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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  April 2006, Week 4

ARCHIVES April 2006, Week 4

Subject:

Re: Flabbergasted by NARA visit today

From:

Thomas Eisinger <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Thomas Eisinger <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 27 Apr 2006 13:18:24 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (105 lines)

I will probably regret responding to this, but...

1.The no-Saturday pull policy is advertised on the website, so you can only be suprised about that if you do not do your "research" first.  The fault there is your's, not NARA's.  I have pulled many records for researchers to come look at on a Saturday.

2. It is not hard to call NARA ahead of time, something you want to do anyway.  The reason is that you probably want to talk with a subject expert who may have some insight into the records you wish to look at.  I have managed to talk with many researchers as they prepared for their visit, and it was almost always to their benefit that they did so.  

3. Believe it or not, NARA does not throw up all the roadblocks to research that you seem to think they do.

4. Personally, I resent the implication you made that NARA gives public servants a bad name.  Mistakes are sometimes made, no one is perfect, but this comment was over the top.

As another aside, while I normally like the posts that Maarja makes since they are normally quite insightful, I think the initial post on the research card issue was a rare mistake.  That is something that should have been handled by making a few appropriate calls around NARA instead of venting on the listserv.

Tom Eisinger
Center for Legislative Archives

p.s.  As a disclaimer, my opinions posted absolutely are not in anyway affiliated with those I work for.


>>> Harry Heiss <[log in to unmask]> 04/27/06 12:36PM >>>
Eric G. Grundset wrote:
"Both days I had plenty of extra time to spend getting a new card and 
neither day (the first one being a Saturday) was the place busy at all (in 
fact, on that Saturday it was empty of researchers). This certainly is not 
very good public service either."


Maarja, Eric, et al.,

I feel your pain.  I once wanted to use NARA's reading room on a Saturday, 
so I went to their website to get the hours, etc.  To my surprise, they 
don't pull records from the stacks on Saturdays.  You have to request the 
records you want on the day before.  This is what their website says:

No records are retrieved from the stacks on Saturday or in the evening. If 
research is conducted on Saturday or after the last retrieval time, 
advance arrangements must be made to have records available by calling the 
reference numbers below. To confirm that records were retrieved, call 
(301) 837-1964.

I pity those researchers who come to Washington from out-of-the-area, 
don't know this, and learn it when they arrive at the Archives on Saturday 
morning. 
Never mind that not all NARA's finding aids are available online and that 
most are available only onsite.  Or that many requests for records come 
back as "Not on Shelf," or that most archival research leads to dead-ends. 
 Just getting to the Archives at College Park is no easy feat, and 
especially on Saturdays using public transit.  If you have to trek out 
there to search the finding aids to find out which records you'll need the 
next day, then you might as well do your research the same day you're 
there.

So I'm not surprised that NARA was empty when Eric visited on a Saturday. 
One would think an astute manager would look at the visitor statistics for 
Saturdays and ask themself, "What's going on here?  Why is no one using 
the Archives on Saturdays?"  Well, duh!  Take a look at your arcane 
procedures, dude.

NARA has thrown up way too many hurdles for researchers under the guise of 
security or lack of funding.  I can just imagine the public outrage if my 
local public library operated as does NARA.  It's no wonder that so many 
people have a negative image of public servants.  All it takes is one bad 
apple or one bad experience.

I'm now stepping off my soapbox and getting back to work.  But I do feel 
much better already.....

Harry

Harry G. Heiss, Archivist
Bureau of the Public Debt
Department of the Treasury
799 Ninth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20239

[log in to unmask] 
202.504.3516 [voice]
202.504.3630 [fax]



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A posting from the Archives & Archivists LISTSERV List sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, www.archivists.org.
For the terms of participation, please refer to http://www.archivists.org/listservs/arch_listserv_terms.asp.

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