The National Archives and Records Administration released a statement correcting what it calls “erroneous” information about planned changes to its Washington, DC, research facility.
The plans were publicized yesterday on the National Genealogical Society (NGS) UpFront blog.
The NGS post said NARA wanted to reduce research space, move and reduce the number of microfilm readers, eliminate the military services research room, and eliminate self-serve microfilm pulling in favor of a system that required staff to pull film. The reason? To expand the exhibit area and shops.
I asked NARA about the changes and was sent this statement, which also will be posted on NARAs website today.
In short, changes are proposed, but according NARA, research space will increase, the microfilm reading room and self service microfilm will not be eliminated, and the lecture room will remain. Plans for the consultation area will follow the service model at the Archives II research facility in College Park, Md.
Here’s the statement:
The National Archives and Records Administration continually looks at ways to improve and increase our services to visitors and researchers. We conduct this review to ensure that we continue to provide the highest level of services to our regular clientele and to extend our services to potential users with different backgrounds and expectations.
It’s come to our attention that our researcher community may have received erroneous information about our plans for some adjustments to the Archives I research rooms. The following information is an outline of what we are considering.
Are you reducing the size of the Finding Aids/Consultation Room?
No. Current plans would more than double that space.
The current room on the ground floor of the National Archives Building (Room G-28) serves as the finding aids room, the consultation area, and as office space for three staff members. The area available in this space for consultation with the public is approximately 450 square feet and has three consultation tables.
We are proposing to move the consultation area from G-28 to the adjacent area which is currently the National Archives Library, G-30. We will use approximately 1100 square feet of what is now Library space for this consultation area. The space will have eight tables for consultation.
So, we will more than double the area and number of tables for researchers to consult with staff and use the finding aids. The three staff members who currently have their workspace in G-28 will have new workstations adjacent to the research room that they can use to do other work when they are not providing direct consultation service.
This plan is based on the successful model that has been in place for several years for consultants at Archives II in College Park.
Are you eliminating the Microfilm Reading Room?
No. Over the last few years use of our microfilm holdings has decreased by 70 percent. In fiscal year 2000 we had 53,000 microfilm researcher visits; in fiscal year 2009 we had 16,000 microfilm research visits. When our microfilm reading room was first designed and built we estimated the need for 100 microfilm readers. Because of digitization and other factors, there no longer is the need for so many microfilm readers. So we are considering reducing the number of microfilm machines to 30 and increasing the number of public access computers to meet the demand for the old and the new technology. We will maintain the number of microfilm machines at a level that is needed by those researchers who continue to have the need for microfilm.
Are you eliminating self-service microfilm?
No. For the convenience of both researchers and staff, the National Archives maintains a policy of allowing researchers to browse our microfilm cabinets and select their own microfilm. We will continue with this policy as long as research demand warrants it. We may, however, relocate the microfilm to another public area adjacent to the microfilm reading room.
Are you eliminating the Lecture Room?
No. Our current lecture room on the ground floor (G-24) is used daily for programs such as our very popular “Know Your Records” seminars. Any renovation of the ground floor research area will include a lecture room so our researchers, visitors, and NARA staff can continue to use it for critical outreach and other activities.
What are you doing with the Orientation and Registration Area?
While we may eventually re-locate those areas physically, we have no immediate plans to do so. We of course would not eliminate this critical function, and will ensure it is located appropriately.
These changes to the National Archives Building should improve the services we provide to researchers. No functions or services are being eliminated or reduced.
To ensure that the changes meet the needs of researchers, we intend to continue to have our quarterly meetings with our Archives I user group to keep users informed and solicit their comments.