From the Trustees

External Funding of the DEI – The Facts

 The roof is mended, but there are many other benefits to the DEI accruing from external funding, and the Project is ongoing.  Here are some facts:

Emma’s salary – together with those of Anne and Clare – is funded by the HLF Grant.  We would not have been granted public funds to the tune of some £770,000 without the appointment of an experienced and trusted Programme Manager.

The necessary funds were secured thanks to the production of a programme of activities to accompany the capital works. This was designed in collaboration with members and potential partners such as RAMM.  The purpose of the plan was to attract a more diverse membership, deliver greater public benefits and preserve the building and its contents – in line with the charitable objectives declared in the Trust Deed of 1989.

The University withdrew its support from the DEI Library (estimated to be worth around £20K per annum) in February 2016.  At the time they regarded the Institution as irrelevant to their needs. However, with the support of the HLF grant we have been able to employ our own Librarian, and more recently, an Assistant.  They are supported by a team of volunteers which includes three Chartered Librarians.

The employment of a Library Assistant has enabled regular Saturday opening to be introduced for the first time.

Subscriptions alone are (and have for some time been) insufficient to cover more than the salaries of Assistant Secretary and Housekeeper, plus utility bills and basic maintenance of plant and fabric.  The DEI has been running a deficit for years.  The membership is ageing, and younger more active recruits are needed if the Institution is to survive.

The new University partnership (negotiated in June 2016) is worth considerably more than the old.  We provide study facilities for students, and receive in return essential volunteer support, particularly in conservation of the collection.  The University values the training opportunities that we offer students.  The DEI reserves the right to restrict the number of students in the building and operates a booking system for research desks.

The new arrangement is much more flexible than the old, and enables the DEI to appoint its own staff.  We have already secured sufficient funding to cover the salaries of the posts of Librarian, Library Assistant and Programme Manager for a further year following the end of the project in June 2018.

A ten-year partnership with the University is currently under discussion. Once concluded, this would allow the Board of Trustees to create a staffing plan for the next decade.

Costs are carefully controlled.  Every cost centre is pre-planned (including the salaries of new staff).  Evidence of expenditure is provided to grant-making bodies, who release funds on receipt of satisfactory feedback.  All cost centres are running on budget.

Contractors employed through the Project (eg bookbinder) have tendered for the work if >£10K or been interviewed (eg library assistant) if <£10K, in line with guidance from grant-making bodies.

Where possible, advice has been sought from national sector experts, such as the British Library, to ensure that we meet best practice standards.

Everything is evaluated by an external consultant who is specifically tasked with checking that approved purposes and value for money have been achieved and quality standards and deadlines met.

Researched and co-curated by members and volunteers, our displays are designed to be shown at the DEI before venturing out into the wider community.  We currently have displays in three different venues and these portable ‘ambassadors’ bring new members to our door.

The new website, and the most recent editions of the Newsletter, expanded in size and enhanced in appearance, have been funded by the Project.

There seems to be no valid basis for the contention that we have lost 3,500 books in recent years.  The traditional figure of 40,000 books seems to have been estimated; the present count of 35,379, carried out in winter 2015 by a team from the South West Heritage Trust and volunteers, and overseen by the National Preservation Office of the British Library, is accurate. No doubt books have been ‘borrowed’ and not returned, or simply stolen, in the past, but as a large part of the collection is either uncatalogued or inaccurately recorded, the actual loss is impossible to quantify.

Anne Howard has started a programme of stocktaking which will reveal which books recorded in catalogue and card index are missing, and which will hopefully alleviate the problem in the future.

It may be that the figure of 40,000 was calculated before a large number of books were transferred to the University Library in the 1980s.

It’s worth reflecting that the disappearance from the collection of 3,500 volumes would have freed up around 100 metres of shelf space!

The Trustees are dedicated to pursuing the charitable aims of the Institution.  The first of these is “the advancement of public education……by the provision and maintenance of a Library, Reading Rooms and educational facilities”.  We are aware that the presence of students and school pupils is not popular with some members, but it is an absolute requirement of our registration with the Charity Commission, and an essential element of our duty of governance, to fulfil these aims to the best of our ability.   The fact that we are now doing so has been instrumental in gaining the necessary funding for repair and development, re-establishing our fractured relationship with the University, and supporting our application for a change in charitable status.  We are now well regarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, RAMM and the University, all of which is likely to be helpful when we come to seek further funding, as we inevitably will.

Our partnership with these organisations is not just about money, but about value and reputation as well – what can we do for each other, what resources and expertise can we share?

The DEI is undoubtedly stronger, more resilient and more credible as a result of these partnerships.  Potential funders like to be associated with success.

Most members support these aims, understand the need for compromise, and are content that the Outer Library remains an oasis for quiet reading and peaceful leisure activities and together with the Courtenay Room, fulfils the traditional (non-charitable) role as a social centre.  The Inner Library, on the other hand, is a working Library, a place of research and scholarship, with better resources than it has ever had in the past.  The intellectual activities there have no discernible impact on members who wish to use the DEI as a club or lunch venue.

A great deal of thought has gone into planning group sessions and activities so that they do not compromise the historic atmosphere of the DEI.

A persistent question concerns the use of the Lancaster and Stirling Rooms.  The rationalisation of the Library collection would simply not be possible without some additional space, hence the temporary unavailability of the former.  Similarly, dedicated space is needed for the conservation programme, so the Stirling Room is currently only available for hire on Mondays.  Rental income from these two rooms has not been particularly significant in the past, but their present occupation is unavoidable if we are to care for the collection appropriately and repair the effects of decades of neglect. The present use of the Stirling Room has in fact released a further £20K of funding from the HLF.

The DEI has never had greater financial control – we have budgets and income targets for each ‘department’ including the Courtenay Room.  The Trustees have choices so far as future funding is concerned, because we can demonstrate a successful track record.  Some activities, which are currently free to the public, could be charged for in the future if additional sources of income were needed.

Junior membership in the last year has increased from 1 to 20 due to the success of the Bookworms sessions, and adult membership, at 748, is higher than it has ever been.

These notes seek simply to explain the scope and effects of external funding.  They do not attempt to cover the recent improvements in other areas, such as the installation of membership and accounts software, the upgrading of our security alarm and fire protection systems, the development of our programme of talks and lectures (Saturday Snippets etc), the production of a comprehensive set of policies, and so on.

The previous operational model was simply not sustainable in today’s circumstances, nor remotely credible in the light of our charitable commitments.  

The Trustees are hugely proud of what has been achieved by Staff and Volunteers, with the support of Contractors and Consultants, in the course of the last three years.

The Trustees of the Devon and Exeter Institution

13 October 2017