addition, the underage youths who do not have the cards are often accompanied by their parents during the period they use the library’s internet services (Serritella, 2005). About children who are aged four years and below, parents have been accompanying them every time they have been visiting the library for study purposes (Serritella, 2005). This has ensured that children do not use the internet to access harmful sites such as those that contain pornographic materials and violent movies (Serritella, 2005).

Moreover, after the library declared in its policy that it would not perform the parental responsibility of taking care of the underage children who came to the library, parents have been able to be more vigilant with their children than before the policy came into force (Clayton County Library System, n.d). To this end, the Clayton County Library System has managed to limit the risk of facing possible legal issues about the children and youths who come to use its services; moreover, this has made its clients enjoy enhanced services (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

Given the foregoing outcomes, the question that comes to mind relates to the reasons for the policy outcomes. In response to the question, numerous reasons can be identified. It is important to note that issues related to children are often very sensitive (Stahl, 2010; Best, 2007; anything that threatens the security of children always elicits a quick response from relevant individuals and authorities (Brykczynska & Simons, 2011). As mentioned earlier, the reason the library came up with the policy was due to the potential risks that could affect children and youths who came to the library without the company of their legal guardians.

The Challenges Faced during the Implementation Process

The design and implementation of the policy regarding children were not easy. The Clayton County Library System has different stakeholders who represent different interests (Clayton, 2012). Therefore, initially, the requirement that children under the age of four years old had to be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians did not go well with some parents. The reason for the foregoing fact was that some parents felt that they were too busy to accompany their children to the library, which is always the case with most parents whose work schedules are often tight (Stack, 2011; Bird, 2009). However, the huddle was overcome through an agreement between the library and the parents the agreement allowed the parents to drop their children at the library and pick them before the library would be closed in the evening. This symbolized a democratic principle of compromise (Kelsen, 2009). The agreement was incorporated into the policy and it continues to be enforced.

The other challenge was concerning the cost of implementing the policy, which seemed to be high (Lee, 2007; Bevir, 2010); this could be because the number of children visiting the library had been increasing tremendously (Clayton County Library System, n.d). To this effect, the library seemed to have found it difficult to start providing library cards that would permit children under the age of eighteen years to use the internet immediately after the implementation of the policy.

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The Variables at Play

As a public facility, Clayton County Library System had many stakeholders at the time it was coming up with its policy regarding children (Bentley, 2009; Kemp, 2009). The stakeholders included the State and county governments, parents, children, subordinate employees, the library personnel, and the leaders of the library (Dewe, 2012). The fact that there were different stakeholders with different opinions and demands explained why there were many variables that influenced the process of policy formulation and implementation. In this case, the subsequent sections provide discussions on the various variables that were at play when the Clayton County Library developed and implemented the policy regarding children.

Democracy and the Policy on Children

The Clayton County Library System was developed in a democratic environment, given the fact that the United States and its local governments practice the concept of democratic governance (Gustafson, 2011). Concerning security, the library had the option of barring children under a certain age from visiting its premises. However, it was much aware of education as a universal human right, which is one of the major principles on which democracy thrives (Burke, 2013). Proponents of human rights argue that education is a means through which other fundamental human rights can be achieved (Burke, 2013; Karmel, 2009). Besides, it is through education that individuals achieve economic and social empowerment (Gargiulo, 2010). Given this, the Clayton County Library System recognized the fact that children needed to exercise their right to education (Clayton County Library System, n.d). The library, therefore, considered the rights as it developed and implemented the policy.

An important democratic process that was evident during the policy formulation and implementation process was that of consultation among some of the stakeholders of the library (Urbinati, 2008; Patton, 2010). The leaders of the Clayton County Library System recognized the importance of consulting with all the relevant library personnel, government authorities, and employees. Hence, the final policy provisions were a result of consultations among the stakeholders, which were some of the success factors of the policy.

The Network Interactions

There are always internal and external networks in the context of a policy process (Wolff, 2012). Even though a public policy often has different competing interests of network members, only the internal network members had significant influences. Therefore, the network only included leaders from different branches of the library and those who occupied different positions within the entire library system. All the leaders came together to deliberate on the best ways to ensure that the final policy outcome would achieve its objectives without necessarily interfering with the operations of every branch and the entire system of the library. The final policy outcome was inclusive of every leader who participated in the process.

The Tools and Strategies of Democracy Used by the Library

During the policy formulation process, the Clayton County Library System utilized several democratic tools and strategies. The tools and strategies constituted critical variables that determined the success of the policy formulation and execution processes. One of the democratic tools was the library’s authority derived from its legitimacy (Herrick, 2011). As was mentioned earlier, the Clayton County Library System is a public facility, and as such, it derives its authority from the legitimacy of the process of its establishment (Abdullahi, 2009). Therefore, the library introduced a policy that would make parents more responsible for their children than before (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

Incentives also constituted a tool of democracy that was used to ensure compliance by both parents and children (Herrick, 2011). One of the policy provisions was that the library officials would place children under the care of the police, should their parents not pick them before the library’s closing hours (Clayton County Library System, n.d). The fear of having their children placed under the care of the police was a sufficient coercive incentive to ensure that parents did not violate the library’s policy (Herrick, 2011).

More importantly, the library employed the strategy of role specifications during the implementation process. This is to state that the library personnel was given specific roles to perform during the implementation of the policy (Mollona, 2010). For instance, some personnel was charged with the responsibility of monitoring how children and youths under the age of eighteen years were using the internet, while another person was given the mandate to provide library cards to the youths and children; all these are still being undertaken. The strategy of role specifications is one of the democratic strategies that have widely been used to implement various public policies, specifically within the library and its affiliates (Vermeulen, 2011).

In addition, the library utilized the strategy of effective communication during the policy process. The success of a policy formulation and implementation process greatly depends on effective communication (Smith, 2010). Effective communication is determined by the way stakeholders are involved during the entire process (Smith, 2010). About this, there can only be effective communication when all the relevant stakeholders are involved (Smith, 2010). The leaders of the Clayton County Library ensured that it communicated its intentions about the policy regarding children to all employees of the library and the relevant government authorities (Smith, 2010). Again, the strategy was one of the success factors during the entire policy process.

The Leaders and their Influence on the Policy Process

Leaders play an important role during the establishment and execution processes of a policy (Kendal, 2010). In light of this, the leaders of the Clayton County Library System had an important part to play during the process of creation and implementation of the policy relating to children who visited its premises. The subsequent paragraphs discuss the roles played by the library’s leaders.

One of the leaders who participated in the policy process was the Interim Library Director, Yvonne Carmicheal (Clayton County Library System, n.d). Yvonne Carmicheal replaced the former library director, Carol Stewart, who had led the library for about three decades. As the head of the organization’s bureaucracy, Yvonne Carmicheal was the final authority in the whole policy process (Clayton County Library System, n.d). During the initial stages of the policy, Yvonne Carmicheal is the one who authorized other stakeholders to establish and implement the policy. In this case, she was the main point of contact for all correspondences that related to the policy. In addition, as the one who occupied the top of the library’s bureaucracy, Carmicheal played the role of engaging all other stakeholders, both within and outside the library. This means that the success of the process critically depended on her leadership approaches (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

Besides, Yvonne Carmicheal, there were also the heads of all the branches of Clayton County Library System (Clayton County Library System, n.d). Since the policy was to be applied in all the branches of the library, the leader of each branch was very important to the policy process. All the leaders made contributions on how the provisions of the policy were to be packaged in a way that would make them easy to comply with. Their contributions also ensured that the policy provisions captured all the aspects of children’s safety within the library environment. Moreover, the leaders of the departments also represented the views of personnel who served under them; this means that they represented their followers during the process.

The Ethical Concerns and Implications

In every undertaking that involves human beings, it is usually anticipated that there must be some forms of ethical concerns and implications (Motilal, 2011). Scholars have argued that public policies are founded on ethics (Motilal, 2011). This means that the policy-making process ought to comply with certain specific ethical standards that uphold and respect human rights (Harris, 2011); this includes the respect for human dignity, which is considered as one of the most important possessions of a human being.

Hence, there were ethical concerns and implications during the period when the Clayton County Library System was coming up with the policy regarding children. The library had to consider the purpose for which the policy was being formulated and the anticipated results (Clayton County Library System, n.d). In this respect, the library primarily made the policy to protect children, which was an ethical move to ensure the safety of vulnerable individuals in the society (Clayton County Library System, n.d). Besides, ethical standards require that parents become more concerned with the safety of their children (Becker, 2013). However, studies have shown that some parents become negligent concerning their children (Regoli, 2013). Therefore, the library imposed a policy to ensure that such parents met the basic ethical requirements, which included taking care of susceptible children who studied in the library.

There were some implications related to the ethical concerns. The ethical consideration by the library ensured that parents became more responsible for the safety of their children. After the implementation of the policy, parents began to pick their children from the library before it is closed at the end of the day. Moreover, the parents have been ensuring that their youths do not access harmful materials on the internet.

Most importantly, it is important to note that it is unethical to allow or create an environment in which children under the age of eighteen years can access harmful content through the internet (Livingstone, 2013). Concerning this, the library’s policy has ensured that the children can only access the websites that are appropriate in terms of their levels of learning.

The Diversity Issues Involved

The Clayton County Library System has employees whose diversities are in terms of education levels, gender, ethnic backgrounds, roles, and responsibilities (Clayton County Library System, n.d). Consequently, the director of the library had to ensure that all the diversities were taken into account during the policy-making initiative. One of the diversity issues concerned the involvement of leaders who represented different levels of the library’s bureaucracy; there was also the issue of gender balance in the team that was charged with the responsibility of formulating the policy regarding children. To deal with the issues, the library director exercised her leadership by ensuring that all relevant leaders participated in the process (Kemp, 2009). In addition, she ensured that both genders were adequately represented in the group (Kemp, 2009).

Another issue was concerning the age of children who were to be allowed to read within the library. Some leaders suggested that children below the age of four years should not be allowed in the library. Besides, the leaders also proposed that youths below the age of eighteen years should not be authorized to use the internet (Clayton County Library System, n.d). However, the problem was that the suggestions appeared to restrict the right of individuals to access information (Ripley, 2011). As a result, the leaders unanimously came up with a compromise in which it was specified that all school-going children would be allowed to visit the library (Ripley, 2011). However, the leaders established provisions to the effect that children aged four years old and below would be accompanied by their parents, while youths below the age of eighteen years would get approvals from their parents for them to use the internet to complete their assignments (Clayton County Library System, n.d).

The Policy Actions and Democracy

Any public policy process has the potential to conflict with the principles of democratic governance (Matsusaka, 2008). As such, a policy may be rejected when all stakeholders are not involved during the formulation and implementation practices (Matsusaka, 2008). In the case of the Clayton County Library System, the stakeholders, such as parents and community members, were not involved. Such a move might be viewed as a violation of the democratic principle of participation in public policy-making by the stakeholders. However, the leaders of the library made it clear that the policy issue was an internal affair of the organization; as such, it did not require the input of stakeholders outside the organization. The library leaders further emphasized that it utilized its legitimate authority to make and implement the policy.

The Roles of Technology in the Policy Process

Technologies play important roles in policy making and implementation processes. Different technologies have created a revolution in both the public and private sectors (Capocchi, 2008). Specifically, public organizations have used different technologies to enhance service delivery to the members of the public (Nielsen, 2008). The government has been using technologies to promote democratic governance within various public institutions (McGinnis, 2013). It is on this basis that the Clayton County Library System utilized the internet to ensure that the information about the policy regarding children was shared among different personnel.

During the consultation process, the leaders exchanged email messages to agree on the specific clauses of the policy (Capocchi, 2008). Moreover, the library published the provisions of the policies on its official website so that everybody, including parents and the library clients, may access it (Capocchi, 2008). This has helped the library to make known its stand on how children and youths can utilize its learning resources and the extent of its responsibility to children (Capocchi, 2008).

The Relationships among the Variables

During the policy-making process, the relationship among different variables within the library could be identified. During the initial stages of the policy, the actors were connected through the internet, whereby the individual leaders shared email messages as they deliberated on the policy issue (Fishkin, 2009). In this regard, the actors were able to share their opinions concerning various stages of the policy (Fishkin, 2009).

Importantly, since every leader exhibited a different leadership style, each leader proposed the approach that should be adopted in the implementation of policy. Some leaders suggested that the policy should be left to the junior leaders to implement while others thought that the policy issue was too important to be left to the junior leaders (Fishkin, 2009). To this effect, it was agreed that the implementation process would be done in parts; every leader would implement the part that concerned his or her department. For example, concerning the need for a library card for youths to access the internet services, those who were responsible for the issuance of cards would ensure that every youth got a card.

Some actors also proposed that the policy should be implemented immediately. Nonetheless, due to slight differences in the way each branch operated, there was a conflict related to how the implementation would take place. The solution was to create a timeline within which the policy would be executed. Thus, the director of the library exerted her authority by stating that the policy could only be implemented on a gradual basis. Therefore, leadership was the main tool that was used in the policy process (Matsusaka, 2008).

Conclusion

One of the insights drawn from the case scenario is that policymaking is a complex process. It is often argued that a policy-making process should involve all the stakeholders; however, the scenario has revealed that sometimes the participation of all actors may not be necessary. Like in the case of the library, only the internal actors participated; this could not be viewed as an anti-democratic move because the library utilized its legitimate authority in the process. The other insight is that the implementation of a public policy also requires the participation of some significant stakeholders, especially leaders within an organization; it cannot be implemented by one individual leader.

Given the case scenario, two recommendations can be made: the use of technology in a policy process should be enhanced to allow all stakeholders to participate. Again, the implementation process should also involve policy experts. Policy experts can advise on the best approaches that can be used to implement a policy without creating conflicts or interfering with the normal operations of an organization. In conclusion, it is important to note that a policy process is impacted by different actors within a policy network, technologies, and diversities within affected groups.

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