Libraries of the future: Developing new strategies

Using the scenarios

The steps involved are:

  • Decide on the approach and select the scenarios.
  • Do the strategic planning.

Once a strategy has been developed, the institution should establish, continually monitor and review early indicators that suggest which scenario might occur and then adapting the strategy as necessary.

Approach and scenario selection

Approach and scenario selection

The scenarios provide a framework for discussing the desired future for the library or the sector. There are two main approaches to using scenarios as part of formal strategic planning - aligning the strategy to a favoured scenario, or aligning the strategy to common elements in all the scenarios:

  • Align the strategic plan to one scenario. Identify a preferred scenario for the institution and use it as a ‘planning focus’. The preferred scenario may be the one judged to be most probable (eg early indicators might suggest that a specific scenario would be most likely to occur), or the most desirable (if the organisation is in a position to create the necessary conditions for the desired scenario in their sector).
  • Align the plan to the common elements across two or more scenarios, and aim for the development of a resilient strategy that can deal with wide variations in business conditions. This is the most demanding approach as it requires careful evaluation of the different elements of the strategy against differing assumptions about the future.

Having decided on the approach, the next step is to review the LotF scenarios to be used and decide if:

  • either the LotF scenario(s) to be used is/are appropriate for the institution/sector; or
  • the LotF scenarios are not entirely appropriate and then generate modified or replacement scenario(s) that reflect the needs of the institution and/or library and/or sector.

The LotF scenarios are deliberately aimed at the sector level and so it is unlikely that any one institution would be in a position to create the necessary conditions to ensure that the scenario occurs. This does not preclude development of alternative scenarios for which this would be the case.

An approach to strategic planning is described here.           


Strategic planning

Using the scenario(s) for strategic planning against the LotF scenarios has the following steps at either sector or institution level:

  1. Identify and understand the specific problem and context that you are trying to address (eg develop a strategic plan for a library within an HE institution or for a sectoral component).
  2. Consider what the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for the strategy might be. These provide a clear focus for strategy development and are the small number of areas of strategic concern that must be resolved by application of the strategy. The CSFs will depend on the problem and context. Examples of CSFs include a strategy for content and space or a strategy for librarianship.
  3. Develop and maintain an understanding of the overall institutional strategy; this includes establishing close working relationships with managers responsible for institutional strategy and funding (eg Vice Chancellor (VC), Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) for Research, PVC Teaching and Learning, and Director of Estates) identify and understand users’ needs for library services to be provided, including space for research, and teaching and learning, information literacy etc.
  4. Understand and assess the specific scenario(s) by reading them through and discussing them with others.
  5. Identify and understand users’ needs for library services to be provided, including space for research, and teaching and learning, information literacy etc.
  6. Articulate the vision; the intention here is to provide a framework of guiding strategic principles for your institution or sector for development of the strategy.
  7. For each scenario identify the strategic objectives that you consider you need to achieve; these must align with the general sense of the scenario and the vision.
  8. For each scenario identify specific questions you will need to address within the scenario for your institution. This helps with the next step of defining options that are designed to suit your institution and in getting inside the scenarios. A basic list of questions would have content services, other library services and librarian skills and staffing as headings. The how to use the scenarios guide contains a starter set of such issues.
  9. For each scenario and strategic objective develop implementation options and assess them, thus creating an action plan setting out the key steps and decisions that would deliver the strategic objective.
  10. Review the strategic options and action plans for each scenario and consider the common elements and the differences. Use triageto determine common elements to form the basis of a strategic plan that can deal with wide variations in business conditions.
  11. Refine and document the strategic plan. You will need to consider the underlying business case as part of justifying the strategy.
  12. Identify early indicators (these are headlines now or soon that would suggest one scenario rather than another) and monitor for any occurrences of them.
  13. As you go through the above steps document assumptions you consider that you need to make; these might concern, for example, interpretations of elements of the scenario or the ethos of your organisation or sector.
  14. Get buy-in from stakeholders by presenting and discussing the strategy, and revising as necessary.
  15. Publish the strategy.
  16. Monitor early indicators and review and adjust the strategic plan as necessary.