Dominated by the second move across the continent in as many years, with the Society’s headquarters transferring from Laguna Beach, California to Kanata (a suburb of Ottawa), Canada, and Clarke Association Management Services, the year 2000 has been a turbulent one for ARLIS/NA. This is reflected in the unusual length of this annual report, in the Treasurer’s year-end financial report and the Executive Director’s Headquarters report, and in the wide range of Board and Committee initiatives with implicit in them a recognition that large ambitions must be accompanied by a business-like approach to cash flow. Much was accomplished this year, but more work is needed to stabilize the Society’s underpinnings, enabling it to realize the goals of the 2000-2005 Strategic Plan and to position it for future growth.
While much of the hard work of leadership is invisible to Society members, it ensures that programs and services continue to meet their needs and wishes. ARLIS/NA leaders are dedicated volunteers par excellence. The 2000 Executive Board (Ted Goodman, Trudy Jacoby, Peter Blank, Kathryn Wayne, Leslie Abrams, Lou Adrean, Carole Goldsmith, Debbie Kempe and Pat Lynagh) deserves a special salute for its grace under pressure, good humour, dedication to the goals of the Society and its members, and unrelenting hard work. Executive Committee members, in particular, shouldered the burden of introducing Headquarters staff to the working culture of ARLIS/NA, and adjusting Society practices to the routines of a new administrative services firm. Under their guidance and active participation, business support functions and member services have been largely integrated into a new headquarters environment; work on this front continues. The transition placed unusual demands on a core group of leaders, and the following must be singled out for recognition: Committee Chairs Kathy Corcoran, Publications, Roberto Ferrari, Web Site Administrative Board, Jill Patrick, Development, and Katy Poole, Membership; and Editors Betsy Peck Learned and Stephanie Sigala, Art Documentation, and Linda Zieper, Update. Planning for the 29th annual conference, Los Angeles, was not immune from the side effects of another Headquarters transition; working with two successive and quite different management firms, conference co-chairs (Amy Ciccone and Nancy Norris, Program, Susan Flanagan and Lorraine Perrotta, Local Arrangements) and a creative, enthusiastic team of ARLIS/Southern California chapter members nevertheless produced and directed a superlative event. Equal thanks are due to the Society’s new Executive Director, Elizabeth Clarke, and her staff in Kanata, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta, who with skill, patience and utmost flexibility, worked to establish a solid administrative structure for ARLIS/NA, a demanding client with an exceptionally hands-on corps of volunteer leaders. It has been a steep learning curve for both staff and Board members, one that is not yet fully completed.
A change in management firms offers opportunities for fresh thinking and constructive change to familiar ways of doing things; it also highlights structural or operational shortcomings. An overall thrust of the 2000 Executive Board was placing member services and benefits on a more cost-effective footing, and taking steps to strengthen and diversify revenue streams. Initiatives included the following:
A review of the publications program for cost-effectiveness was begun, resulting in adoption of an in-print policy for managing stock, and revised pricing that takes into account actual production and distribution costs; contracts were signed with H.W. Wilson to permit full-text database access to Art Documentation, and with ALA Editions to distribute the joint publication, ArtMARC Sourcebook, with other ALA titles as e-books through netLibrary.
Member service enhancements:
Options for credit card payments were expanded; online conference registration via the Society web site <www.arlisna.org> is now standard; the membership application form was entirely revised and made available on the web site; staff worked closely with the Membership Chair and Past-President to review the membership database, which was ultimately determined to need complete re-building.
Advertising rates for conference publications were increased to bring them closer to the market rate; the Development Committee initiated a flexible giving program to encourage donations from members, created a fundraising database, gave extensive support and guidance to conference fundraisers, and initiated the new Conference Speakers fund; conference fundraising achieved a new high of over $60,000 though the combined efforts of local organizers, President, Development Chair and Past-President.
Management of capital resources:
An intensive examination of policy and committee structure for managing Society investments was begun after more than four years of disappointing results; although the Board did not reach agreement on a withdrawal from speculative investments, efforts continue to stabilize and protect capital. The President appointed an ad hoc Advisory Committee to review, among other things, the relationship of the Treasurer, the Board and the Finance Committee, a process that should result in meaningful structural change; it will be completed in 2001.
The fresh perspective of Elizabeth Clarke, who observed Board member workloads with amazement, highlighted the fact that financial support for these key positions now lags far behind that of similar associations, notably VRA and MLA; in a first step, travel support for Board members will be increased modestly in 2001.
A wholesale re-thinking of the ARLIS/NA web site (AWS) was initiated by its Administrative Board, resulting in a clean-up strategy, priorities for updating Society documents, a new administrative structure for maintaining the web site, and a recommendation to introduce web site sponsors as a new source of revenue; its first editor, Jonathan Franklin, was appointed; the first step in long term plans for establishing an AWS revenue stream was implemented, with advertising space for job postings now earning income.
Following the resignation of Mary Molinaro, ARLIS-L’s longtime moderator, Kerri Scannell was appointed as her successor; after some uncertainty, it was confirmed that the discussion list will remain at the University of Kentucky. The content editors of Art Documentation, Betsy Peck Learned and Stephanie Sigala, have tendered their resignations effective on the completion of issue #2, 2001; a search for their successors is underway.
Professional development and continuing education:
With the Anniversary Fund having achieved its financial goal in March 2000, the first ARLIS/NA Internship was awarded to a recent library school graduate. A new fellowship in rare book studies, named in honour of member Jack Robertson, was established upon the Board’s acceptance of a generous offer from Prof. Terry Belanger of the University of Virginia’s well-known Rare Book School, to waive course tuition for an ARLIS/NA member; the Professional Development Committee will develop an applicant review process in 2001 and it will be offered for the first time in 2002.
The bylaw governing membership was amended to permit the awarding of Honorary Life Memberships to Charter members of ARLIS/NA, those who almost thirty years ago first recognized and acted on the need for an association addressing the professional needs and concerns of art information professionals; and Honorary Life Membership was also awarded to Jim and Anna Emmett for contributions to the profession and to the Society, in particular with their longtime support of a conference travel award.
At the time of writing of this report, we are on the eve of the 29th annual conference, held in Los Angeles at the Wilshire Grand Hotel. A very successful event is anticipated. Special recognition must be given to those corporate sponsors, institutions, and individual members who made record financial and in-kind donations to the Exhibits Hall opening reception, the Membership Luncheon and Leadership Breakfast, and to workshops and sessions; to ARLIS/NA Chapters, whose donations supported a rousing Welcome Party; to the Getty Library, which fully sponsored Convocation and a concluding buffet reception in the Getty Museum Rotunda; and to members who spent willingly at the silent auction whose proceeds will go to support the new fund for conference speakers.
Future conference sites approved:
Baltimore, 2003, hosted by the ARLIS/DC/Maryland/Virginia Chapter, and New York City area, 2004, hosted by ARLIS/New York, were approved.
Many challenges remain to be addressed by the incoming Executive Board under President Ted Goodman, and by future Boards. I believe the following to be of particular concern:
Leadership and governance:
Role of Executive Board: Arising from real or perceived needs over preceding years, decision-making has become centralized at the Board level to an unhealthy degree. Valuable Board time is taken up with the micro-management of administrative details, or decisions that might as effectively be made by the responsible committees or Headquarters staff. Origins aside, the end result has been a counter-productive increase in workload for Board members. It has left scant time or creative energy for the real role of the Board, which should be one of visionary leadership and fresh policy directions.
ARLIS/NA’s reliance on individual Board members and on their employers to share the financial burden of Executive Board service is ultimately not sustainable and limits access to Board leadership opportunities. Better, more flexible support is needed to ensure that Board positions are open to all members, regardless of their means or their institutional support. Canadian members, with a currency exchange disadvantage of almost 50%, are now largely excluded from Board positions and without change, it will be increasingly difficult to find a member able to serve as Canadian Representative.
The 2000 Nominating Committee, while ultimately successful, reported considerable difficulty in recruiting the minimum of two candidates per position for the Executive Board election. In addition to addressing financial support and workload, it may be time to re-examine the process by which the Society solicits candidates: enhance the personal recommendations of Nominating Committee members with a system of nominations from the membership at large.
Both Clarke and the 2000 and 2001 Executive Boards are committed to making a success of this management relationship. The Society cannot afford the extra costs associated with moving its headquarters for the foreseeable future. Both parties recognize that this transition has been difficult for reasons that were anticipated, but also and more importantly for a myriad of problems that were the apparent result of substandard management during previous years. Besides rebuilding the membership database, for example, staff had to reconstitute standard administrative files which were found to be non-existent or unusable; tax and incorporation records were incomplete and taxes had not been filed by the appropriate deadlines, leading to a pressured catch-up situation for brand new staff; copies of contracts did not turn up, necessitating time-consuming research; and so on. This has added to staff workloads beyond what was expected when the initial two-year management services contract was negotiated, and will have an impact on the next contract. It was necessary this year to negotiate a separate contract with Clarke for management of the joint ARLIS/NA-VRA annual conference in 2002. What is abundantly clear from the experience is that change is needed: Society processes must be simplified where possible, communication with staff must be streamlined to relieve them of an insupportable burden of e-mail messages from the broader leadership and from members, and Headquarters staff given greater autonomy to manage Society affairs wherever possible. Member expectations of Headquarters staff are often unrealistic, and it will be the job of Board members to communicate what the relationship entails: the Society pays management services fees as afforded by its revenue levels, and these entitle it to a limited menu of client services. They remain unchanged unless the Society is prepared to increase its revenues from membership dues and conference registrations, with the objective of purchasing a higher standard of management services.
The Executive Board must make wise use of Elizabeth Clarke’s association management and business expertise to build the sound foundation ARLIS/NA needs for continued growth and development.
Revenues and cost control:
While much has been accomplished this year to place the publications program on a firm financial footing, still outstanding are policy changes to ensure that the sale of publications earns revenues, not just cost recovery.
A year-end cash flow shortfall (inherited from a previous change in the Society’s fiscal year) was finally corrected this year through a transfer of money from undesignated funds. Year-end income from membership renewals and conference registrations applicable to the following fiscal year is now correctly managed as deferred revenue. As a result, it is necessary to re-build undesignated funds with an annual infusion from operating surpluses. It has been strongly recommended by external financial advisers that the Society retain 6 months of operating funds in cash-equivalent, interest-bearing instruments in case of emergency, such as an unforeseeable shortfall in revenues. This operating surplus also largely remains to be built up. Operating budgets must continue to be stringently managed to generate an annual surplus, while investing in initiatives that ensure the overall health of the Society. It may be necessary in the shortterm, for example, to restrict the availability of Chapter project funds. As well, existing revenue streams must be maximized and sustainable new sources of revenue developed.
The need for a new special appointment position of Development Officer received preliminary consideration in 2000 but remains undecided. The Chair of the Development Committee has identified pan-Society coordination of fundraising needs and activities as a primary goal still to be achieved, not only to avoid overlapping asks but to ensure that all donors are treated equally in recognition and benefits. The Executive Director has suggested that too much effort is expended in fundraising for modest amounts of money, and that other, more effective approaches should be considered.
Ongoing problems with the electronic version of Update (originally introduced to achieve cost savings) have undermined its acceptance, leading this year to a large increase in demand for the printed version. Budget implications and a decision on media remain to be addressed, including a possible re-design with less expensive production values.
Cost savings anticipated from the move to a Canadian management services firm were not realized in 2000, largely due to the unexpected problems encountered in the transition. It is critical that staff and Board work closely to ensure that projected savings, which are achievable, begin to be realized in 2001.
The annual conference is becoming increasingly complex in response to member demand for more added value and educational content but without a concomitant increase in fees. The question of sustainability arises. Responsibility for decision-making and the allocation of tasks between CPAC members, local organizers and staff were not as clear this year as they should have been, in part because of the transition to a new Headquarters with different skills and conference leadership expectations, but also because the Conference Planning Manual, good as it is, is due for a review. The annual conference is the Society’s premier membership event and generates a large part of its annual operating income; every effort must be made to ensure its continued financial success.
The pressures of managing the transition process have taken attention away this year from member recruitment. Increasing the Society’s membership levels remains a necessary goal, as does the production of a revised membership brochure.
My year as President has been by turns rewarding and frustrating, exhilarating and tedious, in short, a roller coaster of a ride. I turn the chair over to Ted Goodman, incoming President, with not a little relief! It has been my immense privilege to work with dedicated colleagues in the Society’s leadership, and a great pleasure to meet and get to know so many individual members of ARLIS/NA, surely the best of all professional associations.
18 March 2001