David S. Ferriero 2015-10-13 11:11:35
NARA Puts Premium on Innovation In 2000, nearly half of all Americans did not use the Internet, according to research by Pew Charitable Trusts. Today, just fifteen years later, that figure is down to 15 percent. The pace of change around us continues to increase, and we ignore it at our own peril. At the National Archives, our mission is to promote openness in government, cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through public access to high-value records. Our citizens rely on the National Archives to preserve the most important federal government records and have them available for their inspection and use whenever they want. It is their right in a democracy, and we must be the agency of government to allow them to exercise that right. Embracing Change But to meet public expectations, to keep up with our fundamental mission critical work, and to simply stay relevant, we must embrace change. And the key to dealing with change is innovation. Innovation is thinking, envisioning, and acting audaciously, setting far-reaching, often game-changing goals and enlisting a collaborative, multidisciplinary team to meet them. It also involves taking risks. That means being ready for the possibility that something won’t work as you thought it would, then keep innovating without feeling defeated. To innovate well, we must adapt to changing public expectations and the changing technological environment. Encouraging innovative thinking provides us with the ability to adapt to change as well as the ability to get in front and guide the very changes we need to make. Igniting Innovation at NARA At the National Archives, we continuously work toward igniting innovation across the agency. Here’s what we’re doing: • In June, we lanched the new Innovation Hub at our flagship building in downtown Washington, DC. The Hub’s purpose is to serve as a focal point for innovative projects that span the agency and include the public. One of our first Hub projects is a Citizen Archivist project in the scanning area. We are inviting our researchers to scan records in our holdings that they are interested in for their research. We let them use our equipment at no cost; in return, we ask that they contribute their digital scans to our online catalog. We have an audacious goal for digitizing traditional paper records, and this is one innovative way to support it. • We recently hosted a "Primarily Teaching" Summer institute, a weeklong workshop for educators about using primary sources in the classroom. Our participants scanned almost one hundred records on Chinese immigration that can now be included in DocsTeach (http://docsteach.org/) —our online tool for teaching with documents—and our online Catalog (www.archives.gov/research/catalog/). • This yeaar's US National Wikimedia Conference, WikiUSA, will be hosted by the National Archives, and we continue to work with Wikipedia to make our records more accessible. • We are now hosting two Presidential Innovation Fellows, who are helping our staff to apply innovative thinking to their work. • We have met with staff and public interested in working with our catalog’s transcription tool. I was pleased to see the emerging public interest in this activity. Alex Smith, a retired college administrator, caught our attention when he helped transcribe four hundred documents in one month. “Like many people on the verge of retirement, I was increasingly concerned about how I was going to handle the void created by no longer having to go to the office, and this project seemed fascinating to me,” he told us in an email. “It really appeared to be an ideal option.” Thirty thousand digital copies in our catalog were transcribed in less than six months—and there are still many more to go. And so we are viewing change as opportunity to innovate. Technological changes have allowed us to connect with more of the public than we could ever have imagined just a few short years ago. We are looking to new technologies to support solutions to some of our most complex issues, including records management and preservation in the digital age. Feedback from the public, with their rising expectations, keeps us on our toes and leads us to explore new and better ways to deliver the exceptional customer service our citizens deserve.
Published by Society of American Archivists. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://www.bluetoad.com/article/From+The+Archivist+Of+The+United+States/2289215/275633/article.html.