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BIS Horizon Scanning toolkit screenshotThinking about what is coming over the horizon from ACRL’s ‘top ten trends in academic libraries’ report reminded me that one of the things I’ve been trying to do in the last couple of weeks is to try to articulate a framework for our horizon scanning activities.  Like many libraries we do a fair bit of horizon scanning.  These activities range from assessing reports such as the annual Horizon reports and the ACRL trends report, through planning exercises to look at what is coming over the horizon (and has to be avoided, taken advantage of, or countered) and through a number of less formal activities that contribute to understanding what might happen.

One of the things that became apparent was that there is a lot of informal horizon scanning that goes on, such as when people go off to seminars and conferences and report back on what they have learnt, so we started to think about how we can capture these activities into a sensible framework that made use of what we did.  Doing some research into what is around dug up the Horizon Scanning Centre toolkit, put together by Foresight part of the UK Government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

So the plan we’ve arrived at is to slightly adapt the HSC toolkit steps into a five step approach:

  • Scoping
  • Gather information
  • Spot signals and trends
  • Sense-making
  • Agree the response

The timescale for the framework would be to work backwards from when we need to have our plans in place for a new year.  That becomes the end date for step 5.  We then would start with getting key stakeholders to set the scope for the work.  The HSC toolkit uses a Seven Questions approach which may work for us.  We’d want to pull together feedback from events and specific horizon scanning reviews, possibly through the use of short abstracts.  Spend some time in group-based card sorting exercises to pull similar things together and set some priorities and work through a synthesis exercise to identify the key trends.  Exercises such as scenario building and visioning would then be used for the sense-making stage which would lead into our Unit planning activities.

From an initial review it looks like the toolkit might work for us but it will need  a bit of fine-tuning and testing to make sure it fits and works in practice.   But so far it looks like the toolkit offers a good approach and the website certainly contains a lot of useful information about tools and methodologies that will be helpful for us.

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July 2020

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