University of the Arts London
The Archives and Special Collections Centre at the University of the Arts London holds over 35 collections on film-making, graphic design, sound arts, printing, comic books and the history of the institution. It is part of the University Library Services and the university also holds other collections at various library, museum, and college sites. An informal network of collection managers had existed in the University, but it was felt a more formal structure with broader representation could help with strategic planning and making the most of the collections.
What did they do?
In 2016, an advisory board was formed to provide “an oversight of the care, development and exploitation of the university’s archives, museum and special collections in order to maximise their potential to support and enhance teaching, learning and research activities across the university.” It consists of various internal stakeholders including course leaders, collection managers, senior library managers, students, and staff with fundraising expertise. It is chaired by an Associate Dean and meets once every term. It reports to the Executive Board on policy and strategy matters and is informed by the work of University Research Committee and Learning, Teaching & Enhancement Committee.
What advocacy benefits were there?
- The board facilitates discussion between senior managers and collection managers, valuing strategic alignment of the collections to the work of the university.
- The broad representation on the board makes it a good communication channel for the collection managers.
- The broad representation also helps create champions for the collections across the university.
- The different perspectives on the board can help the collection managers tailor their messages, especially when they are developing a case for investment or support.
- Being accountable to the University Executive Board means they have access to decision makers. For example, a project around COVID-19 collecting was referred to the University COVID-19 Executive Committee for approval.
- One of the jobs of the board is to advise on acquisitions and fundraising opportunities. They can help collection managers create a case to the Executive Board for new resources needed for acquisitions, such as significant donations.
- Terms of reference – it is important to have clear terms of reference that outline the purpose and role of the board.
- Administration – the board does require some administrative resource (e.g. organising meetings and creating agendas/minutes). The Library and Student Services Directorate provides a clerk. The collection managers also have a pre-meeting with the Chair to help create the agenda.
- Membership – broad representation on the board is important as it can help you reach different parts of the organisation. The university is currently looking at whether there should be more external representation on the board (e.g. local community members).
- Accountability – ensuring the board sits within the university’s governance structures will help create formal channels to other stakeholders.