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Costing of options leads to new proposal for collections

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RIBA council

Consultants looking at the future of the riba library and special collections have now costed the three most favoured options plus a new, less expensive, plan. This has coincided with warnings about the hardening attitude of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the implications of long-term revenue funding requirements.

'We are facing the growing realisation,' said Clare Frankl, 'that as architects there is a terrible temptation to jump into building solutions. We are facing a quite unprecedented level of revenue demand to make any of these options work. It is much more difficult to raise revenue than capital.'

It is because of this that the consultants, kpmg and l&r Consulting, have investigated a sixth option which would have minimal costs. This would retain the British Architectural Library space allocation at Portland Place, and also provide functional warehouse accommodation to house the collections.

Honorary librarian James Thomas, referring to the forthcoming revised guidelines from the Heritage Lottery Fund, said, 'In the past the hlf has been enthusiastic about a grandish scheme. Recently it has been much more cautious. This is one of the reasons for the introduction of option 6.'

On the indicative costings, which the consultants stress are not feasibility studies, the additional revenue costs for option 6 are kept to a minimum by assuming 'minimal additional revenue costs to conserve the collections pending decision on nature of access'. In general the revenue costs include the need for nine extra staff to cover conservation, education and exhibitions. Running costs of buildings are worked out on a pro-rata basis with the existing Portland Place hq.

The report says, 'We recognise that the challenges faced by the bal in developing and maintaining the collections are no different to those facing many other libraries, but we question whether the riba has responded to these challenges as promptly as other bodies. The bal is currently mainly dependent on the riba for funding: the issue here is whether the riba is able to or wishes to provide the resources now required to manage and develop the collections, and to ensure their public accessibility.'

The consultants have completed their work. To consider the issues further, David Rock is setting up a Library Development Steering Group which he will chair, plus an advisory group and a management group chaired by the director general which will include a development manager and a fundraising specialist. Both will be new appointments.

Ruth Slavid

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