A Decision support tool for library book inventory management: managing book stocks and space in view of user needs
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For over 25 years now Decision Support Tools (DSTs) have been used to assist in operations research and information systems management (Greasley, 2004; Eom, 1999). However, managers of social systems such as libraries have lacked appropriate communication strategies causing a rift amongst stakeholders, with the latter questioning the validity of decisions made by managers (Holt, 2007). This project developed a simulation Decision Support Tool for evaluating the impact of the important factors in library book inventory management. With the application of the dynamic synthesis methodology as developed by Williams (2002), it was possible to depict stakeholder input in decision making, thereby optimizing library inventory management performance. Having examined the existing methods in library inventory management, they were found wanting in tackling book collection management complexities. The problem was therefore discovered to be a system dynamics problem because it exhibited characteristics such as failure of obvious solutions to respond to the inventory management problem. Various System Dynamics were evaluated and literature reviewed revealed that the Dynamic Synthesis Methodology was the best suitable for this project because of its clarity at data collection stage and its combinatorial advantage to employ both the case study technique and the power of simulation modeling. These two merits were not found in the other system dynamics approaches (Williams, 2002). A dynamic hypothesis was developed based on a model suggested by Boon (1995) and with the input from the data collected. This dynamic hypothesis showed the interrelationships between key variables in library book inventory management. It was then used to derive a causal loop diagram. A simulation tool was then developed to evaluate the impact of these variables on library book inventory management. Analysis of the impact of these variables was made and it was concluded that the combination of all the factors gave a proper picture of what decisions needed to be made in order to manage library book stocks with optimization.