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Elliott Shore Discusses ARL Strategic Thinking and Design in Europe, Canada, US

Elliott Shore

During the first three weeks of July, ARL executive director Elliott Shore travelled to Europe, Canada, and across the US to participate in five gatherings that focused on libraries, higher education, leadership, and innovation: the LIBER Conference, the Jisc-CNI Conference, the Breakthrough Models Academy, the ARL Leadership Fellows Institute, and the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Institutional Innovation. These events provided Shore with an opportunity to expand on the various initiatives informed by and resulting from ARL’s strategic thinking and design process.

Shore’s first stop, on July 3, was a panel discussion of “Research Libraries in the 2020 Information Landscape” at the 43rd Annual LIBER Conference in Riga, Latvia. He described the strategic thinking and design process as well as the provisional system of action and roles for ARL that are coming out of the process. He emphasized that this strategic approach is based on the belief that we create our own future. Shore also noted that the process found that we need to look externally—not just at the library sector—and we will not succeed unless we collaborate widely. He lauded LIBER’s strategic planning process for involving the European Union, governments, and universities.

Shore’s fellow panelists at LIBER included Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI); Ulf Göranson,chairman of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL); Klaus-Peter Böttger, president of the European Bureau of Library, Information, and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA); and Rachel Frick, director of the Digital Library Federation (DLF). A video of the panel discussion is available on LIBER’s YouTube channel.

One week later, on July 10, Shore spoke on a panel about “Infrastructure Requirements for Open Scholarship” at the 2014 Jisc-CNI Conference on “Opening Up Scholarly Communication” in Bristol, UK. He discussed the SHared Access Research Ecosystem (SHARE) initiative, which is one component of ARL’s provisional system of action. A collection of tweets about Shore’s presentation is available on SHARE’s Storify feed. Resources and slides from the presenters are available on the Jisc website. A report and video interviews from the conference will be available by early fall.

The following day, at a smaller Jisc-CNI gathering, Don Waters presented the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s activities in the area of scholarly monographs. During that discussion, participants explored how the Mellon Foundation and the ARL-Association of American Universities (AAU) Task Force on Scholarly Communication are looking at the same issue from closely aligned perspectives.

The week of July 14, the University of Toronto and its chief librarian Larry Alford hosted the second ARL Leadership Fellows Institute for the 2013–2015 fellows. Shore helped ARL’s Mark Puente and consultant DeEtta Jones facilitate the institute. Shore, with Alford, led a discussion on alternative metrics, “altmetrics,” which was based upon a paper written by Charles Henry of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). This conversation continued one that began at the Leadership Fellows Institute hosted by Vanderbilt University in fall 2013. At Vanderbilt, Henry spoke with the fellows about his ideas for new metrics for the work of research libraries. The fellows are considering what role they might want to play in developing such a system. Shore noted that newer forms of assessment will be needed to measure the outcomes of the proposed strategic thinking and design initiative. This continues a tradition that emerged in the previous cohort of fellows, who are now completing their work in the area of “centers of excellence,” a project developed by a group of fellows and funded by the Mellon Foundation.

On July 16, Shore delivered a presentation on the “Future of Libraries in Breakthrough Models” at the Breakthrough Models Academy (BMA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. BMA is a collaboration of EDUCAUSE, the League for Innovation in the Community College, and Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), funded in part by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The academy prepares current and emerging leaders in higher education to catalyze change by providing opportunities to challenge traditional thinking and to design next-generation learning models.

At BMA, Shore described ARL’s strategic thinking and design work and compared it to traditional strategic planning. He asked the participants to think about strategic planning they have experienced and list its best and worst aspects. The group discussed ways that ARL’s process avoided some of the pitfalls of strategic planning and kept the positive qualities. Participants applauded ARL’s process for engaging many voices and building on the best thinking that surfaced, rather than trying to reach consensus. The group noted that, unlike some strategic plans that can be “dead on arrival,” ARL’s strategic framework has real potential to be a living entity.

The next day and into the weekend, Shore participated in the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Institutional Innovation in Aspen, Colorado. The concept behind this roundtable stems largely from the work of John Hagel and John Seely Brown, co-chairs of the Deloitte Center for the Edge. This year’s topic was “Navigating Continual Disruption.” The roundtable participants included executives, innovators, and leaders from major organizations and businesses in fields such as sports, entertainment, health care, and government. Participants examined how organizations navigate their changing ecosystems during periods of disruption like the one we are currently experiencing. What are the essential elements for an organization to thrive during these periods? How is leadership different in this atmosphere? The participants were intrigued by ARL’s strategic thinking and design process as they think about disruption and innovation in their own industries. The Aspen Institute will publish a report on the roundtable discussions.

These gatherings of the past three weeks seem to demonstrate that ARL’s strategic thinking and design work resonates not only in the academy in the US and Canada but in government, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors of the economy and in Europe as well.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.