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NARA’s draft 2009 strategic plan

The National Archives (NARA) has just released a draft of their 2009 strategic plan entitled, Preserving the Past to Protect the Future. It details NARA’s goals for the next 10 years and offers an interesting window into the agency’s focus. They are asking for public feedback by August 5, 2009 via e-mail (vision@nara.gov) or by fax (301) 837-0319.

Especially read the section, “how will we know we have succeeded.” Some of the benchmarks for success are achievable and admirable (i.e., “Within 30 days of the end of an administration, 100 percent of Presidential and Vice Presidential materials have been moved to NARA locations or NARA-approved facilities.” and “By 2014, 100 percent of NARA records center holdings are stored in appropriate space.”) but it’s glaring that the first item of “success” is that “by 2016, 50 percent of agencies achieve passing scores for compliance with Federal records management policy.” That seems like an extremely low benchmark to this non-archivist. Shouldn’t ALL agencies already be compliant?

  • Goal 1: Our Nation’s Record Keeper
  • Goal 2: Preserve and Process
  • Goal 3: Electronic Records
  • Goal 4: Access
  • Goal 5: Civic Literacy
  • Goal 6: Infrastructure

…And the increasing demand by users for more online access to records has driven us to prioritize the processing of a backlog of records and to focus on increasing our digitization efforts.

Our holdings in all media—paper, electronic, film, and so on—are constantly growing as the proliferation of Government records continues. At the same time, the public demand for access is increasing. NARA has a significant backlog of unprocessed holdings that are therefore not yet readily available to the public. New records are arriving faster than they can be processed. Clearly, we must refocus attention and resources on making as many records as possible accessible to the public.

While we put great effort into readying records for public use, the expectation of easy online access to our holdings continues to grow. The American public expects information to be delivered almost instantly to their desktop with more and more information available via the Internet. However, we cannot provide online access to all our holdings in the next decade—the task is simply too big. Our focus must be on making our most requested holdings available online, and on providing researchers with online tools to help them in their work.

Because of work done every day in NARA facilities across the nation, the public can examine the records that document the actions of Government officials, the entitlements of individuals, the events that make up American history, and in some instances, how those events have affected the rest of the world. With new social media applications (Web 2.0), we have the opportunity to reach the public with tools they already use. These tools allow us to operate more transparently and to interact with our users in new, more informal ways.

Our primary response to the challenge of authentically preserving electronic records and providing access to these records in the future is the Electronic Records Archives (ERA). ERA will provide a comprehensive, systematic, and dynamic means of preserving and providing continuing access to authentic electronic records over time. When fully deployed, ERA will give us the means to preserve, process, and provide continuing access to Federal Government electronic records of archival value. Yet, at the same time, we must explore ways to provide economical storage and retrieval services for electronic records that remain under the legal control of the originating agencies. We must also continue to adapt our internal business processes and staff expertise to effectively use the ERA system and to ensure that it evolves over time to fit tomorrow’s technology.

The Internet has introduced countless researchers to the holdings of the National Archives. This thirst for online access to information is exciting, as it brings more and more people to our virtual doors, yet the task of building an “archives without walls” is daunting. Implicit in this task is the ability for archivists and the public to virtually interact. Our strategies in this area will focus on developing dynamic partnerships to digitize and deliver our most popular holdings and create interactive tools to help researchers find the information they seek. By putting our country’s records literally at the public’s fingertips, we will be able to share our rich resources with more people than ever before.

[Thanks to John Wonderlich and the Open House Project for pointing this one out!]

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