SERVING THE ARTS: ARLIS/ANZ 1975-2025
ARLIS/ANZ is operating in a world of changing contexts
and falling membership. In 2004, as ARLIS/ANZ chair, I began a business plan
to explore the following questions:
What are the main drivers of the society?
Who are the current members and what are their interests?
What are the prospects for increased membership?
What are the options for developing the society in 2005 and beyond?
It was prompted by a lengthy personal association with
ARLIS/ANZ and a number of other associations, big and small. It responds to
unresolved curiosity about their relevance to the industries they serve. And,
above all, it springs from a conviction that ARLIS/ANZ, like other
associations, needs a business plan to guide its future.
What’s a business plan and why is it important? Most
of you will be familiar with the basic structure. The following illustration,
modified from Rebecca Jones’ Business Plans: Roadmaps for Growth & Success
(Information Outlook Dec 2000), is one view of the components.
In my experience, associations tend to jump straight
from purpose to strategy without exploring the marketplace and cultural
landscape in sufficient detail. As Aspesi and Vardhan note in Brilliant
Strategy, But Can You Execute It? they “miss the opportunity to make an
informed choice between a second best strategy that they can execute well and
an ideal strategy that may demand capabilities they simply do not have.”
Decisions are usually based on intuition rather than hard data.
The lack of a business plan or a poor business plan are
considered to be the main causes of business failure. There is a growing
acceptance of business planning as an important tool for libraries and their
associations. Price and Smith’s Managing Cultural Assets from a Business
Perspective and Zorich’s A Survey of Digital Cultural Heritage
Initiatives and Their Sustainability Concerns for the Council on
Library and Information Resources are indicative of this trend.
“Contrary to popular belief, business plans,” Rebecca Jones says, “are
not just for entrepreneurial or start-up ventures…In today’s competitive
environment, a documented business plan is critical for information
enterprises of any size and in any sector to clarify their distinctive
position, market, strategies, offerings and operating capabilities.”
The ARLIS/ANZ business plan
A business plan calls on someone to assemble facts and
opinions through literature searches, market research, internal surveys and
conversations. Then, after all the stakeholders are on the same page, further
consultations are held to consider options and finalise recommendations.
I’m still on the first step. The business plan is well
advanced. Some sections of the draft business plan were distributed via
arlisanz-l. I had expected the draft to be finished by this conference, but
unfortunately work commitments intervened. Finalising it will depend on the
views of the next executive and the commitment of others to the process.
I’ve subtitled this paper ARLIS/ANZ 1975-2025. I
don’t believe it is possible to plan too far ahead, particularly in an
organisation that relies almost entirely on voluntary effort, but in drawing
up plans for the immediate future, I believe it is desirable to do so with a
peripheral longer term perspective – to be aware of blue hills in the distance
while drawing scrub in the foreground.
My views on driving forces have been influenced by a
short paper ARLIS/ANZ & the Australian Visual Arts Information Project,
submissions to the Senate Inquiry on the Role of Libraries in the Online
Environment, and recent articles written for Online Currents. These, in
turn, have drawn on major reports that have been published in recent years in
Europe, the United States and Australia, among other sources. Rather than dwell
on them in this paper, I’ll simply highlight what I think are some obvious
Creative industries and arts sector needs. These revolve
around organisational configurations in public and private sectors. They
include, for example, policy, educational, training and programming needs, as
well as the need for information resources unrelated to the arts. School
education is touted as a commercial opportunity as well as a social obligation
Information management trends. Approaches for handling
information are being affected by the expanding quantity and variety of
information, and its availability in smaller chunks and easier pathways. Roles
and facilities are converging. Life cycle management of information is a key
concept. Changing user demands are producing a need for enhanced delivery
systems. Users have specialised requirements in particular domains such as the
arts. Public and private partnerships are in many instances a necessity.
Association management challenges. Mark Lyons, in
Sector: the Contribution of Nonprofit and Cooperative Enterprises in
Australia, says there are signs that the third sector is facing a period
of transformation and decline. Professional associations that rely on
volunteers are finding it harder to recruit especially from among working
members. The difficulty of inadequate resources and working long hours for
little return sometimes turns idealism to cynicism. The challenges, he says,
are leadership, balancing business and democratic needs, managing
organisational capacity, developing closer links with business, acting in a
concerted fashion, encouraging growth, and finding the right mix of local and
Libraries, archives and museums organise themselves
around affiliated groupings characterised by different levels of energy and
effectiveness. They include
low impact groups, operating without funds and driven by
interests in networking and learning - such as communities of practice.
groups with more clout, operating with some funds and
representing personal and institutional interests - such as some associations,
coalitions and peak bodies.
organisations that make a real impact, operating with pooled
money to advance institutional interests – such as resource discovering
networks, consortia, portals, projects, third party organisations (eg SCRAN,
the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network) and public/private
partnerships (eg EEBO, Early English Books Online EBO, involving a partnership
of ProQuest and university libraries).
Groups representing libraries, archives and museums
frequently depend on government and academic policy and funding bodies such as
the Joint Information Systems Committee, Museums, Libraries and Archives
Council, Institute of Museum and Library Services and local equivalents.
ARLIS/ANZ HISTORY & PERFORMANCE
The Arts Libraries Society Australia and New Zealand (ARLIS/ANZ)
is part of an international network that emerged in the late 1960s. If you
accept the sigmoidal nature of civilisations, countries, organisations,
products and relationships, ARLIS/ANZ has experienced three phases:
Feet finding: 1975-1980
The Australian body was established as the Art
Libraries Society / Australia and New Zealand under Joyce McGrath’s leadership
on 5 December 1975. After early experimentation that is typical of
organisations in their infancy, it grew fairly rapidly from an initial
membership of 15 to around 66 members within the next five years.
In 1980, ARLIS/ANZ merged with the Sydney-based Museums
Arts and Humanities Group (MAHG), which had been influenced in some respects
by the Museums Arts and Humanities Division of the US-based Special Libraries
Association. The Art Libraries Society became the Arts Libraries
MAHG, with the participation of ARLIS/ANZ, had
organised the 1977 national seminar of arts information in Australia, held in
conjunction with the Library of Association of Australia Conference in Hobart.
Papers were presented on the Australian performing arts and visual arts
resources, based on nationwide surveys that had taken place beforehand.
Following the pioneering efforts of Melbourne and
Sydney executive committees and after a year of uncertainty in 1981, the baton
passed to a new executive committee in New Zealand.
In its hands, ARLIS/ANZ News No 11 marked the
beginning of a new phase – a noticeable improvement in the quality of ARLIS/ANZ
News and continued growth in membership – encouraged further by succeeding
executive committees in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and regular
conferences in all Australian states and territories and in New Zealand. By
1999, membership had risen to 155.
The journal, conferences and occasional seminars on art
library practice were complemented by other significant outputs in the form of
directories, indexes and databases, usually published by member institutions
and other organisations rather than by ARLIS/ANZ, but all hinging on the
initiative of individual members. These include AustArt, Ariadne, Artex
and Australian Art Index, among others. A Directory of Arts
Libraries and Resources Collections, spawned by the earlier national
seminar and finally published by the Australia Council in 1983, reflected the
society’s early embrace of all art forms.
Acting on the absence of a library-oriented visual arts
gateway, ARLIS/ANZ, in partnership with the College of Fine Arts Library
(University of NSW) and the National Library of Australia, recently initiated
a project to review the management of visual arts information resources in
Australia. The New Zealand chapter undertook a survey of New Zealand visual
arts indexes this year.
Given its voluntary status, it has performed well. It
has a presence in each state, territory and island. It has presented regular
conferences. It has published nearly sixty issues of the journal and its
forerunners. It maintains a website and an e-list. It has attached its name to
directories, databases and other endeavours.
But, like many other associations, particularly in the
information game, it has recently experienced a period of uncertainty. There
has been a significant decline in membership since 1999. The next sigmoid
curve has already begun.
CURRENT MEMBERS & PROSPECTS FOR GROWTH
In 2003, the society had 109 members or subscriptions,
including 7 international memberships. In 2004, this has bounced back to 124
memberships/subscriptions, including 116 local memberships. When duplicate
institutional memberships and affiliations are deleted, ARLIS/ANZ represents
about 70-80 local institutions.
Tables exploring the current membership and analysing
prospects for growth have been incorporated in the business plan. Further work
is required to fill in blank spaces. In this paper I simply want to highlight
issues and pose some questions.
Although the society is called the Arts Libraries
Society, interest in the arts as a whole is minimal. Its focus has been on the
visual arts, particularly fine arts, rather than other areas of the visual
arts, such as architecture and crafts. It has members with interests in film,
television, radio, the performing arts and music, but such interests are
normally pursued more earnestly through memberships of other dedicated
Membership is represented by the following employer
Universities & training institutions
39% of the membership (48 members, including 27
university and 21 training institutions).
Public galleries & museums
23% (29, including 19 galleries and 10 museums).
18% (22 members, including national and state
Other local memberships
14% (17 members, including government agencies,
private organisations and unknown affiliations.
International subscriptions & exchanges
6% (8 subscriptions).
Librarianship is the dominant information discipline.
In fact there are no members from other disciplines. It is, after all, the
Arts Library Society. However, ARLIS/ANZ members are now assuming
roles in other disciplines such as records and content management. And people
from kindred disciplines have recently attended events in NSW, suggesting a
potential for wider participation in the activities of the society and
possible membership conversions.
Membership in regions generally echoes the size of the
population and cultural infrastructure in particular places, although there
are some anomalies.
New South Wales, with the largest population, has the
largest number of members (30), although its increase from 23 members in 2003
can be attributed, perhaps, to factors other than the size of the population.
Such factors include the presentation of a different style of event, with
significantly increased attendances, distribution of journals to prospective
members, and relationships forged through activities like the Australian
Visual Arts Information Project.
In 2004, there were also membership increases in
Queensland and New Zealand. Most other states were steady. Victoria, the
second most populous state and the birth place of ARLIS/ANZ, has only 13
members, and has experienced a period of relative inactivity. This underlines
the importance of particular people as catalysts.
Needs, interests, trends
The society has never conducted a comprehensive audit
of member needs and interests – apart from surveys of institutional
information resources. Assumptions can be drawn, however, from surveys
undertaken by other associations, such as the NSW Branch of Museums Australia,
ALIA Information Specialists Group, and the Special Libraries Association of
Australia’s Museums Arts & Humanities Division, an organisation similar to
ARLISANZ in size and intent.
These suggest that a large proportion of members will
place a value on exposure to information on specialist issues, opportunities
for professional networking and regular conferences. They are likely to
express concerns about a lack of chapter activity, poor communication, and the
need for better promotion or marketing.
The advanced age of many in the association, with some
on the verge of retirement, may be a good thing or a bad thing. At least one
retired librarian has made a significant contribution to the affairs of the
society during the past decade. While it is highly desirable that we harness
the potential of ageing members, it is probably more important that those who
replace retired librarians in the workplace to become the replacement
Defining needs must take into account the views and
interests of those who may be tempted to join the society as well as those of
current members. Participation can be expressed in a number of ways and does
not necessarily need to lead to membership conversions. Attendance at a
chapter event and a conference, or a subscription to the e-list, are
attractions that may draw wider participation and contribute to the society’s
Prospects for growth
Some preliminary research on prospects has been
undertaken and more needs to be done. The following are among sources
earmarked for data mining: the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian
Libraries: The Essential Directory (ALED), Australian Libraries Gateway,
Australian Culture and Recreation Portal, Australia Council, Register of
Australian Archives & Manuscripts, and Telstra Yellow Pages. Questions are
prompted from a cursory review of some of this material. Here’s a few of them:
Crafts. ALED lists 16 organisations and libraries. Why
aren’t they all members of ARLIS/ANZ?
Architecture. The Telstra Yellow Pages lists 4712
architects. ALED lists 43 companies/libraries. Why don’t we have stronger
interest from this sector?
Commercial schools of art. The Telstra Yellow Pages lists
294 organisations. Billy Blue, which has a small library with holdings not
represented on Kinetica, has just become a member. Although substantial
increased membership by commercial schools is unlikely, are there other Billy
ARLIS/ANZ is an international non-profit unincorporated
association, which derives most of its income from member fees and depends
largely on voluntary effort.
Factors that affect its capacity to pursue its
objectives become clear when you trawl past issues of the journal and converse
with members. They include uncertainties about the scope of the association,
communication frustrations, difficulties in recruiting office-bearers,
office-bearers who are subject to workplace pressures and burn-out, the
ongoing struggle of generating content for publications, a small and ageing
membership, and limited funds. These factors are common to many voluntary and
New governance standards, business guidelines,
legislation and tax regimes have emerged in recent times. What are they and
how do they affect the society’s operations?
How do we ensure an easier transfer of knowledge and
experience to succeeding executive committees? Are there inexpensive systems
we can use to minimise inefficiencies in information handling – systems that
produce less fragmentation, less duplication of effort, less troublesome
information transfer, and more meaningful, readily available information about
Is a professional association a dying concept anyway
and, if so, what are the alternatives?
These questions and some others are explored, and
preliminary recommendations made, in the draft business plan under the
following headings. In this paper, I’ll pick a few:
Finance & Insurance
Records & archives
Conference & other
Special Projects (eg
According to the Australian Tax Office, organisations
are non-profit organisations when their constituent or governing documents
prevent them from distributing profits or assets for the benefits of
particular persons. These documents should contain acceptable clauses to
indicate non-profit character. Non-profit organisations may be eligible for
Associations may operate as incorporated or
unincorporated bodies, as governed by laws applicable to different
jurisdictions – such as the NSW Associations Incorporation Act. Members of
unincorporated bodies face the possibility of being sued as individuals.
Incorporation creates a legal entity that is separate from the individual
members. It provides a certain amount of limited liability for members, as
long as they follow accepted business and community standards. Incorporation
My view is that, given the size of ARLIS/ANZ, its
limited objectives and the low risks associated with its activities, it is
doubtful, at this stage, that incorporation would bring benefits. But it is
something the association’s next executive may want to consider in more
ARLISANZ has about $27,000 in the bank, not including
amounts in chapter accounts. It derives its income mainly from membership
subscriptions, which are modest compared with some other associations, but are
comparable with annual fees charged by some other arts-related bodies such as
the National Association for the Visual Arts. Thirty per cent of membership
fees are distributed to chapters on a pro rata basis.
society became a GST free organisation from 1 January 2004.
Issues canvassed in the business
plan include the need for three-year budgets targeting key strategic needs,
the need to consolidate scattered funds, the use of funds to minimise the
effort on association hack work, the need to review membership fees against
the pace of inflation over the past 20 years, the need to check insurance
requirements, and the desirability of exploring other revenue sources.
The ARLISANZ executive and committee consists of five
to six office-bearers, who may hold office for a period of two to four years.
In 2002-2004, we used the co-opt clause in the constitution to involve chapter
chairs into decision making processes. Issues considered in the business plan
include the following:
ensuring the value of office-bearer
participation is retained for as long as possible. As observed in an arlisanz-l
discussion in October 2000, some members of the executive hit their straps as
the time arrives for them to move on. Some associations have encouraged role
longevity to build committee effectiveness. Some associations compensate for
turnover by extending office-bearer contributions and stretching committee
roles in the form of a past president, current president, president-elect,
several vice-presidents and other suitable designations.
Turnover. On the other hand, there is a need to rotate
office-bearers to avoid cliques, represent all interests, encourage wide
participation and promote fresh thinking. Continued use of office-bearer
timeframes are therefore desirable.
Participation. The society has a limited number of roles
compared with some other associations. Consider, for example, the number of
roles available in the much larger ARLIS/NA and the Music Libraries
Association. Two committees were established in response to issues raised at
the Visual Arts Information Project forum. Extra roles for those who want to
be involved will, at least in theory, provide opportunities for wider
Processes. During the past two years, the Australasian
committee has ‘met’ electronically every six months, mainly in the form of a
report encouraging discussion and feedback on particular issues. New groupware
technology offers possibilities for virtual organisations to overcome the
limitations of email, but there is probably little need, at this stage, for
the society to explore such options.
Chapters & special interest groups. ARLIS/ANZ has
chapters in each Australian state and territory and New Zealand. The vitality
of each chapter has been dependent on the size of the population, the number
of arts-related libraries and, especially, the commitment of individuals. It
is important for succeeding executive committees to ensure these posts are
Secretariat & membership management
As a purely voluntary association without paid staff,
is it desirable to contract someone to carry out some of the society’s
activities in order to free office-bearers from the humdrum activities?
This is not an entirely new suggestion. In 2003-2004,
we outsourced work on the website and its ongoing development. If it was
acceptable for the website, why not the journal and why not membership
Based on my experience in other associations that
employ part-time membership officers or outsource membership services to
specialist companies, there is an income threshold that we have not reached.
However it may be worth considering hosted services, involving management of
the website and related association business.
Conferences and chapter meetings
The main events, apart from chapter meetings, are the
regular conferences, which are presented every one to two years. These began
in 1977 and have sometimes been presented jointly with other bodies such as
the Australian Library and Information Association and the Art Association of
A senator in the recent Inquiry on Libraries in the
Online Environment postulated that library associations don’t make effective
use of their conferences. Although they usually don’t have much control over
the cultural enterprises they represent, there would appear to be some scope
for more effective use of conferences to address macro issues - to use them as
strategic mechanisms and not just as opportunities for networking and
listening to papers.
State events are important for generating interest and
clarifying professional issues. How can they be made more vital in some
regions? How can their deliberations be turned into useful information for the
rest of the society?
Relationships & Partnerships
ARLIS/ANZ has been cautious about relationships with
other professional groups. Although conferences in the early days were held in
conjunction with ALIA and Art Association of Australia conferences, proposals
to form affiliations with umbrella organisations such as IFLA, ALIA and the
Council of Australian Museums Association (CAMA) have been deferred or
rejected. Suggestions to merge or develop more effective collaboration with
kindred groups have not been adopted – although conferences have sometimes
included presentations on performing arts and music information resources.
Arts libraries, museums and archives are now
represented in Australia and New Zealand by a wider range of specialist
library, archive and museum bodies, scholarly networks, government bodies and
subject gateways than there were in 1975. The consequences of being too small
and too many, the barriers to growth and expansion, and the advantages of
collaboration are touched on by Wendy Foster in When Size Matters.
Approaches by overseas bodies, including library
associations, deserve scrutiny as lessons for management of arts interests in
the antipodes. Collaborative management of arts information is stronger in the
UK and USA – in large part driven by higher education interests. The Arts &
Humanities Data Service in the UK has demonstrated the value of collaborating
to further the interests of individual academic institutions in subject
domains. The arts marketing consortia concept has illustrated the value of
pooling finances in a particular area to maximise impact.
Does ARLIS/ANZ need to be part of federation or
coalition of associations in the way that US associations are members of the
National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage? Without losing special
identities, is it desirable for Australia’s resource-deficient arts library
associations to either merge or collaborate to make more effective use of
their limited resources?
There are no automatic answers. The National Library of
Australia formed a Peak Bodies Forum in 2002, echoing to some extent the
National Forum for Information Planning and Cooperation (NFIP) in the UK. The
latter was formed in the late 1980s to monitor the development of regional and
subject-based library and information plans, but its lack of profile can be
attributed to its status as a discussion forum rather than business
enterprise, lack of funding, partial representation, competitor cooperatives
in the higher education sector, the voluntary status of some members, and the
limited capacity of some to make other than vague commitments.
What organisations do we need to consider in mapping
future relationships? Developing relationships with them will very much depend
on the purpose, culture and capability of the society, and the issue at hand.
The following organisations are from a much longer list presented in the
Arts related libraries, archives & museums
IAML; ACCESS – NSW (Architecture); Museums
Australia special interest groups - PASIG, Arts Crafts Design, Costume,
Library, archive & museum peak bodies
Australian Library & Information Association and
subgroups; Australian Research Information Infrastructure Committee (ARIIC);
Peak Bodies Forum
Other Australian bodies in the arts &
Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social
Sciences; Art Association of Australia and New Zealand; Australian Council
of University Art & Design Schools; Australian e-Humanities Network; NSW
Regional Galleries Association; Regional Arts Australia.
National Library of Australia and state libraries.
Collections Council of Australia; Australia
Council, Australian Research Council; Department of Communications,
Information Technology and the Arts and affiliated inter-government
ARLIS family; Arts and Humanities Data Service;
IFLA Art Libraries Section; Special Libraries Association Museums, Arts,
and Humanities Division; National Initiative for a Networked Cultural
Heritage; Research Libraries Group Art & Architecture Group; Resource
Discovery Network Arts and Creative Industries Hub; Visual Resources
VISION, GOALS & STRATEGIES
So, just where do we want to take the society? And how
do we articulate an agenda?
According to its constitution, ARLIS/ANZ exists to
promote arts librarianship, act as a forum for the exchange of information and
materials, and co-operate with other national and international organisations
in the fields of arts and librarianship. Although useful as statements in the
constitution, they are less than compelling as a vision. They focus on means
over ends. Their fuzziness encourages failure or lukewarm success.
I don’t want to pre-empt a more captivating vision
here. Creating one is a tall order, easier said than done. It is desirable, if
there is a new vision lurking around the corner, that it emerge from the next
phase of a business planning process, based on a more thorough examination of
needs and opportunities rather than on borrowed blueprints and unexamined
predilections. It might be useful in this paper, however, to flag a few things
to think about.
On purpose, three broad options present themselves:
a broader scope. Is it desirable, now, to embrace other
information disciplines as well as librarianship? Is it desirable for ARLIS/ANZ
to pursue a genuine rather than a token interest in the arts? Are there
opportunities for developing a broader interest in creative industries,
humanities and museums? Do we project growth through enhanced interest in
pictorial librarianship as a form as well as an interest in the arts as a
the same scope with more effective strategies? Should we simply
stick to the current scope, activities and strategies, emphasising arts and
libraries, while creating more interest in weak areas like
architecture and more active relationships with kindred associations such as
IAML and PASIG?
a narrowing scope and impact. Should we narrow its purpose,
emphasising the actual focus on the visual arts, particularly the fine arts?
Language is important in crystallising values and
vision. But lazy language and cut-and-paste ideas should be avoided. Have you
noticed how many organisations have recently become innovative organisations
without the need, incentive, processes and resources for innovation?
A good mission statement, according to Collins and
Porras, in Organizational Vision and Visionary Organizations, should be
risky, stretching and challenging the organisation, yet pave the way for an
achievable outcome. The risk of an overblown mission statement needs to be
carefully weighed. According to Jon Simpson in Third-sector organisations
and the Balanced Scorecard, drawing on research by Fortune Magazine, “less
than ten percent of strategies effectively formulated are effectively
executed.” The reasons for failure, he says, are a lack of understanding of
strategy and lack of strategic alignment. Simpson promotes the Kaplan and
Norton’s Balanced Scorecard as an important tool for associations because it
draws on a mixture of financial and non-financial objectives, measures,
targets and initiatives. Kaplan and Norton’s latest tome Strategic Maps:
Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible Outcomes includes case files
for public sector and non-profit organisations as well as the private sector.
Association strategies, according to Blanken and Liff
in Facing the Future: ASAE Trends and Environmental Scan, are
influenced by five characteristics: the business, profession or cause
being served; the organisation’s resources; the life stage of the association;
the culture of the association; the members career development and life stage.
What is ARLIS/ANZ’s story against these five criteria?
Future strategies will undoubtedly revolve around
existing products and services such as the conference, journal, website and
e-list. But we may find reasons to change their production and distribution in
the manner of other associations. New products and services may emerge from
the process of bouncing half-formed ideas off one another. The selection of
particular strategies may involve, among other criteria, their alignment with
overall objectives, organisational commitment, the value
proposition, and an ability to deliver them. They are likely to revolve around
the following planks:
Improving ‘the office’. Addressing inefficiencies by
improving information handling and communication systems and developing
Meeting the needs of members. Developing relevancy by
creating a better system for understanding the membership, continuation of
current activities of high value, implementing new activities, and targeting
Improving resources & practices. Implementing the
Australian visual arts information project and considering initiatives
relevant to other jurisdictions and subject domains.
Extending impact and capability
through relationships with kindred organisations and interest groups.
The critical success factors? I ventured seven factors
for another association in 1997 . In preparing this paper, I revisited them as
a way of clarifying in my mind where ARLIS/ANZ stands at the moment and of
pinpointing areas that might need special attention. I gave ARLIS/ANZ a score
based on my reading of the situation. What’s your score? Change, if change is
found to be required, will be determined by the sum of the scores divided by
the number of the scores plus the level of commitment and capacity.
Make a better blueprint.
I give ARLIS/ANZ 4/10 at
this stage. The business plan is half finished. A better score will
depend on the quality of the plan and the likelihood of its success. In
completing the task, we need to scrutinise prospects as well as focus on
current member needs. We need to remind ourselves that business planning is a
process as well as a document, and that it is based on hard data as well as
Swim with the big fish. To create opportunities, links
with major institutions charged with national coordination and networking
responsibilities are essential. ARLIS/ANZ score: 6/10. The work of those
involved in forming the partnership with the National Library of Australia
during the past year is to be highly commended.
Create a bigger family.
ARLIS/ANZ score: 1/10. Unless
ARLIS/ANZ is satisfied with its role as a de facto community of practice, the
time may be ripe to develop stronger collaborations with other associations at
Australasian or chapter levels.
Be clever with money. ARLIS/ANZ score: 2/10. Our spending
doesn’t always target areas of strategic importance. We don’t prepare three
year budgets or even one year budgets. Small income is watered down when
distributed to state and regional chapters. We don’t pool funds with kindred
organisations to produce consolidated benefits in the manner of some other
associations and consortia.
Make the most of people. ARLIS/ANZ score: 3/10. We have
not yet identified and promoted member interests, abilities and potential as a
way of extending value and capacity in the manner of some other associations.
Be discontented. ARLIS/ANZ score: 5/10. If you accept
Charles Handy’s advice in The Empty Raincoat, we need to indulge
in forced discontentment to save ourselves from the rut. Be Picasso rather
than Braque. The Australian Visual Arts Information Project and New Zealand
survey have boosted this score in the past year.
Light the small fires in the darkness. “Change comes”,
Charles Handy says, “from small initiatives which work, initiatives which,
initiated, become the fashion. We cannot wait for great visions from great
people, for they are in short supply at the end of history. It is up to us to
light our own small fires in the darkness.” This is a reminder that, if big
thinking doesn’t pay off, be prepared to do little things. Celebrate the
receipt of a major grant, but also create other ways of achieving the same end
with smaller amounts of money from other sources over a longer period. ARLIS/ANZ
The ARLIS/ANZ story is one of modest achievement,
characterised by peaks and troughs of energy and output, relying on the
commitment of individual catalysts and empathetic bosses.
It has reached a stage in a new world that invites
reassessment of its purpose and modus operandi, a strategy matching its
culture, commitment and resources, momentum between meetings, and more
enterprise through affiliations and collaborations.
Serving the Arts is also available in ARLIS/ANZ
Journal no 59, June 2005: pp 44-57.