Strategic Planning for Reference in a Team Environment: The Preferred Futuring Model

Article excerpt

In 2003, realignment of library services brought about formation of interdisciplinary teams and the coordination of University of Southern California (USC) libraries' core services. This article explores how the reference coordinators have used the "Preferred Futuring" planning process as a foundation for successful planning for reference services in this environment. A brief profile of reference services at USC is followed by an overview of the function and operation of Preferred Futuring and its application at USC. The article concludes with a summary of lessons learned in hosting preferred futuring workshops and with a checklist of planning and preparatory steps for conducting, a Preferred Futuring workshop.

**********

In July 2003, the University of Southern California (USC) Library

Resources and Services created a discipline-based team structure to accommodate USC's decentralized library system. Five core teams and interdisciplinary centers were identified: Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Science and Engineering, Undergraduate Learning, and Manuscripts, Archives, Rare Books and Languages (MARBL) Teams. Instruction coordinators, reference coordinators, and collection development coordinators were appointed to harmonize practice for core library services among interdisciplinary teams and to establish common service goals.

The primary purpose of this article is to explore how the two reference coordinators used the "Preferred Futuring" process as a foundation for successful planning for reference services in a team-based environment. Using feedback from Preferred Futuring workshops, reference coordinators were able to map out a strategic plan for achievement of the desired reference services' future through participation and input from the team members and other reference service providers.

The article begins by profiling the development of reference service at USC, which is followed by a description of Preferred Futuring's functions and operations. The article concludes by noting the accomplishments of the team-based planning process and identifying lessons learned from the case study. A checklist of planning and preparatory steps for conducting a Preferred Futuring workshop (figure 3) is also included.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING IN LIBRARIES

Strategic planning has quite a track record in the literature of business as well as in library and information science. Two books on library management and planning provide useful overviews on this planning model. Matthews' book, Strategic Planning and Management for Library Managers (2005), guides library managers towards a greater understanding of the role and attendant responsibilities of strategic planning while Hayes' book, Models for Library Management, Decision-Making, and Planning (2001), places strategic planning in the arena of social, ethical, and moral objective formulas or quantitative methods. (1)

The literature on team-based management in libraries is less extensive although the journal Library Administration & Management has regularly published articles on this topic since 1993. (2) The more extensive work on the subject of team-based management in business is Fogg's 1994 book which linked team-based management and strategic planning. (3)

During recent times of turbulent organizational change, library managers have increasingly focused on the relationships between the academic library and its environment and stakeholders. This recognition has led to the use of environmental scans of the community, the campus, and the faculty and students as part of the planning process. Strategic planning also allows the library organization to assess internal strengths and weaknesses in relation to its external environment. By including these dimensions in planning, leaders are better able to create a vision of where the library will go and how to get there. (4)

Although the focus on vision and environment may seem to be at odds with the rational and objective process of strategic planning, there are planning methods that permit visioning to describe how the organization plans to achieve its mission. …