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FY2022-26 Strategic Plan open for comments

So… The Legal Genealogist just finished sitting in on the one-hour virtual Town Hall of the U.S. National Archives as its staff sought to explain and seek input on its strategic plan for the fiscal years 2022 through 2026.

Now it’s your turn.

Or, to put it more accurately, our turn.

We’ve all been asked to read and comment on the NARA plan for the next four years — and to make our voices heard on all parts of its plan, especially the first two elements that impact us most directly: making access to records happen; and connecting with customers, such as genealogical researchers.

The plan itself “updates the agency’s objectives to prioritize improving equity and outreach to traditionally underserved communities, providing a world-class customer experience for all customers, and using the agency’s pandemic experience to accelerate agency modernization.”1 It’s available online here.

NARA strategic plan

It’s a short focused to-the-point high-level aspirational statement of what the Archives wants to accomplish in the next four years. From an access perspective, it notes its intentions of “delivering increasing volumes of records to the American public online, using flexible tools and accessible resources that promote public participation (and) engaging with underserved communities to find opportunities to expand public participation …”2

To do this, the plan says, “NARA must digitize millions of records we hold in analog formats, keep pace with the continuous stream of new records we receive each year, and develop new ways to help citizens find our records through the online National Archives Catalog.” So, it continues, its key goals for access are:

• “By FY 2026, NARA will process 85 percent of archival holdings and increase enhanced descriptions to promote equity in discovery and public access to archival records related to underrepresented communities.

• “By FY 2026, NARA will digitize 500 million pages of records and make them available online to the public through the National Archives Catalog.

• “By FY 2026, NARA will collaborate with traditionally underserved communities to correct outdated and anachronistic descriptions in the Catalog and prioritize citizen engagement projects that increase access to records that are important to underserved communities.

• “By FY 2026, 95 percent of customer requests will be ready within the promised time.”3

If there’s something different or more we want NARA to think about, focus on, or include in this high-level plan, we need to say so. And now. The comments period closes this Friday, August 20. We can comment on the NARA Github site or by email ([email protected]).

And though the Town Hall was at this very high-level strategic planning level, one question-and-answer may serve to calm down some researchers who have somehow convinced themselves that key NARA repositories like Kansas City and St. Louis aren’t ever going to allow hands-on public access to records even after the pandemic is over. NARA’s Chief Operating Officer William J. Bosanko flatly said that isn’t the plan: “We are absolutely committed to making records available for research,” he said. “It’s our goal to get research rooms reopened as soon as we can and serve records to the public to the greatest extent possible.”

That doesn’t mean NARA isn’t struggling, by the way. Bosanko said the pandemic forced the agency to focus on the half-million-plus records requests aimed at current military, retiree and family benefits questions to the virtual exclusion of historical records requests. He made it clear, however, that was not any part of a permanent plan: he promised the records rooms will reopen when it’s safe.

So… putting our fears aside and addressing our hopes for our records and our records custodians, let’s think about what else we might want NARA to think about in its very high-level strategic planning.

Take a look at the draft FY 2022-2026 Strategic Plan and comment — by Friday!! — at Github or by email ([email protected]).

It’s our chance to be heard.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “NARA invites comments,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 17 Aug 2021).

SOURCES

  1. National Archives, “National Archives Holds Town Hall on Draft Strategic Plan August 17,” press release issued 10 Aug 2021 (https://www.archives.gov/ : accessed 17 Aug 2021).
  2. National Archives and Records Administration, draft FY 2022-2026 Strategic Plan at p.3 (https://www.archives.gov/ : accessed 17 Aug 2021).
  3. Ibid.
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