Boucher Futures Research Library

Wayne I. Boucher’s career included roles at the RAND Corporation, the Institute for the Future and The Futures Group, which he co-founded in 1971.

The Boucher Futures Research Library represents forty-five years of compilation and curation. The University of Oxford is grateful to Dr Angela Wilkinson for having acquired the collection, which is accompanied by a catalogue offering Boucher’s descriptive and critical annotations. The following is an edited version of the Preface to the catalogue, written by the author at the time of the sale of the collection in October 2008.

This catalogue reflects an attempt, spread over some forty-five years, to build a serious working library on futures research and related subjects. Though limited almost entirely to publications in the English language, the coverage of the main approaches, theories, methodologies, applications, and appraisals is unusually complete. This would seem to be true despite the fact that the coverage tends to peter out in more recent years, a result not only of a less vigorous acquisition effort on my part, but also of a truly striking decline in the output of works that are worth having because they contribute something substantially new and valuable to the field.

This is not to say, however, that the collection is balanced, in the sense that it provides a fair sampling of the entire futures literature: for instance, I have generally ignored publications intended to tell the reader what the future will or should be like. Most of this literature not only has a half-life of less than three months, but it also typically makes highly imperfect use of historical data, relies on a dubious methodology or fails to provide an adequate description of it, often is created with a special interest or special audience in mind, and, as sadly, pays only the slightest attention to the systematic development of alternative futures or rigorous policy analysis. Included, however, are noteworthy bestsellers in this genre, as well as publications on subjects that have been particular substantive interests of mine professionally from time to time, such as war and peace, financial services, governmental innovation, etc.

A special feature of this catalogue is the annotations. I have not annotated everything, and many of the annotations are descriptive rather than critical, but for the rest I have not hesitated to praise or damn without reservation. Most of these comments were written especially for this catalogue, but the rest were written over the years for a variety of other purposes, including off-the-record private communications. For old hands and newcomers alike, these comments, now on the record, will I hope prove valuable or at least stimulating.

Wayne I. Boucher
October 2008

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A hard copy of Boucher’s annotated catalogue, including the full Preface, is available for consultation in the Sainsbury Library. Please ask a member of library staff.