The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 15, Number 6
Oct 1991

A Report to Readers and Supporters, From the Editor

It has been over three years since the trustees of Abbey Publications, Inc., decided to ask readers for donations to put the newsletters on a more realistic financial footing. Now it is time to look back, see what has been accomplished in those three years, and size up the present situation. This editorial is a report to readers and supporters and serves as a sequel to the "History of the Abbey Publications", story that appeared in the May issue.

In the April 1988 board meeting, I reported the financial condition of the corporation, as I always do, and told the trustees that we had broken even as usual, even though the newsletter had not been subsidized by my employer since I resigned from my job at the Brigham Young University Library the previous year. I had made this happen by taking as my salary only the money that was left over after everything else had been paid. In 1987 that had been $3261. The trustees could see (though oddly I could not, at that time) that this arrangement was unworkable. They directed me to raise my annual salary to $12,000, retroactive to January. I argued and objected, saying Provo had a low cost of living and I didn't need that much, and we didn't have the money anyhow. The trustees won the argument, saying that they would raise the money.

Donations for 1988 totaled $3962 as a result of their appeals and readers' response, enabling me to take a salary of $8309. (The Alkaline Paper Advocate and Abbey pH Pen were both new that year, and not bringing in much money yet, so it was not possible to take the entire official salary of $12,000.)

At the next board meeting in April 1989, the trustees assured me that it was not unfair to charge institutions for job ads, or to raise the price of back issues and APA subscriptions. The best way to get money, they said, was to make money. That made sense. Better business practices, together with $3663 worth of help from subscribers during 1989, made it possible for me to draw my full salary.

In 1990, both the newsletters and the new-model pH pens did well; investment of prepayments for subscriptions brought in $2,669 in interest; and contributions totaled $4673. We did over $100,000 worth of business that year for the first time, and there was even $20,000 left over--not profit, of course, but a cash reserve. Some of that reserve has been needed, or will be needed, for 1991 expenses--a $2,000 salary increase voted by the board, $500 for an increase in postal rates, $1800 for an office rent increase, and the cost of hiring and training a new assistant to replace Janice Miller two months ago. And there are a number of things on our corporate wish list that we could do if there were funds for them.

Where We are Now

Abbey Publications, Inc., is a well-run organization with good financial records, business policies and office procedures. We have no debt, and are able to collect almost all accounts due us unless the customer has gone bankrupt. We keep track of the money in savings vs. the reserve for refunds if we had to shut down tomorrow, and are able to produce graphs, charts and lists of all sorts on our computer to tell us how we are doing. Subscription records are kept both on the computer and on 3" x 5" cards; the computer records are backed up once a week.

We promote the newsletters and the pH pens to targeted audiences through giveaways at conventions or by means of mailings; also in a more general way, by writing articles for and speaking to other groups, and by sending samples to all information sources.

Convention expenses are kept down by getting press passes, staying with friends and travelling on senior citizens' coupons.

Goals of the Corporation

The articles of incorporation say the goals of the corporation are:

  1. To disseminate news and information to people involved in any aspect of conservation of library and archival materials;
  2. To stimulate and encourage the field of conservation in all its aspects--curatorial, scientific, restorative and administrative;
  3. To record the achievements of the field and to provide access to relevant professional literature of the past, of other fields and of other countries;
  4. To engage in related activities such as organization of symposia, production of audio-visual aids, or maintenance of an information service.

These goals are implemented by gathering information and putting it where it can do the most good. In practice, this means supplementing existing grapevines by keeping practitioner-s, administrators and scientists in touch with one another, and supplementing the educational and training system by supplying these same people with background information about major developments. In this field, personal contacts and "grey literature" (internal reports, student papers, institutional guidelines, and so on) are the main charmers through which information is distributed and knowledge accumulated. In order to find almost anything out, you have to know someone. Preservation is not taught below the graduate level in school, and the average person who tries to look something up in the library will probably be disappointed when they look in the catalog. Even if some publications are listed, the books are probably in the office of the preservation librarian or conservator. So until this situation changes, the grapevine will be central, and must be fed.

To get the right information for this work, I attend conferences, scan over 100 serial publications received on exchange at the office, study books, call information sources and do what amounts to investigative journalism. To keep key people in touch with each other, I give life subscriptions to retirees who have contributed significantly to the field (and who may continue to do so, if we stay in touch with them), limited-time free subscriptions to people who are doing important work but are not on grapevine, and ongoing free subscriptions to the first subscriber the in each country; I organize professional groups like the AIC Book and Paper Group and the TAPPI Paper Permanence Committee; do the People column in each newsletter, refer callers to experts; and publish the Useful Addresses list. Free subscriptions that are set up in connection with this work make up 5% of the Abbey Newsletter's subscription list, and 10% of the APA's. The free lists are evaluated and pruned annually.

Future plans will be discussed in a subsequent report.

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