The Wolanski Foundation Project


Paper no 36









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By Paul Bentley



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. 

Business planning

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 issues.

  • 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 Third 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 global action. 

Libraries, archives and museums organise themselves around affiliated groupings characterised by different levels of energy and effectivenessThey 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.


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 Society.

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.  

Growth: 1981-1999

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.

Uncertainty: 1999-2003

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.


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.

Subject interests

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 groups.  

Employer affiliations

Membership is represented by the following employer affiliations:

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).

Public libraries

18% (22 members, including national and state libraries)

Other local memberships

14%  (17 members, including government agencies, private organisations and unknown affiliations.

International subscriptions & exchanges

6% (8 subscriptions).

Roles represented

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. 

Regional patterns

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 office-bearers.

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 coffers. 

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 Blues?


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 non-profit organisations.

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 members?

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:  


Legal status
Finance & Insurance
Secretariat/membership management



Knowledge & information management
Office-bearers’ manual
Records & archives


Business planning
Research & development
Conference & other events
Recognition, awards and grants
Special Projects (eg VAIP)
Relationships & Partnerships


Legal status

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 tax concessions.

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 is voluntary.

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 depth. 


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. The 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:

  • Continuity - 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 participation.

  • 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 filled.

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 management? 

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 Australia. 

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 business plan.

Arts related libraries, archives & museums

IAML; ACCESS – NSW (Architecture); Museums Australia special interest groups - PASIG, Arts Crafts Design, Costume, Photography.


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 & humanities

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.


Cultural institutions

National Library of Australia and state libraries.


Government bodies

Collections Council of Australia; Australia Council, Australian Research Council; Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and affiliated inter-government councils.


International bodies

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 Association.



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 subject?

  • 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 roles. 

  • 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 prospective members.

  • 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 opinion. 

  • 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 score: 6/10.


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.


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