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Updated Responses to Questions about the Robert M. Warner Research Center Reconfiguration Project

by on September 13, 2011


Presenters at the Researcher Forum meeting on August 18 responded to several questions about the Archives I Reconfiguration Project during the Q & A portion of the program, which they promised to look into further and supplement as follows.

  •  Availability of Print and Online Versions of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

NARA purchased the Digital Serial Set Collection in September 2010.  The U.S. Serial Set is a collection of U.S. Government publications compiled under the directive of Congress. It contains comprehensive and often detailed information on an extremely wide range of subjects. Its earliest documents date from 1789, and additions are made continually.  The Serial Set contains over 11 million pages of congressional reports and documents, including the American State Papers and thousands of maps.  The Digital Serial Set, which includes the complete contents of the print version from its beginnings to the present, is available to all NARA staff and researchers nationwide via PCs connected to NARA’s network.

The print serial set will be relocated to Archives II by the end of September 2011.  Researchers at Archives I or Archives II desiring to use the print volumes instead of the digital version can do so by contacting ALIC staff in room 3000 or via e-mail at alic@nara.gov.

Genealogical researchers who are not familiar with the Serial Set may be interested in reading Jeff Hartley’s article entitled “Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research,” which appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Prologue.  You may find it as well at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2009/spring/congressional-serial-set.html.  A useful article on the American State Papers is Chris Naylor’s “Those Elusive Early Americans: Public Lands and Claims in the American State Papers, 1789–1837,” which is available at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/summer/state-papers.html.

  •  Capacity and Availability of Researcher Lockers

There are currently 212 lockers available for researchers at Archives I:  92 are high school-style wardrobe lockers; 64 are oversized luggage-storage style; 56 are smaller lockers stacked 2-high.  The reconfiguration plan calls for 139 lockers: 80 lockers stacked 2-high, 46 luggage lockers, and 13 wardrobe lockers.  Should we experience an overflow situation, we will establish a coat check-like area that is monitored and protected.

  •  Time Needed to Move into the New Microfilm Research Room

To accomplish this move, we will need to move the microfilm by hand, transferring the film from the cabinets in the current research room to empty cabinets in the new research room.  In addition to moving the film, we will need to move the cabinets as they are emptied, create new labels for the cabinets, update the new location register, and move all of our finding aids to the new space. During the renovation of Archives I, we closed researcher services for two weeks so all employees could ready the new research area.  The upcoming move will require us to be very meticulous. We will be moving microfilm that currently resides in 101 base cabinets and 81 upper cabinets to 100 base cabinets and approximately 91 upper cabinets. We have the space to accommodate all of the film, but one error could cause a host of problems.  As we get closer to the move date, we will provide more specific information on the closure.

  •  Planning for Overflow from the Central Research Room and Microfilm Research Room

In order to be respectful of researchers’ time when research visits are high and rooms are at capacity, we have developed the following plan to ensure that each researcher will have as much time as possible for their work.  In the Central Research Room, we have posted signs that state, “If you will be away from your research table longer than 60 minutes, please turn in your records and vacate your table.”  You may be asked to take your equipment with you.  In addition, NARA staff may move belongings from unoccupied table stations after 60 minutes of inactivity; begin assigning table stations during periods of high user volume; reassign a researcher’s table station; or restrict usage to two hours during periods of high user volume.

On the rare occasion that we have a waiting list for the textual reading room, we announce that we will be invoking time limits and, by checking the times on pull slips, identify those who have been in the room more than two hours.  We ask them to turn in their records and add their names to the waiting list.  Researchers on the list are assigned two hours of research time.  It has been necessary to invoke this process only a few times per year, and it is usually of short duration.

We usually know in advance if a group is coming to conduct microfilm research. Our process for any high-traffic day is to ask researchers to sign in; we then assign readers to researchers in two-hour increments.  We also have signs in the research room that alert users to the fact that if they leave a machine for more than 30 minutes, we can remove their belongings and assign the reader to someone else. Implementation of this process has been necessary only a few times per year and is usually of short duration.

  •  Repairing NARA’s Microfilm Readers and Printers

Microfilm Readers:  We stockpile several parts for the microfilm machines including bulbs and bulb sockets. With these parts, staff can quickly fix many of the minor reoccurring problems presented by the machines. When repairs require dismantling the equipment, we request service from the Library Store.

There are 24 microfilm machines in the research room. Repair service is requested on a quarterly basis or when more than four machines are in need of repair. In most cases, the Library Store responds to our request within two business days and is able to repair the equipment. There are times, however, when the Library Store must order parts from the factory in Israel.

Microfilm Printers:  The printers are under contract to MEDI for repair.  MEDI usually responds to our request for service within one business day and sends out a repair technician within two business days.

  •  Classroom Seating Capacity

The new classroom will be the same size as the existing classroom, with one big advantage—it will not have columns to limit one’s line of sight.   It can accommodate about 45 chairs in theater style and 20 to 24 chairs (2 per table) in seminar style.

  •  Amount of Research-Related Space after the Reconfiguration Project

The existing research center has 24,704 square feet of researcher-useable space. The reconfigured research center will have 17,008 square feet of researcher-useable space, for a reduction of 7,696 square feet.  While the reconfigured research center will have less space than the existing center, the reconfiguration will allow for more efficient use of the space, as detailed by Deputy Archivist of the United States Debra Wall during her presentation at the August 18, 2011, Researcher Forum.  At that time she also stated, “I hope you will agree that our service to you should not be measured in square footage, but in the quality of the services we provide.  And I do think the new space will have much improved flow and efficiency.”


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