Assistant Executive Director
Association of Research Libraries
In 2010 the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) embarked on a scenario visioning project looking at the future environment for research. Based on input from leaders in the research library community, a set of four scenarios for 2030 were developed to answer the question, “How do we transform our organization(s) to create differential value for future users (individuals, institutions, and beyond), given the external dynamics redefining the research environment over the next 20 years?” Released in October, the “ARL 2030 Scenario Set” does not describe libraries, but rather the research environment in which research libraries will function. Because the scenarios function as a set to highlight critical uncertainties, i.e. unknowns, they are potentially useful to a wide range of service providers that seek to thrive by enabling research programs and researchers in an evolving research enterprise.
Scenario planning is widely used within industry and government but has been relatively rarely used in higher education settings. Scenario planning focuses on selecting the most critical uncertainties implicit in the focus question and exploring their implications. This engagement with the unknown makes it a powerful complement to more familiar strategies oriented to prediction that may over-emphasize assumptions and past trends. This session will briefly introduce basic concepts of scenario planning, describe the ARL project and the scenario creation process, provide an overview of the scenario set, and suggest several ways in which the scenario set could be used to enhance planning for research support.