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Association of Research Libraries (ARL®)

  Transforming Research Libraries Contact:
Judy Ruttenberg
Planning and Visioning
Envisioning Research Library Futures: A Scenario Thinking Project

Background on Scenarios Thinking

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Background on ARL Scenarios Thinking Project

In March 2010, the Association of Research Libraries engaged a consultant, Susan Stickley (Stratus Inc.), to work with ARL staff to produce the project outcomes and to engage ARL member directors in the scenario and toolkit development processes, under the leadership of the Transforming Research Libraries (TRL) program.

In April and May of 2010, the consultant and ARL conducted interviews, focus groups, and a survey of ARL members and external thinkers, or “provocateurs,” on the future of research libraries and the strategic challenges they face. These provocateurs are familiar with the scenario development process and work in fields outside the library community. For biographical information on the four provocateurs, please visit

The questions posed were designed to draw out key strategic questions on the minds of decision makers, perspectives on future success and failure, dynamics and forces external to research libraries and the institutions in which they reside, and perspectives on the distinctiveness of research libraries in the marketplace or research, information, and higher education.

The findings were summarized into a report that includes a draft strategic focus, which captures the scope of thinking of the ARL membership that participated in this effort. The report can be found at This draft strategic focus was used as an anchor from which to generate the scenario sets. More information can be found at

The time horizon for the scenario exercise will be 20 years or from today out to 2030, a generation into the future. The time horizon defines the end state of the scenarios. The ARL 2030 scenarios will allow members the opportunity to suspend disbelief and stretch beyond conventional wisdom. Although the scenarios are far into the future, the planning that each member organization will conduct using the scenarios will be for the next 1 to 5 years of time.

This process will be explained in the Scenario Planning Tool Kit, which will be developed later this year to be used by ARL members. The project deliverables will be completed in 2010. The white paper and tool kit will be made openly accessible through the ARL Web site after the October 2010 ARL Membership Meeting.

Additional Scenarios Thinking Projects

If you would like to learn more about scenario thinking, please consider visiting the following links: