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Board Room, National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge Building
Present: James Boyle (Chair), Professor Graham Caie (GC), Lorraine Fannin (LF), Jonathan Lake QC (JL), Charles Lovatt (CL), Moira Methven (MM), Dr Richard Parsons (RP), Professor Melissa Terras (MT), Professor Adrienne Scullion (AS), Noreen Adams (NA); Dianne Haley (DH), Simon Learoyd (SL); Sir Neil McIntosh (NM), Fiona Robertson (FR).
In attendance: Duncan Campbell (Deputy Chief Executive) (DC); Dr Darryl Mead (Deputy National Librarian) (DM), Richard Jones (Secretary) (RJ), David Seers (Scottish Government representative) (DS), Mungo Bovey QC (Faculty of Advocates Representative) (MB), Jan Usher (TUS Representative) (JU), Andrew Martin (Union Representative) (AM), Koen Van Der Straeten (KVDS), Layla Smith (minutes).
Apologies: No apologies.
Minutes of Away Day meeting
Welcome and opening comments
The Chair welcomed all attendees and in particular the new members of the Board. Each attendee provided for the others a brief biographical introduction and the Chair then detailed the planned schedule for the day.
It was noted that the Cabinet Secretary is due to attend the April meeting of the Board.
1. Notes from introductory session:
Each of the continuing Board members provided a candid outline of his or her experience and enthusiasms at the National Library.
CL noted that as Chair of the Audit Committee he was interested in finance and procurement and in particular the current large capital projects. LF affirmed her enthusiasm for the collections, and also for ways in which new technology may be harnessed to increase access to them. She also advised new Board members to ask questions if they felt matters were unclear, as a duty of responsibility, and expressed her view that assurances given to the Board should be evidence-based where appropriate.
RP advised that the Board was there to provide a critical but friendly questioning of the management team. He added that the Library was part of two national academic library consortia and that his personal interests lay with e-learning and digital and he was particularly interested to see the new Digital Strategy on the agenda today. MM then continued to say that it was important to ensure that there was a strong mutual respect and trust between the staff of the Library and the Board. The Board did not interfere in operational issues but had to be sure of the details behind and supporting the strategies.
GC agreed that the collections held by the Library were astounding and agreed that it was vital that there were strong links but clear demarcation between the Board and the management team.
The Chair then concluded this section encouraging new members to participate fully across all Board and committee activities and to attend and enjoy the NLS programme of lectures and exhibitions. It was also noted that there would be further recruitment to the Board commencing immediately to replace continuing members whose appointments were to come to a close shortly.
It was noted that there were currently three Board committees: Audit, Governance and Staffing and Remuneration. The Chair of each committee was then asked to provide a few words on the work. CL provided this for Audit, MM for Staffing and Remuneration and GC for the Governance Committee. JB then advised that it was the responsibility of the new Board to review the committee structure and that it was expected that all members would take part in any new committees or working groups.
It was noted that two previous Board members had been co-opted to the Staffing and Remuneration Committee for the time being so as to offer stability whilst this committee had oversight of a current pay and grading project.
MB provided a description of the historic relationship between the Library and the Faculty of Advocates and continuing links between the two institutions.
There was then a short presentation by Robin Smith, Head of Collections and Interpretation and some of the curatorial staff.
2. Notes from 'Current issues' session:
Capital Strategy presentation — Duncan Campbell, Deputy
DC presented on the Library's Capital Strategy providing an overarching description and background on the Library's capital programme. It was noted that storage space for physical collections was already at a premium. The collections continue to grow at the rate of 5,000 items per week. DC advised that there had been work carried out to improve on the use of space. It was also noted that there were discussions with other National organisations in relation to the possibilities of shared space.
DC then invited questions and these covered such topics as the staff split across each of the Library facilities. It was noted that there were around 70 staff at Causewayside, 90 at the Lawnmarket, a small number at both Sighthill and Hillington – with the remainder based at George IV Bridge. There was also discussion of the likely balance between digital and physical collections and how this would affect the modelling carried out for physical and digital storage provision.
NLS Foundation – paper BT/14/01:
The Chair provided a background to the establishment of the NLS Foundation with RJ advising on the legal requirements and reasoning. The Board was asked to consider the paper so that a decision may be made at the March meeting of the Board.
There was discussion of the links between the NLS Foundation and the Library. Was a liaison group required or simply informal meetings between the Boards? There was also some discussion as to the relationship between the two organisations and where control lay in terms of fund investment. It was noted that the legal counsel provided within paper BT/14/01 outlined the scope of direction available.
Digital Strategy presentation — Daryl Mead, Deputy National Librarian: DM provided a presentation to accompany paper BT/14/02 describing the digital projects with the Library, and how each fitted within the overarching digital and digitisation strategies.
DM invited questions. MT queried whether there had been consideration given to the staffing changes required to support this strategy. DM replied that there had been, although this was a difficult area to define. He advised that the Library had seen a 10% decrease in staffing over the previous 10 years and, even though the number of physical items for inclusion in the collection was not decreasing, the increasing digital collection meant that those staff in place were required to have additional skills. DM commented that at present they were looking at ways to ensure that the workforce had the requisite skill sets for the future. DM hoped to maintain the workforce levels or even reverse the decline.
NA raised a query in relation to DM's comments on the possibility of a common, national library system and the rationale behind such a plan. DM advised that, as such systems were expensive, there would be economies of scale achieved if sourced at a national level, but that it would also allow customers to access all resources where such a system was in use.
There was a query raised by MT regarding print on demand, with MD and DM responding to confirm that the intention was, where possible, to charge for print copies, but that there were constraints because of copyright. There was a need to ensure that such a service provided a profit, as it was a resource intensive activity.
It was noted that there was an intention that the Board would review and consider all that was contained within the strategy and feedback as to their views on how this may be taken forward. DM commented that he was working toward a finalised strategy with an overarching operational plan. After further discussion MT advised that she was happy to provide support in this area.
Meeting of the Board of the National Library of Scotland
As noted above.
4. Declaration of interests:
No declarations were made.
5. Minutes of meeting of 16 December
The minutes were approved as a correct record of the meeting with one amendment: page 4, item 14: the dollar symbol ($) is to be amended to a pound sterling sign (£).
6. Actions outstanding and matters arising from meeting of 16 December 2013:
The outstanding actions were updated.
7. Causewayside Project approval:
DC advised that this paper (BT/14/05) related to part of his earlier Capital Strategy presentation. The project had been included in previous submissions to the Board, but it had been recognised that a fuller description of this work, its funding and timetable were needed followed by a clear minute of approval by the Board. This present paper therefore was a formal request for approval of the spend described. There followed thorough discussion of this project, beginning with the conventions of presentation adopted within the paper. Discussion included governance and the responsibility for each stage and area within the project. During discussion, questions of terminology in identifying responsible parties were raised.
Board members expressed concern that Causewayside, which had been built relatively recently, needed such extensive repairs. Queries were raised about liability and it was noted that matters had been progressed as far as was possible but without achieving recompense. The Board was keen to ensure that clear liability had been incorporated within this current project contract and DC gave assurances.
The Board requested that those responsible tested the replacement stone, its cut and positioning to ensure that this time it is correct. Assurances were sought that existing stonework had been or would be reviewed. Further information was requested in the following areas: Cost considerations, details as to funding, any conditions attached to the funding, costs included in project scope (VAT, fees etc.), the scope of the works, contractor guarantees, gap analysis, and consideration of risks. It was agreed that assurances in relation to these areas would be provided to Board members at the following meeting.
JL asked for assurances that there were no dangers to the collections, both at present and as a result of the works. DC confirmed that this had been assessed and none was evident.
The Board approved the project but echoed concern, raised at the Audit Committee, about the earlier confusion and urged meticulousness in matching timely submissions and their formal approval. The Board asked for assurances that progress reports would be made regularly to the Audit Committee. A more detailed information paper with appropriate framework and conventions was to be prepared for inclusion at the March meeting of the Board.
The Board approved paper BT/14/05.
8. Loan agreements for approval:
There was one loan request for approval – the Stirling Smith Gallery and Museum has requested two items for inclusion in an exhibition.
The Board approved the loan.
9. Membership of committees:
JB asked all Board members to contact RJ to register their interest in any of the current committees and to provide details as to their availability. It was noted that GC would be taking forward a piece of work reviewing and perhaps extending the current committee structure.
10. Strategic Risk Register:
Items 10 and 11 in the agenda were transposed.
JB advised that the Secretary had in hand plans to further simplify the presentation of the Register. RJ continued that at present there were seven strategic risks identified and escalated from departmental risk registers. The strategic risk register is submitted to each meeting of the Audit Committee, currently quarterly, and to each meeting of the Board, the ultimate owner of the register.
There was some discussion as to how the register was modelled and measured and it was noted that each Head of Department managed her or his own risk register, with these being an agenda item at each team meeting. These registers were then reported upwards to the Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) with any items which had been identified at departmental level flagged for discussion. Any subsequent items identified at CLT level for further escalation were included in the strategic register for raising with the Board.
The Board is to be involved in determining the appetite of the organisational for risk. It was noted that further information about staffing or HR risks may need to be included within the register.
11. Draft Corporate Plan and budget
KVDS joined the meeting.
DC provided a brief introduction to the corporate plan advising that normally there would be a three year plan proposed but due to the current recruitment of a Chief Executive and National Librarian it was felt that a single year plan was most suitable at the present time. It was noted that the plan submitted was still in draft. JB asked for there to be discussion on this today with Board members to comment, so that these may be considered and included in a more polished version to be presented at the March meeting of the Board.
A question about the periodicity of funding for the Library was raised. Members asked when this was agreed and how government announced it. DS, representative of Scottish Government, advised that a three-year cycle was the ideal, but that elections sometimes intervened. It was felt that the production of a single year corporate plan was sensible given the organisation's current position with a new Board and without a CEO. It was also felt that perhaps a rolling four year strategy rather than a longer term – such as the proposed 2014 to 2030 – might be more suitable.
MM asked about the HR elements within the document and whether there were resources enough for the task. In reply in was noted that there had recently been additional resources recruited to the HR shared services team to allow for the load.
There was a request for some background information for the new Board members so that they may fully contextualise the information contained within the plan. It was also noted that there was perhaps a lack of detail within the plan in relation to specifics, i.e. the curatorial skills required to ensure access to collections and that it was important not to lose sight of such items.
MB raised the question of a strap line as there had been one for the previous corporate plan and KVDS assured him that this was being included, but had just not yet been finalised.
SL asked if there could be more detail relating to readers as well as a clearer reflection in the risk register.
LF mentioned, as well as declaring an interest, the great support that the Library has given to the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, and expressed confidence that this support would continue.
JB thanked all for their comments.
The Board approved the draft and encouraged further work to refine it. Both the refined plan and the budget are to be submitted at the March meeting.
12. Notes from 'Looking to the future' session:
Strategy presentation — Koen Van der Straeten, Planning
KVDS provided an outline presentation on the organisation's strategy and answered questions.
A query was raised about the number of uncatalogued items within the collection and what risk this represented in thus denying access to users. DM identified the approximate number of uncatalogued items and described the resource needed to rectify this. The current plan was to catalogue 100% of the current ingest and make inroads on uncatalogued material as resource allowed. It was also noted that this could be a reputational risk for the organisation and that as such it may be noted within the risk register.
JB thanked KVDS for the work done and asked that if there were any further comments if these could be feedback to RJ for consideration and inclusion going forward.
Recruitment of a new Chief Executive:
GC noted that the previous Chief Executive and National Librarian had announced his retirement in December. The timeline for recruitment of a successor previously advised had now slipped with dates moving back about a month. All those involved in the recruitment process would be informed of any changed dates as soon as possible.
Blue sky thinking and new ideas:
JB asked the new Board Members for any thoughts which they may have, both positive and negative now that the day was almost complete. Each new Board member provided some brief comments.
A number of them commented on the fact that the Library was at an important point, with the appointment of a new Board and the recruitment of a new Chief Executive; that it was important to provide stability and continuity.
There was a request for the annual Board work plan to be advanced, to show a timeline of regular reviews and actions such as annual accounts and budgets.
Possible collaboration was raised with other organisations on such matters as the centenary of Carnegie's death. Extending access was raised with members indicating areas where there was little or none, both rural and metropolitan, perhaps linking with local libraries throughout Scotland to show material from the Library.
A display facility at the Scottish Parliament was also suggested.
13. Any other business:
It was noted that RJ was to write to those Board members who had recently demitted office to thank them for their service.
It was noted that MB's status in the papers should be amended to correctly show his representation within the Board.
Confidential minute from 16 December
This was accepted as an accurate record of the meeting.
DM provided a brief background and update in relation to the purchase and it was noted that a full briefing note would be circulated on this item once the confidentiality agreement was no longer required.
14. Date of next meeting:
26 March 2014.