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Tell National Archives, Congress that working people need access too!

Thanks to LISNews for reporting on a proposed reduction in hours at the main National Archives reading room:

Our research center and Central Research Room in the National Archives Building and the research rooms at the National Archives at College Park facility are currently open for research Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturdays from 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. This interim final rule would eliminate Saturday hours and change the research room hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, more closely reflecting NARA official business hours in those facilities. The new research room hours are specified in §§ 1253.1(a) and 1253.2(b). We are also amending § 1253.8 since we no longer will have Saturday hours.

According to the LISNews article, President Richard Pearce-Moses of the Society of American Archivists offered testimony in favor of some extended hours:

NARA held a public hearing last Thursday, 3 August. I spoke on behalf of the Society of American Archivists, expressing concern that this was a serious barrier to public access. Restricting reading room hours to business hours requires that many, maybe most, members of the public must take time off from work to use the collections. The effect is that they may have to pay for access in terms of lost wages.

While I’m sure all archivists appreciate the challenges of budgets and the costs of extended hours, I believe it is essential for NARA to find some means to retain some extended hours. One option would be to remain open evenings or weekends, rather than both. Archivist Weinstein commented that he was committed to the principle of access to records. In other comments, the Archivist noted that public input would be a factor in the final determination of hours.

In support of their rule change, NARA notes the small percentage of researchers who use NARA facilities after normal business hours. But thanks to the vast number of people who come to NARA for research purposes, this still impacts thousands of researchers. By NARA’s own figures, 18,719 people did in-person research either at NARA’s main building or at their Park Facility either on Saturdays or during evening hours in 2005. It’s probably a fair assumption that most of these people came during these extended hours because that’s when they were able to. Why should we exclude thousands of working people from access to government records? We shouldn’t be. Why should we force thousands of people to choose between wages and researching the records their tax dollars helped collect and process? We shouldn’t be.

In the LISNews article, Richard Pearce-Moses offers these ways to comment:

You can help make the case for the importance of public access to public records by submitting comments online at http://www.regulations.gov. For the agency, select National Archives and Records Administration all. In the Keyword, type hours. Click submit, and you’ll see an icon for adding comments.

You can also send comments by fax (301-837-0319) or by mail to Regulations Comments Desk (NPOL), Room 4100, Policy and Planning Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.

In addition to Richard’s suggestions, I’d like to suggest that you copy your Congressional delegation on any comments made to NARA, plus suggest an increase for the National Archives budget. Try to suggest a decrease somewhere else. For ideas, try the Citizens Against Government Waste web site, or the US Budget on GPO Access.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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