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ARCHIVES  April 2006, Week 4

ARCHIVES April 2006, Week 4

Subject:

Re: Flabbergasted by NARA visit today

From:

Laura Carroll <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Laura Carroll <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 27 Apr 2006 12:19:22 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (112 lines)

 
The recent posting about experiences at NARA reminded me of a post I read recently on a blog maintained by a group of New Jersey librarians.  The purpose of their blog, Library Garden, is to encourage "An ongoing conversation among librarians with differing perspectives (public, academic, school, consortial, youth) but one shared goal: ensuring the health and relevance of libraries. [insert your own gardening metaphor here]
In regards to many of their discussions, one could, and should, add "archives" to that mission statement.   

This is the post that addresses some issues that we as a profession have to start addressing:  
http://librarygarden.blogspot.com/2006/04/practical-tips-on-creating-positive.html

The post is the first in an ongoing series of tips for creating a positive experience for patrons.




Laura L. Carroll
Archivist, Records Management and Archives
American Medical Association
515 North State Street
Chicago, IL  60610
Phone:  312-464-5130
Fax:  312-464-5826 
www.ama-assn.org/go/history




 
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Archives & Archivists [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2006 11:59 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Flabbergasted by NARA visit today

Hi, Harry and List,

Having worked at NARA, I can understand somewhat why they do no pulls on the weekend.  As an agency, you would have to staff up not only the reference room but also the records custodial units.  So, to provide full service on Saturday, you either make staff juggle their schedules (and you know most people want to  match their days off with their family members) or you hire more staff.  At the same time, I feel badly for researchers who've wasted their time trekking out to AII.  I have no car and rely on public transit so I know how difficult it is to get there on Saturday.

Unfortunately, since posting my message, I've gotten several off list messages that recount bad experiences involving people who went to NARA and who waited for hours for records (five hours in one case).  Some times this happened despite prior consultation with staff, prior discussion of screening, etc.  I'm hearing about all kinds of snafus.  
It sounds as if even the researchers who take every precaution before they show up sometimes run into terrible problems.  Having worked both sides (NARA and now an agency historian), I try to see the differing perspectives.  But much of what I'm hearing today really is dispiriting.  If this is hard for me to put up with -- and I'm a "bureaucrat" -- I can't imagine how some of it comes across to members of the general public!!

Maarja


-----Original Message-----
From: Harry Heiss <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thu, 27 Apr 2006 12:36:11 -0400
Subject: Re: Flabbergasted by NARA visit today


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]


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. To subscribe or unsubscribe, send e-mail to [log in to unmask] In body of message: SUB ARCHIVES firstname lastname *or*: UNSUB ARCHIVES To post a message, send e-mail to [log in to unmask]

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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.

To subscribe or unsubscribe, send e-mail to [log in to unmask]
      In body of message:  SUB ARCHIVES firstname lastname
                    *or*:  UNSUB ARCHIVES To post a message, send e-mail to [log in to unmask]

Or to do *anything* (and enjoy doing it!), use the web interface at
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Problems?  Send e-mail to Robert F Schmidt <[log in to unmask]>

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.

To subscribe or unsubscribe, send e-mail to [log in to unmask]
      In body of message:  SUB ARCHIVES firstname lastname
                    *or*:  UNSUB ARCHIVES
To post a message, send e-mail to [log in to unmask]

Or to do *anything* (and enjoy doing it!), use the web interface at
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Problems?  Send e-mail to Robert F Schmidt <[log in to unmask]>

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