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First step towards 'sister trust' for special collections . . .

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riba council

The special collections of the British Architectural Library came one step closer to moving out of direct control of the riba when council approved in principle 'but without any final commitment at this stage' the creation of a sister trust to own and care for the collection. This follows advice from the consultant fund-raisers to the riba that the sister trust would give the special collection a stronger identity, would be more attractive to potential donors and would offer potential for greater partnership with other organisations.

Claire Frankl, honorary secretary of the riba, said, 'We are not gifting away the family silver. We are carrying out our responsibilities by putting a trust in a position where it can be looked after properly.'

And Rod Hackney, the riba's new honorary librarian, warned that the decision to go to a sister trust was just the beginning. In order to finance and support the collection 'We must look at the brand. We will upset the purists. We will market certain things on the Internet. We will make money from them, just like the Louvre does. The collection will have edges that are very commercial.'

John Bartlett argued that the riba should retain a 'golden share' to ensure that riba members continued to have free access to the collection. And Alan Cunningham reminded council that the recent debate organised by the Camden Society of Architects showed that there was great concern that the collection should remain as a single entity. He suggested that the whole of the library as well as the special collections should be handed over to the sister trust.

. . . as council slams unclear aims of 'sister' fundraisers . . .

Fundraisers by appointment to the riba were criticised for not giving a clear idea of how much they might raise for the institute's proposed £150,000 investment.

Roger Zogolovitch mounted the charge after a presentation by Iain More Consultants, the firm giving advice on pulling in cash for a sister trust for handling the special collections.

More said that the firm had only made a short series of phone calls to key opinion-formers to arrive at a view of how the riba was perceived and to a small number of donors to see the scale of gift they might consider. It was not possible to put a figure in the report, but More advised that ordinarily fundraisers had to spend 10-12 per cent of their target on raising money, including the recruitment of a chief executive, meaning that around £15 million could be reasonably expected. But until 10-15 more interviews were conducted, More said an assessment of potential returns could not be made.

More criticised the institute over its past donors: 'Even with the Round House those who pledged money could have been looked after better,' he said.

. . . calls for more pairing to alter perceptions . . .

Council expressed concern at the low level of pairing with Members of Parliament, despite advances being made on the all-party group on Architecture and Planning set up by Lord Hankey. Rock said the institute was 'nothing like as good' on links with the government as 10 years ago. It was thought that it had suffered from a lack of key policy issues to push for. Chris Palmer said he hoped the pairing numbers would increase up to 650 from the 'rather dismal 150 at the moment'.

. . . and approves principle of policy-management board

Council has approved in principle sweeping changes to its board structure proposed by David Rock. A new policy-management board will replace the existing board structure with four boards (policy studies, resource planning and finance, services, and membership and international affairs), plus two strategy groups on education and practice. All of these report to council through the policy-management board, except the resource planning and finance board, which has a more direct link to council.

By agreeing these changes in principle, council has allowed these new boards to start operating but, said director-general Alex Reid, 'everything is subject to review in October [the next council meeting]'. At that stage council may deal with some of the issues raised during discussion: the low numbers of women on the boards, the fact that only 13 elected council members will be on the boards, concern about the way board members are selected, and their accountability to members.

Reid said that the changes would 'improve the ability of council to steer the organisation' and would allow the organisation to look much more clearly at 'where we should be going in one, two or three years'.

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