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Sell-off could fund library costs, says RIBA treasurer

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RIBA honorary treasurer Colin James has suggested selling off a small percentage of the institute's world-famous library and special collections to pay for the upkeep of the rest. James has had the collections valued at a staggering £350 million after making inquiries for insurance purposes.

'I don't believe that 100 per cent of any library is vital to that library or in line with its objectives, ' he told the AJ last week. 'Two or three per cent is peripheral, surely, and even two or three per cent of £350 million would be enough to turn it around.'

Theoretically the sell-off would raise around £7 million, although this of course depends upon just which pieces would go.

James is currently helping with an operational review of the institute's finances, in which he is asking each RIBA department to imagine it has had a 10 per cent budget cut, in order to establish priorities and look to make efficiencies. For the same reason he is also asking them to imagine a 20 per cent budget increase.

Also under way is a consultation period over a series of possible options concering the library and special collections after a £50,000 report by KPMG. Whichever solution is decided upon - they range from doing nothing to housing them in an entirely new building - James envisages that there will be no movement until 2002 at least. In the meantime, the institute is talking to professional fundraisers: 'We don't have to be the prime source of funding but there's no reason why we shouldn't be the prime partner.'

James added that the RIBA should double the £1 million or so it spends on the library each year - which would amount to 40 per cent of its total expenditure. But he cautioned that it is 'a project but not necessarily a building project', something which it was hard to get architects to come to terms with. 'We must not suddenly home in on a building solution, ' he said. 'That would be a disaster.'

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