The Future of Public Libraries

In case anyone is interested in the process for this scenario-planning project it is roughly as below. By the way I am not doing this alone. Far from it. Oliver Freeman at NFA is Head of Process (I’m Head of Content apparently) and Cameron M, Ellen F and Leanne P are guiding the rest of the core scenarios team. I will name check everyone in due course.

The process (snack-sized version):

Stage One:  Questions

Identifying the set of key framing questions most relevant to the overall achievement of the organisational purpose (as the key focus for this strategic enquiry).

Contextualising in an Issues Report the range of ideas, which will together drive the creation of the Framing Questions for the Scenario Building activity. The main purpose of this initial stage is to frame in precise terms the burning issues and concerns faced by the Library Network and in defining the overarching Framing Question to guide and focus the strategic enquiry.

Stage Two: Environments

Identifying and assessing the major trends, critical uncertainties and predetermined elements whose combinations are shaping future environments using expert-based, trend-based and foresight methodologies.

This stage requires a comprehensive review of the Network’s external environments. Conceptually, it is useful to see any organisation or community as an integrated set of components that are embedded within and separate from an environment of many dynamic factors (natural, social, political, economic, cultural and technological) whose inter-relationships are complex and will create emergent futures.

Stage Three: Scenarios

Creating a set of differentiated scenario worlds in order to identify new opportunities and unforeseen risks associated with these future environments. Part of the set will be a preferred future, which will be built as a consequence of the enquiry launched by Stage 1.

Scenarios provide a framework to develop and evaluate organisational strategies. Scenarios are possible views of the world, providing a context in which executives can make decisions. By seeing a range of possible worlds, decisions will be better informed and a strategy based on this knowledge and insight will be more likely to succeed. The purpose of building scenarios is not to get the future right, as it were, but to stimulate reflection and debate on how strategically to shape the future together.

2 thoughts on “The Future of Public Libraries

  1. BTW, any views out there on e-books? Will they or won’t they? (I think the answer is probably yes but how, where and when?).

    The other big issue is funding. Is funding really a key issue? In a sense it is ‘certain’ that funding is uncertain so can it therefore be a driver for the creation of future scenarios? Can funding ever in fact go up?

  2. Funding: This is perhaps THE key issue right now. However, in California, libraries survived the passage of Proposition 13, which decimated their funding back in the 1978. They survived and have adapted to the available funding. I am not sure that funding will keep libraries from meeting the future. They might not be able to do as much, but they will try.

    E-books: The adoption rate has been slow. It has more to do with the technology. If libraries are able to purchase/lend devices such as the Kindle, that will change the picture. People don’t want to be tied down to reading e-books on their pc’s or laptops; they want portability. That portability has been difficult to get from the ebook vendors supplying libraries.

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