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2009-12, 363, 364, President's Annual Report - Sydney, Richard Blair

President’s Report: 2009

President’s Report for the BCSA
Annual General Meeting held on 5 September 2009

AS YOU KNOW, last September due mainly to dreadful weather, we did not have a quorum to hold the Annual General Meeting at our then meeting venue in Macquarie Street in the city. A special committee meeting was held on 28 October 2008. This was followed by the deferred AGM at Summer Hill on 6 December, when I officially assumed the role of President of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia from the Immediate Past Acting President, Brian Taylor. That meeting was our first at this venue here in the Summer Hill Community Centre and, having met here since, I can report that the venue seems to fit the bill in several ways: being reasonably central, easily accessible to public transport, having adequate parking, and the centre itself being modern, well equipped and comfortable. Above all, the venue hire fees are low. Should the need ever arise to move to a larger room, the centre can accommodate that need, though this would be at a somewhat higher fee rate.

Just for the record, only four or five people attended our aborted AGM in September 2008, but it did not deter Brian Taylor from giving a diverting potted presentation on his collection of Tramwayana books. Brian hopes to present an extended version of this talk on another occasion. As last December’s AGM was followed by our annual Show & Tell, it proved to be a long, though productive meeting. Show & Tell is the annual opportunity for members to present and share some of their latest finds. Popular vote decided the “best” presentation was by Helen Kenny with her two books
about Aborigines, especially Aboriginal languages, and one from the 19th century. As is common practice, written coverage of this and other discussed items at that meeting will appear in the September 2009 issue of Biblionews.

Our March meeting was chaired by Brian Taylor and our guest speaker was Stephen Szabo whose topic was “Heraldic book collecting with reference to Australia”. I missed this talk as I was overseas but received very positive feedback about Stephen’s presentation. I had heard Stephen address the Marrickville Heritage Society in August 2008 on similar themes,so was already familiar with Stephen’s extensive knowledge of and passion for his subject.

2009 is the 65th anniversary of our Society and in part recognition of this the committee agreed to Brian’s proposition that we introduce an occasional Walter and Jean Stone Memorial Talk in honour of these two iconic members of the BCSA. An inveterate bibliophile, Walter was a BCSA co-founder and was the backbone of the Society until his death in 1981. Jean was also very involved and I gather meetings were held in the Stone household for many years.

So at our June meeting it was my privilege to announce the inaugural Walter and Jean Stone Memorial Talk to be presented by veteran BCSA member Jeff Bidgood. Jeff spoke on “Some reminiscences of members of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia”. My description of Jeff as a ‘veteran’ is borne out by the fact that he joined the Society around 1950, only six years after it started. That’s a heck of a long time to be, not just associated with, but for many of those years an integral part of the BCSA.
Indeed, when I joined the Society in 2000 Jeff, and his lovely wife Betty, were my initial points of contact and their warm hospitality in their Croydon home at meetings made me feel very welcome into the organisation. This continued for a couple of years after they relocated to Ryde. For many years Jeff was secretary and archivist and handled the layout of Biblionews, whilst Betty was treasurer. I really enjoyed Jeff’s talk in June and there is no doubt that Jeff was the ideal choice to present the inaugural Walter and Jean Stone Memorial Talk. I’m sure Brian will discuss Jeff’s talk further in his report. I should add that we were honoured to have present at that talk
Walter’s granddaughter Megan Jones and her husband Graeme. Walter’s grandson Bradley Stone, a member of the Society, was unable to attend.

After Jeff’s presentation, in recoginition of his over half-a-century-long contributions to the Society, he was formally inducted as a Life Member of the BCSA.

At our committee meeting in October 2008 and in accordance with the 1944 Constitution the committee put forward a proposal to effectively invite the Book Collectors’ Society of South Australia to become a branch of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia after an approach to that effect from the BCSSA itself. Following ratification of three ensuing recommendations put at the AGM, we formally extended the invitation to the BCSSA and this was accepted by them. So we welcome the BCSSA into the fold and trust that, certainly in the area of publication, this may be a further source of Biblionews articles.

Replacing the existing leaflet, the Society has produced a new brochure for the Sydney branch, designed by Chris Nicholls with input from the rest of the committee, and incorporating Norman Hetherington’s appealing image of a man and a woman with their heads buried in books amidst a sea of other books. We have several hundred of these which can be distributed at book fairs and other outlets as well as on other suitable occasions. Thanks, Chris, for your work on this.

Perhaps the most exciting development this year has been the creation of the Society’s website by Tom Fletcher with input from Chris Nicholls. From what I’ve seen it looks tremendous and I thank Tom for making this happen and making it look so good. Not only will this allow the Society to reach a larger audience, it has enormous potential for increasing our membership.

Setting up a website was one of two suggestions in Brian’s annual report last year regarding the celebration of our 65th year. The other was the updating of the 1944 constitution. Brian and I had planned to do this, but due to the pressure of other obligations this has not progressed. Of course, it should always be remembered that we are a voluntary organisation where, for the most part, we give freely of our time. So whilst only 50% of Brian’s expressed goals were achieved, we can bear in mind that with Brian’s later suggestion re the Walter and Jean Stone Memorial Lecture being instigated, we can say “two out of three ain’t bad”. Hopefully the updating of the
constitution can be progressed over the next few months.

I can certainly vouch for the fact that Brian has given countless hours of time each year to editing our quarterly journal Biblionews and having prime responsibility for getting it printed and despatched. Apart from one year when Neil Radford acted as editor, Brian has edited Biblionews for 17 years since 1992, a meritorious achievement. Biblionews continues to be a first rate journal and, as we know, in more recent years illustrations, sometimes in colour, have become an integral part of the journal. Until now, with the recent birth of our website, the journal has been the face of the BCSA and I highly commend Brian for his strenuous efforts over the years. Furthermore, for two years, until last year, in the absence of a permanent occupant, Brian also acted as president of the Society.

Brian can’t take all the credit however, as John Newland has admirably handled the layout since taking over that role from Jeff Bidgood, making this a collaborative effort; so thank you also, John. Brian has expressed his wish to step aside as editor after bringing out the September issue, at least in the short term, in order to pursue another project, but I’ll leave it to Brian to elaborate on that in his Publication Editor’s report.

I will say however, that producing four issues annually of Biblionews, albeit, sometimes three, allowing for the occasional joint issue, comes at a cost. Brian can speak authoritatively on this, but I understand that producing four issues a year including layout, printing, handling and postage costs around $4500 a year. Brian is paid nothing for his efforts except for some essential out-of-pocket expenses, but Brian is comfortable with that arrangement, given the voluntary nature of our society.

In the financial sphere may I thank our treasurer Darel Hughes for preparing his annual report and handling the accounts using his expertise as an accountant. Darel will enlighten us on how we are faring financially, but we do seem to have retained our status quo in the past year. Like all of us, Darel has other commitments, and our secretary Mark Ferson has assisted Darel in some day to day functions of the treasurer such as getting cheques signed and despatched and paying reimbursements where appropriate. Mark, of course, notifies members of our meetings, maintains the Society’s records and does much else besides, which he will cover in his report.

With the website now in operation we can look forward to a new era in the Society, but it’s also essential that the site is regularly monitored and updated. I am pleased that Tom has indicated his willingness to maintain the website, despite his limited spare time. There is general agreement that we reinstitute the position of vice-president, which is certainly covered in the 1944 constitution, to assist the president in his or her role. I should mention that an offer has been made by member Michael Hough to write the History of the BCSA, so we look forward to how this project develops. As Biblionews is by far the Society’s largest expense we may need to examine ways to reduce costs in its production, without compromising the integrity and standard of this fine publication. Apart from those I have already thanked in particular areas, I would like to give additional thanks to Brian, Mark and Chris for their ongoing advice on a range of matters. Finally may I say I’ve enjoyed being president of the Society for this past year or so and many thanks for bestowing on me that opportunity.
Richard Blair

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