Author Archive

Public Service Recognition Week and the Archivist’s Awards

Written on: May 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Despite the challenges of the past year–sequestration, the government shutdown, and other obstacles we have had to face– the staff of the National Archives has consistently risen to the occasion and has done some extraordinary work.

Archivist Award Ceremony 2014
Staff receive awards at the 2014 Archivist’s Awards Ceremony at the National Archives in College Park

 

For me, every week is Public Service Recognition Week and I have come to look forward to the Archivist’s Awards day when we celebrate our staff’s accomplishments.  All of our staff members are winners based on feedback supplied by our customers–the day-to-day work that doesn’t always get heralded. Here are some of the terrific things customers have to say about the staff of the National Archives:

  • An IRS agent was “taken aback by the professionalism and personal attention she received” at San Bruno. And another IRS person praised the FRC staff in Boston, Pittsfield, Seattle, and Lee’s Summit who “really went the extra mile to locate some very old Form 1120s––corporate tax returns.”
  • A  Department of Commerce records officer wrote: “Thank you again for coming and providing ERA training. You did fantastic, and the feedback was very good…. You are welcome to come back any time.”
  • At the National Personnel Records Center, a daughter searching for the military records of her late father wrote that “it is apparent you did a great deal
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Patent of the Month: Tucker “Torpedo” Patent Drawing, 06/14/1949

Written on: May 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

During World War II, the South Side of Chicago was home to one of the largest war plants in the country, used by Dodge-Chrysler to build bomber plane engines. After the war, Preston Tucker leased two of the buildings to build his “Torpedo” car. This site is now the home of the National Archives at Chicago! Our National Archives Education team shares the full story on their Facebook page.

Here are the patent drawings for Tucker’s “Torpedo” car:

Tucker Torpedo

Tucker Torpedo

Tucker Torpedo Patent Drawing, 6/14/1949, National Archives Identifier 594674[ Read all ]

Making Access Happen by Expanding Broadband

Written on: May 1, 2014 | 1 Comment

I recently attended the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ public hearing on broadband access, hosted at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. I was joined by colleagues from Federal agencies, universities, museums and libraries to examine the need for high speed broadband access in America’s libraries, and how this access is essential in meeting the educational, cultural, and information needs of all citizens.

As the leader of an agency dedicated to providing access to the permanent records of the federal government, I support this initiative to increase broadband access. Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, spoke eloquently of his own experience in using archival records and the value of electronic access to those records.  Broadband access is the crucial piece in this equation; we need to ensure that our holdings and content can reach the eyes of many more people in order to truly make access happen.

Watch the full recording of the IMLS Public Hearing: “Libraries and Broadband: Urgency and Impact”: 

[ Read all ]

Modernizing Records Management

Written on: April 30, 2014 | 1 Comment

The Managing Government Records Directive (OMB M12-18) charges the National Archives and Records Administration to lead the efforts to modernize records management in the Federal Government.

The Directive focuses on two main goals:

  • agencies will require electronic recordkeeping by managing all their email in an accessible electronic format by the end of 2016 and managing all their permanent records as electronic records by the end of 2019.
  • agencies must demonstrate compliance with all records management laws and regulations.

I talked about the importance of the Directive in a post when it was issued in 2012. Since then, we passed several milestones. Agencies have identified Senior Agency Officials to lead records management in their programs and I have met with them to discuss the challenge and collaborate on solutions. And they have reported on their progress.

Industry Day

Staff members Meg Phillips, Don Rosen, and Chief Records Officer Paul Wester mingle with vendors at “The Managing Government Records Directive: A Grand Challenge for Industry” event in September 2013.

In September, we hosted a successful industry day for the Federal information management community and vendors with automated electronic records management solutions and services. It was an opportunity to meet and discuss the solutions and tools needed to meet the goals of the Directive.

We followed industry day with a request for information, asking vendors to describe … [ Read all ]

Be Bold. Build Our Future Through Our People

Written on: April 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

Our fourth strategic goal, our most important goal, focuses on the real treasures of the National Archives–our staff.

The Future statue

Photograph of Female Statue, The Future, Located near the Pennsylvania Avenue Entrance to the National Archives Building, 06/30/1936. National Archives ID: 7657960

 

This goal highlights our commitment to provide our staff with the training, tools and opportunities necessary for the transition into a digital environment. We intend to support staff through creating a culture of empowerment, openness and inclusion through both our processes and new technology. And we want to ensure that we have a diverse workforce, equipped with the skills necessary to fulfill our mission.

The goal of “Building Our Future Through Our People” includes several initiatives. We plan to:

  • Foster an employee development culture to promote learning and leadership by all.
  • Cultivate a robust, well-connected internal communications environment to support informed action at all levels.
  • Implement innovative practices and tools to recruit, sustain, and retain a 21st century workforce.
  • Create new career paths for NARA employees to ensure that we have the necessary competencies and skills in a digital environment.

As you can see from the initiatives, we take our commitment to the staff of the National Archives very seriously.  It is only by providing a supportive environment for our staff that any of our goals may be achieved.

This is the final post … [ Read all ]

Be Bold: Maximize NARA’s Value to the Nation

Written on: April 22, 2014 | 1 Comment

In this goal we recognize that public access to government information creates measurable economic value, which adds to the enduring cultural, historical, and evidentiary value of our records.

Maximize Value
National Archives Identifier: 196401

When we talk about economic value, we are not talking about the appraised value or the replacement value of our records. Historically, we have talked about economic value in terms of the large number of jobs and economic activity that NARA generates. Examples include the local economic activity generated around our public programs; the numerous professional researchers and authors who write non-fiction and best-selling works of fiction based on NARA records; popular films that came to fruition only because of the existence and hard work of the National Archives.

“Maximize NARA’s Value to the Nation” charts a course forward from this legacy. The course forward supports our transition to digital government, so that we can quickly and efficiently provide public access to our records. We want to ensure our historical government data is accessible by customers when they need it and in the format or technology platform that is easy for them to use. And when we talk about economic value today, we are not talking about commercial value only. We are expanding this idea beyond a simple commercial concept, to consider the social valuation of our returns on investment. These are opportunities to … [ Read all ]

Be Bold: Connect with Customers

Written on: April 17, 2014 | 1 Comment

Connect with Customers
State Fair, 10/1972. National Archives Identifier 545457

The second of our new strategic goals is to “Connect with Customers.”

Having spent most of my career working with the public, customer service is a passion of mine. In my personal life I am always looking for exemplars—places where I am dazzled by attention to service, places which learn from their customers, places which put their customers at the center of the service equation.

At the National Archives, we connect with customers in a multitude of ways: nationwide, face-to-face, over the phone, across the desk, in our research rooms, in the classroom and of course, online.  We have a wide-variety of customer communities, including educators, historians, genealogists, researchers, veterans and now groups such as civic hackers, Wikipedians and many more. We need to become more agile, more creative in connecting with them – whoever they are, wherever they are, to deliver what they want when they want it.

But connection is not just about delivery, it is about engaging with the public in ways we have not done in the past. Much of the work we have been doing with Open Government has been about connecting with customers in new ways.  In speaking about Open Government, President Obama said, “Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made.  It means … [ Read all ]

Be Bold: Make Access Happen

Written on: April 15, 2014 | 12 Comments

Women Working at a Switchboard
Photograph of Women Working at a Bell System Telephone Switchboard. National Archives Identifier 1633445.

 

The first of our new strategic goals is to “Make Access Happen.”  Increasingly, access means digital, online access. Our first goal has one objective, to make our records available to the public in digital form to ensure that anyone can explore, discover and learn from our records.

Here are a few of the initiatives listed under this goal:

  • First, we want to complete the long journey of describing our holdings in our online catalog. We launched our first agency-wide online catalog in 2003, and now we are within just a few years of being able to say that over 95% of our records are described at the series level. Currently we are at 83% and going strong. Archivists across the agency continue to provide basic archival metadata to the catalog so that people around the world can know what we have.
  • We will also accelerate the processing of analog and digital records to quickly make our records available to the public. Foundational technology for that effort will be the development of a digital processing environment that will allow archival, digitization and description staff to work in an environment that supports and enhances accelerated processing of the records.
  • We want to digitize our records and to make them available online.
[ Read all ]

Creating The Best Commencement Speech Ever

Written on: March 31, 2014 | 2 Comments

Commencement Season is fast approaching and I am honored to have been selected to deliver the address at North Carolina State University in May.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember who my commencement speaker was or what he or she had to say!

During my years at MIT and Duke, Commencement was always a special day for me.  It put into perspective all of the work during the previous year to ensure that students and faculty had the information resources and support they needed in their coursework and research—a morning to celebrate the launch of another class of educated men and women.

So, I am taking this assignment seriously.  I will certainly be taking FDR’s advice to heart—“Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

But I need your help.  What advice would you give this graduating class?  What special message would you deliver to undergraduates?  Graduate students? Parents and other family members? Faculty and staff of the university?  Send me your ideas!

 

FDR delivers fireside chat

Franklin D. Roosevelt having a fireside chat in Washington, DC, 04/28/1935. National Archives Identifier 196760[ Read all ]

Being Bold!

Written on: March 25, 2014 | 3 Comments

Ocean Survey Vessel Bold

From Photographs Taken Aboard the Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold, National Archives Identifier 5998403

Over the past eighteen months, the staff and I at the National Archives have been working diligently to develop our next Strategic Plan. Many meetings, long conversations, Town Halls, thoughtful emails, and loads of feedback from staff and stakeholders have gone into the refinement of the strategy that will be the roadmap for our Agency through 2018. Along the way, I have encouraged staff to stretch their vision and to be bold.

Our Plan has four goals:

Make Access Happen: Increasingly this means digital, online access.

Connect with Customers: Wherever they are, however they want it.

Maximize NARA’s Value to the Nation: Through the use and reuse of our digital content.

Build Our Future through Our People: The most important goal of all.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be blogging on each of the goals to let you in on some of the ideas behind each of them. In the meantime, take a look at our new Strategic Plan.… [ Read all ]