March 2012 research Library issues: a QuarterLy report froM arL, cNi, aNd sparc
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BRinging ScenARio PLAnning Home To KU
Many of the scenario workshop participants subsequently served on the libraries’ strategic-planning
groups. As the Steering Committee began conducting an environmental scan with a detailed SWOT
analysis, the earlier scenario activities appeared to have both informed thinking and enhanced our
ability to de-personalize discussions about the future. Engagement with scenario-planning concepts
seemed to create a mindset regarding informed decision making as a tool for adaptive foresight. This,
in turn, allowed staff to consider how the future could be seen more clearly from our anchor within
present reality. The influence of the scenario project was demonstrated by the surprising connections that
emerged between the scenario workshop outcomes and KU Libraries’ new strategic goals that form the
foundation of the libraries’ five-year plan, which is currently under development.
The robust agenda that emerged from our first workshops included the following strategies:
• Become an agile organization able to rapidly adapt and change.
• Develop new and diverse funding models.
• Create a culture of collaboration and partnership for a broader audience.
• Rethink and realign resources, collections & infrastructure.
Two of the thematic goals from our developing strategic plan directly reflect these workshop
• Strengthen KU Libraries’ position as an agile, responsive organization capable of continual
improvement and change.
• Stabilize and grow existing funding sources, secure new funding opportunities, and enhance
Specific actions under the robust strategies are also reflected in the current strategic planning process.
The third scenario strategy, “Create a culture of collaboration and partnership for a broader audience,”
included activities focused on learning more about KU researchers and understanding their needs,
strengthening partnerships that support research in areas such as publishing and data management and
curation, and maximizing support for interdisciplinary research. All of these activities are finding their
way into our current strategic planning exercise as well as into our operational work at KU Libraries
We invested a considerable amount of time preparing for the scenario workshops to ensure a positive
outcome and that work was worthwhile. A majority of the participants rated the workshops as “excellent”
or “very good.” All participants responded that the balance between presentations by the workshop
leaders and group discussion and activities represented a good ratio.
Overall, most participants found the workshops were effective in helping them understand the
existing and future directions of KU Libraries. By shifting strategic thinking from a reactive to a proactive
stance, and from an internal to an external focus, we are better equipped to deal with a future driven by
regional, national, and world events beyond our control. As facilitators for the scenario workshops, we
feel the time that we invested in preparing and conducting these workshops was well spent and has been
instrumental in helping KU Libraries create its new strategic plan to meet the challenges ahead.