Foresight Project

Future scenarios for science, research and technology and their impact on scientific libraries

In her Foresight project, Nivetha Kanakaraj investigated possible visions and scenarios for future scientific libraries. In order to do so, she identified potential long-term developments in  science, technology, economy and society. Based on these she derived key trends with strong impact on scientific information providers within the next 15-20 years.

Currently libraries are undergoing a transformation in terms of both their social infrastructure and the diversification of the programs and opportunities they offer. They are also playing a changing role in providing open workspaces and innovative resources for educational and corporate environments. However not all libraries are having the resources and capabilities needed for identifying  and addressing necessary changes. For this reason, a joint community effort is needed to identify and understand  the primary developments shaping the future of scientific libraries and their implications  for successful library and operations design in the decades to come.

The Foresight study involved two main objectives. First, to navigate the vast number of ideas about the future and identify those most relevant to scientific libraries. And secondly, to analyse how scientific libraries can adapt their traditional service offerings to meet the needs of science and society in times of continuous technological innovation and social change.

Futures Cone (Image credit: Warren Walker, adapted from Voros (2003, 2017), which was based on Hancock and Bezold (1994) )

To assess the many different future scenarios for libraries, the study implemented a Strategic Foresight approach. This framework provides various quantitative and qualitative methodologies for both identifying and analysing upcoming external changes, and is then relating them to internal capabilities. The overall aim is to proactively shaping and working towards a desired potential future scenario of being progressively better prepared for the complex challenges of the future (more info on our blog).

Facets of global megatrends that will be relevant for libraries of the future (image credit: N. Kanakaraj)

Out of several identified global trends that are likely to impact libraries in the next two decades, the challenges related to the competition for talent were seen as one of the key concerns. Focusing on this, the foresight study found several strategies for how libraries could counteract the effects of the “global war for talent” to attract, retain and foster a productive talent pool.

Project Duration

1. July 2019 – 30. November 2019

Project Owners

Bala Nivetha Kanakaraj

Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras


ETH Zürich ETH Zurich

Strategic Development Group

Methodological support related to strategic foresight

Mentoring ETH Library Lab Nadja Mueller Qualitative Market Research

Nadja Müller Schmid

Mentoring on moderation techniques and workshop facilitation

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