JISC NFF Archives Sub-Committee
Survey of conservation expenditure
by Willpower Information

Part 1 of 3
Contents, summary, introduction and methodology


Contents

List of tables

List of figures

1. Summary

1.1 Overall expenditure
1.2 Sources of funds in 1996/97
1.3 Factors affecting expenditure
1.4 Forward budgets
1.5 Analysis of expenditure
1.6 Factors affecting choice of conservation service

2. Introduction

2.1 Background
2.2 Terms of reference

3. Methodology

3.1 Institutions to be included
3.2 Information to be collected
3.3 Survey procedures and questionnaire design
3.4 Pilot study
3.5 Dispatch and follow-up of questionnaire
3.6 Analysis

4. Results

4.1 Response rates
4.2 Total expenditure on conservation and sources of funds
4.2.1 All institutions
4.2.2 London
4.2.3 North West England
4.2.4 Scotland
4.3 Distribution of capital expenditure: number of projects by size
4.4 Distribution of non-capital expenditure: numbers of institutions by amount spent for internal and external work
4.5 Special factors in the past and in the future
4.6 Forward budgets
4.7 Future priorities
4.7.1 Types of material
4.7.2 Types of work
4.8 Analysis of non-capital expenditure
4.9 Factors influencing choice of conservation service
4.10 Quality control of conservation work

5. Conclusions

5.1 Overall increase in expenditure
5.2 Sources of funds in 1996/97
5.3 Factors affecting expenditure
5.4 Forward budgets
5.5 Analysis of expenditure
5.6 Factors affecting choice of conservation service

6. Appendix A

6.1 Questionnaire
6.2 Covering letter sent with questionnaire to librarians
6.3 Letter sent to people responsible for special collections and archives

7. Appendix B: Lists of institutions covered by the survey

7.1 London (within the M25)
7.2 North West England
7.3 Scotland

Tables

Table 1: Response rates to questionnaire
Table 2: Total expenditure on conservation (all institutions)
Table 3: Sources of total funds used for conservation (all institutions)
Table 4: Total expenditure on conservation (London)
Table 5: Sources of total funds used for conservation (London)
Table 6: Total expenditure on conservation (North West England)
Table 7: Sources of total funds used for conservation (North West England)
Table 8: Total expenditure on conservation (Scotland)
Table 9: Sources of total funds used for conservation (Scotland)
Table 10: Amount spent on capital work by external contractors in 1996/97
Table 11: Sources of total funds used for capital projects (all institutions)
Table 12: Sources of total funds used for non-capital conservation work (all institutions)
Table 13: Amount spent on non-capital work done by institutional staff in 1991/92
Table 14: Amount spent on non-capital work done by external contractors in 1991/92
Table 15: Amount spent on non-capital work done by institutional staff in 1996/97
Table 16: Amount spent on non-capital work done by external contractors in 1996/97
Table 17: Budgets for academic years 1997/98 to 2001/02
Table 18: Budgets for academic year 1997/98
Table 19: Budgets for academic year 1998/99
Table 20: Academic year 1991/92 : Cost of work done by internal staff of HEIs : All institutions
Table 21: Academic year 1991/92 Cost of work done by outside contractors : All institutions
Table 22: Academic year 1996/97 Cost of work done by internal staff of HEIs : All institutions
Table 23: Academic year 1996/97 Cost of work done by outside contractors : All institutions
Table 24: Academic year 1991/92 : Cost of work done by internal staff of HEIs : London
Table 25: Academic year 1991/92 : Cost of work done by outside contractors : London
Table 26: Academic year 1996/97 : Cost of work done by internal staff of HEIs : London
Table 27: Academic year 1996/97 : Cost of work done by outside contractors : London
Table 28: Academic year 1991/92 : Cost of work done by internal staff of HEIs : North West England
Table 29: Academic year 1991/92 Cost of work done by outside contractors : North West England
Table 30: Academic year 1996/97 Cost of work done by internal staff of HEIs : North West England
Table 31: Academic year 1996/97 Cost of work done by outside contractors : North West England
Table 32: Academic year 1991/92 : Cost of work done by internal staff of HEIs : Scotland
Table 33: Academic year 1991/92 Cost of work done by outside contractors : Scotland
Table 34: Academic year 1996/97 Cost of work done by internal staff of HEIs : Scotland
Table 35: Academic year 1996/97 Cost of work done by outside contractors : Scotland
Table 36: Quality control of conservation work

Figures

Figure 1: Sources of total funds used for capital projects (all institutions)
Figure 2: Total expenditure on conservation (all institutions)
Figure 3: Sources of total funds used for conservation (all institutions)

Summary

A postal questionnaire survey was carried out in July-September 1998 of higher education institutions in three sample regions of the UK: London, North West England, and Scotland, to determine their expenditure on the conservation of archives and special collections. 75 responses were received out of a possible total of 94, an overall response rate of 80%. 24 of these reported no expenditure on conservation, while the remaining 51 varied in the completeness and consistency of the data supplied. Several were unable to supply data for 1991/92 and many did not have analyses of expenditure by type of material dealt with and type of work done.

The main conclusions were as follows:

1.1 Overall expenditure

The overall expenditure on conservation of archives and special collections in the institutions surveyed was almost 5.5M in 1996/97, compared with 232k in 1991/92. The bulk of this increase is accounted for by seven capital projects, costing 4.7M in 1996/97, but non-capital work has still increased to 776k, an increase of over 300%. These figures do not include any allowance for inflation.

Over all institutions, 63% of non-capital conservation work is done by the staff of HEIs and 27% is contracted out. In London, however, 40% is done in-house and the remaining 60% contracted out. These figures are based on the cost of work rather than the quantity, and will have been distorted by the fact that in Scotland the conservation centre in Dundee does work at a highly subsidised rate.

1.2 Sources of funds in 1996/97

The largest source of funds for capital work was the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave 2.3M for one project, almost half the total capital funds used in the year. A further third came from institutions' own funds, while NFF funds and an allocation from SHEFC together provided another 19%.

Non-capital work was dominated by NFF funds, which made up 65%. A further 28% was provided from the budgets of library and archive departments holding the collections, while the remaining 7% came from special allocations within the HEIs at institutional level, with a small amount from other sources.

1.3 Factors affecting expenditure

Expenditure was largely determined by the availability of funding. NFF funds have made a major impact in the development and care of archives. Staff of HEIs are very appreciative of this, but are very worried that when this funding stops their work will be returned to a state of stagnation. There has been a feedback effect, in that having funds to employ staff has led to a higher visibility of archive and special collections, which in turn has attracted more funds. Other sources are comparatively small compared with NFF funding, however, and it takes continuing effort from dedicated staff to maintain an awareness of the collections within the institutions and outside. There is great concern that many of these staff are on limited-term contracts with no guarantee of renewal.

Conservation work cannot be considered in isolation, but must be assessed in the context of all types of work on the collections, including cataloguing, storage, public availability and exploitation.

1.4 Forward budgets

HEIs in general do not have firm future budgets for conservation work, not knowing what funds they are going to have available. The budgeted amount for non-capital work in 1998/99, for 32 institutions, is 714k, about the same as the total spent by all institutions in 1996/97. Only 12 institutions had forward budgets for 1999/2000, totalling 185k, of which 134k comprised firm allocations by three institutions, one in each of the regions surveyed.

1.5 Analysis of expenditure

The returns submitted were not consistent enough to draw any firm conclusions about the types of work and types of material conserved, or to calculate unit costs. Summary tables give a subjective impression of the areas in which substantial work is being done, and some base-line figures for the number of items processed and the amount of money spent on each.

There were two substantial digitisation projects on which money was spent in 1996/97, although several respondents would consider such projects for the future if money were available.

1.6 Factors affecting choice of conservation service

The two major factors were cost and quality. Skill and qualifications of conservators were means of assuring quality, as was the recommendation of other users or independent advisors. Distance between the institution and the conservation centre was not of major importance for most institutions.

The majority of HEIs rely on their own inspection of work as a means of quality assurance, with a few obtaining advice from external experts or advisers based on an examination of samples.


2. Introduction

2.1 Background

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) of the UK higher education funding bodies has a programme of provision of Non-Formula Funding (NFF) to specialised research collections in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). Monitoring of this programme by its Archives Sub-Committee has revealed that there is a need for improvement in the facilities available to UK HEIs for the conservation of these collections. The Sub-Committee is looking at existing provision within institutions, existing independent conservation services, and the possibility of developing regional conservation centres. The present survey is designed to provide data for this review, to complement work already undertaken for the Committee in this area. It seeks some key figures to create a picture of the amount and type of conservation work being done, where it is being done and how much is being spent on it.

It was known at the time the project started that another, larger, project was being undertaken at the University of Loughborough, funded by the British Library Research and Information Centre. The project description, entitled Co-operative activities in preservation for libraries and archives: present practice and future prospects, is available ... [note added 2003-03-17: the project description is no longer available on the Loughborough Web site, but the report of the project has been published:and is held by the British Library: Cooperative preservation activities in libraries and archives : project report with guidelines / Paul Eden and Elizabeth Gadd. - Boston Spa : British Library Research and Innovation Centre, 1999. - ( British Library Research and Innovation Report, ISSN 1366-8218 ; 161). - British Library shelfmark: 2719.k.2288.] The Committee decided that as the present project was closely focused on the conservation expenditure of HEIs, it should proceed independently, though the results would complement the Loughborough work.

2.2 Terms of reference

Conduct a postal survey of FB HEIs to determine their expenditure on conservation and preservation of archives and special collections, defined as including manuscripts, rare books, special collections of books, maps, photographs, prints and drawings, and similar material.

Coverage

The survey should cover the following areas:
(a) London (within the M25)
(b) North West England
(c) Scotland

Lists of the institutions in each of these areas were provided by the JISC Research Collections Co-ordination Office.

Trends

Figures are required for capital and recurrent expenditure in the academic years 1991/92 and 1996/97, to identify changes and trends.

Institutions should be asked to comment on any special factors affecting expenditure, past and future trends, and any forward plans or budgets they may have.

They should be asked for their institutional priorities if more money were to become available for preservation/conservation.

Analysis

Where possible, total expenditure should be analysed in the following ways:

  1. By type of material dealt with (e.g. by the types listed above).
  2. By type of work done (e.g. standard boxing, fitted ("phase") boxing, foldering, fasciculing, binding on guards, other binding, encapsulating, deacidification, repairing tears, cleaning, photocopying, photography or digitisation).
  3. By source of funds, specifically identifying NFF.
  4. By whether the work is done in-house or contracted out.

Numbers of items should be recorded as well as costs, to allow the cost per item for each type of treatment to be calculated.

Non-financial factors

Institutions should be asked about other factors which influence their decision on their choice of priorities and methods of carrying out conservation work, such as their standard contracts with external conservators, security, the wish to keep material on their premises, and their procedures for monitoring quality of internal or external work.


3. Methodology

3.1 Institutions to be included

The institutions to be included in the survey are those in the three sample regions, as listed in section 7. The relationships between some institutions were difficult to determine accurately, in particular the degree of independence of some institutions that were formally subsidiary to others. To ensure full coverage, questionnaires were sent to all HEIs that might be considered independent. A covering letter sent to the Librarian of each HEI stressed that a consolidated response was preferred, but that if there were distinct and separately managed units they could submit separate returns. There is so much variation in the sizes and natures of HEIs that these varying levels of aggregation were not considered a problem. The main figures of interest will be the total amounts spent in each region, and it is not very meaningful to calculate average amounts spent by a "typical" HEI.

The list of institutions and parts of institutions from which returns were expected therefore differs from the list of HEIs supplied by the Research Collections Co-ordination Office, but all institutions on the list were covered.

3.2 Information to be collected

The information required falls into four categories:

  1. Total expenditure in each of the academic years 1991/92 and 1996/97 analysed into capital/non-capital, internal/external and into the sources of the funds.
  2. Special factors in the past and future affecting conservation expenditure, including planned expenditure and priorities if more money were available.
  3. Analysis of non-capital expenditure into the type of work done on the collections.
  4. Factors influencing the choice of a conservation service and ways of controlling the quality of conservation work.

Items 1 and 3 are essentially quantitative, while items 2 and 4 are largely qualitative.

3.3 Survey procedures and questionnaire design

The questionnaire used is included in 6: Appendix A. This was made as clear and self-explanatory as possible, consistent with the detailed analysis required. Notes and definitions were included on the form itself rather than on a separate sheet, to bring them close to the questions to which they referred.

It was recognised that many institutions would not be able to supply all the detail provided for on the questionnaire, so guidance was given on how to make estimates that would at least be internally consistent.

Space was provided for free text answers to the qualitative questions, and respondents were encouraged to comment on the data they supplied.

Institutions were asked to include the cost of the time of their own staff in the expenditure figures they recorded, so that a fair comparison could be made between the costs of work done internally and work contracted out. We considered providing guidance on how staff time and associated overheads should be costed, and consulted HEFCE to find whether they had a standard or recommended scale or procedure. A working party is currently investigating the question, but the current guidance is that given in Management information for decision making: costing guidelines for higher education institutions, available at <http://www.shefc.ac.uk/publications/other/costing/contents.html>. This was published in July 1997, and it is unlikely that many institutions will have applied it yet to the costs of their conservation work. Pilot studies of the questionnaire showed that at least three different methods were in use, so the costing of staff time is likely to be inconsistent and it is not possible to make valid comparisons between institutions. After discussion with the Sub-Committee, it was decided not to attempt to standardise this factor, but to leave institutions to use whatever methods they thought appropriate for costing staff time. These are presumably the figures they would use in deciding whether it would be cost-effective for them to use an external service, and therefore the appropriate figures for this survey.

3.4 Pilot study

A pilot version of the questionnaire was sent to six people at higher education institutions nominated by the Archives Sub-Committee. Several useful comments and suggestions were received and were incorporated in a revised version.

3.5 Dispatch and follow-up of questionnaire

All questionnaires, with covering letters to librarians, and separate letters to people responsible for special collections and archives, were dispatched on 7th July 1998, with addressed envelopes for replies. The closing date was given as 17th August 1998. These dates were later than originally planned, but delays occurred in negotiating and arranging meetings to clarify the objectives and the exact scope of the project. As a result respondents were asked to complete the questionnaire at a time that coincided with the summer vacation period for many of them. Even when people were not away themselves, they were often doing extra work to cover for colleagues on vacation, or coping with building work or reorganisation of the collections. We strongly recommend that any future questionnaire should not be sent out for completion in the period between July and September.

After the questionnaires were dispatched, it was noted that a printing error had occurred in the dates on the detailed analysis tables on pages 6 and 7, which referred to 1997/98 instead of 1996/97. This mistake should have been self-evident, because an instruction at the head of each table asked respondents to check that the total figure matched the total figure given in question 2.1, where the date was given correctly. However, in order to avoid any possible misunderstanding, we contacted each institution by email, fax or letter, to correct this. The opportunity was taken to provide further clarification of the way in which items processed should be counted, to answer a query raised by one of the early respondents. Although unplanned, we believe that this additional communication will have served to raise people's awareness of the questionnaire and the importance placed on its completion.

After the closing date we telephoned all institutions that had not responded. Some of them then returned the completed questionnaire, while others explained on the telephone that theirs would be a nil response, so we recorded them as that. Although not intended as a telephone survey, some people made useful comments about their situation and priorities, which added to the written comments we received on the questionnaires. In some cases it proved impossible to contact the person responsible for completing the questionnaire, though messages were left in all cases. The final responses were received, after more telephone follow-up work, on 23rd September 1998. Some responses, e.g. in the form of letters, showed substantial expenditure but as it was not presented in a way compatible with the questionnaire some arbitrary interpretation was needed to produce figures that could be used.

3.6 Analysis

In most cases, the figures for total expenditure and income were clearly and consistently presented. In a few cases it appeared that figures for sources of funds had been rounded while those for expenditure were given more precisely, or vice versa. In these case the rounded figure was adjusted to make it equal the other. A few arithmetical errors in totals and subtotals were corrected.

The quantitative data was transcribed into an Excel 97 spreadsheet, from which the analysed figures were generated.


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