March 2012 research Library issues: a QuarterLy report froM arL, cNi, aNd sparc
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THe ARL BALAnced ScoRecARd iniTiATive meeTS THe ARL 2030 ScenARioS
Valuable feedback on the library’s existing strategic plan was received and used to modify the slate of
initiatives for 2011–12. Exploring the widely different views of the future portrayed in the ARL scenario
set put a new lens on the library’s existing slate of strategic initiatives (e.g., digitization, marketing,
assessment, and training plans). The activity put other initiatives into a larger perspective and, as a result,
they were downgraded to operational projects and removed from the strategic plan. In addition, the
exercise prompted suggestions for new initiatives, one of which was incorporated into the strategic plan.
The new initiative, Good Ideas Incubator, hopes to capture staff ideas about new services, productivity,
cost-savings measures, or revenue generation with a process for review and implementation.
The McMaster University Library intends to conduct a larger-scale scenarios exercise as part of its next
strategic plan cycle. The library’s current plan is scheduled to expire in 2013.
Johns Hopkins: Using the ARL Scenarios to Enhance the Planning
At Johns Hopkins, the Sheridan Libraries have gone through three cycles of strategic planning using the
balanced scorecard. Through each cycle, changes were made trying to maintain focus on what is strategic
versus what is tactical. The number of objectives and initiatives were reduced to a more manageable
number for the size of the organization. However, we felt that the types of objectives and initiatives
that we developed were still often more of the same old thing. After participating in the ARL scenarios
workshop in March 2011, we returned to the library with a renewed enthusiasm and tools for helping our
colleagues think more creatively and strategically.
With the support of Dean Winston Tabb, in September 2011 we ran our Strategic Planning Steering
Committee (SPSC) through the “early indicators” exercise, followed by a deep-dive that submitted three
of our BSC objectives to the rigors of each of the scenarios. The objectives were fairly broad:
• Provide and sustain the content, services, and spaces required by patrons.
• Provide responsive, effective, and integrated instructional services.
• Improve financial and IT infrastructure.
The deep-dive resulted in two robust strategies: customization and ubiquitous access. These worked
across all three of the objectives. Content, services, spaces; instruction; and IT access should all have some
level of customization to meet users’ needs, and access to whatever we provide—instruction sessions,
content, IT services—should be location agnostic.
We followed up with an all-staff scenarios exercise, which provided us with staff-driven input into
the strategic agenda. We asked staff to do two exercises: (1) an early-indicator exercise where staff had to
find examples of the scenarios playing out already and (2) a deep-dive into one of our current strategic
objectives where staff had to determine the possible implications across each of the scenarios of one of
our current objectives. Like the SPSC, staff identified a need for “boutique services,” and added another
robust strategy: flexibility.
The robust strategies identified through the scenarios—customization, ubiquitous access, and
flexibility—are reflected in portions of our current strategic plan, most notably an initiative that focuses