National Archives Updates Open-Government Plan
by David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States
One of President Barack Obama’s first actions when he took office in 2009 was to make a commitment to the “open government” principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration. At the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), we also made that commitment. Doing so was not difficult, since those same principles of open government are embedded in our basic mission.
In response to the president’s directive, during 2010 we developed our own open- government plan that included a set of proposed actions involving approximately seventy tasks. The goal was to improve customer service, encourage communication among staff, and foster better record keeping by federal agencies and departments. Now, two years later, I am pleased to report that we have completed most of the tasks that were part of that plan. As a result, the National Archives has:
- Embraced social media and become a governmental leader in its use
- Increased access to NARA holdings by speeding up the declassification of records, and by reducing the response time to Freedom of Information Act requests and citizen requests for copies of records (especially veterans’ records from our St. Louis personnel records center)
- Taken the lead in developing sound records-management practices for all government departments and agencies
- Transformed NARA into an organization built upon the principles of participation, collaboration, and transparency
The plan was ambitious, and the internal reorganization altered the shape of the organization and lines of authority, affecting most of the staff in some way, but the plan also shifted our thinking about the services we deliver.
We know we do not have all the answers. We must draw on what our citizen archivists know by encouraging them to work with us to add value to our records and help us show people how to use the records that belong to them.
Recently, we revised our open-government plan to create a road map for 2012 through 2014. (Read it at www.archives .gov/open/open-government-plan-2.0.pdf)
Over the next two years we plan to create a new culture to better serve the American people, allow greater interaction among our staff, make the best use of new and emerging technology, and broaden access to our records online. Specifically, that means we will, among other things:
- Realign NARA’s strategic plan so it reflects the values and goals of a transformed agency
- Intensify our efforts to help staff develop the skills necessary for a successful career at NARA
- Strengthen our ties with individuals and groups interested in assisting us with our mission of increasing access to the records we hold
- Update our digitization strategy by, among other things, improving the work flow of in-house digitization and encouraging citizens to get involved in digitizing and describing our records
- Provide a wide variety of electronic records-management guidance to other federal agencies to help them correct deficiencies in their records-management practices
- Issue, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and the Office of Management and Budget, a records-management directive outlining a twenty-first-century framework for managing records in the federal government
We promise to do these things in a way that will engage our customers, our stakeholders (including the Organization of American Historians), and the citizenry at large. We have already come a long way toward creating opportunities (such as providing transcripts and scanning images) for citizens to make substantive contributions to our work. We want to make the National Archives a place where Americans feel comfortable when they come to discover their family’s or their nation’s histories or to get copies of records when they need them. At the National Archives, where open government is part of our mission, we will be ready to serve our citizen-customers with all the tools, technology, and talent at our disposal.
Join the Archivist of the United States at his blog at http://blogs.archives.gov/aotus and visit the National Archives Web site at http://www.archives.gov.
About the Archivist
David S. Ferriero is the 10th Archivist of the United States. Prior to his confirmation on November 6, 2009, Ferriero served as the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries.