The Future is in the Palm of our Hands

One of my favorite strategic planning quotes is from Wayne Gretzky.  He said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”  A recent Morgan Stanley report on Internet trends, gives us a lot of data on where the puck will be and the direction in which we should be skating: mobile.

Mobile will be bigger than

desktop Internet in five years.

The Morgan Stanley report challenges us to look at statistics and where the future is headed.

  • Mobile Internet use is being adopted by users much faster than the adoption of desktop Internet.
  • The number of mobile users will likely surpass desktop Internet users in 2013.
  • Technology cycles tend to last ten years, and we’re about two years into a mobile Internet cycle.
  • The expectation is now 24 x 7 access to everything from the palm of your hand.

Since my days at MIT, I’ve been an avid reader of Technology Review.  One of their ten emerging technologies for 2010 is mobile 3-D.  Seemingly futuristic technology is now closer than ever to being in the palm of your hand.

What do these trends mean for the National Archives and Records Administration?

The cornerstone of the work we do every day is the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that document the actions of their Government.  We need to fully understand and leverage the power of the Internet in the palm of our hands.  Mobile Internet can exponentially expand access to our records, provide access to online information to understand our records, as well as enable collaboration with citizen archivists on projects to achieve our mission.

Where should we be investing our energies, resources, and thinking?

I’m challenging my staff to think about where the puck is going.  I’ve asked my staff to explore:

  • Mobile apps – I want our information and records to be available in the palm of your hand.  What apps would you like to see?
  • Apps for Archives – A competition for developers to innovate with our datasets on and elsewhere.  One possible mashup could be Archival Research Catalog (ARC) descriptions and public tags and comments on Flickr.
  • Archives Wiki – A platform for researchers, historians, archivists, and citizen archivists to create pages on records or themes.
  • Making Wi-Fi available in our facilities – This is essential for us to move in the direction of mobile Internet.  I know that researchers have been asking for this for a long time, and it’s about time we make it happen.
  • A social networking application for staff – A Facebook-like tool that will help us do our jobs in a collaborative way.

These are not side projects.  These are important ways of accomplishing our mission.

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28 Responses to The Future is in the Palm of our Hands

  1. Kevin Wells says:

    If current trends continue, the largest mobile platforms are sure to be the iPhone OS (iPod touch, iPhone, iPad) and Android. These are definitely platforms worth developing apps for, although web apps (HTML5) would be an even more universal way to expand into the mobile web.


  2. KCPRO66 says:

    The availability of WI-FI is certainly important, but not just in the research room areas. Processing staff or other staff working on things like container lists and file unit lists could make far more efficient use of their time if WI-FI was available in stack areas. Entering information into a network-connected laptop while in a stack would be far more efficient than either dragging materials to work area desktops or writing things down in the stacks and then typing the information once one has returned to a desk. This would be, in today’s popular parlance, much more LEAN.

    A social networking capability would also help improve lateral communication between units and facilities, instead of always depending on information flowing through traditional stovepiped channels (or not, as is all too often the case). This would be a good way to share improved work methods, helpful websites for reference purposes, and any number of other things that would benefit NARA’s mission.


  3. Rob says:

    I love the mash-up idea with Flickr, ARC and public tags!

    An app that will tell you where you are in relation to where a document was created would be cool, too! (For instance, I’m standing in Philadelphia and my Archives app shows me that ten feet from where I’m standing the Constitution was written.) Or I’m standing on Pennsylvania Avenue and it shows me a video of JFK’s inaugural parade.

    Just my two cents! Thanks for the invitation to converse!


  4. V. Chapman-Smith says:

    In Philadelphia we have been working via PACSCL, a consortia of special collections and archives, on ways to use moble apps to support greater public access to collections. Among our first efforts was a Geo-History project in 2005. Here is a link to the project summary:

    Many of our holdings have GIS reference points that could fit well in a GIS access structure. That is why we participated in this project as an advisor. (We also have staff with prior experience in implementing large scale GIS systems, so this was a natural fit.)
    This work was funded by the Mellon Foundation. The consortia has not been able to move forward since that funding ran out. However, recently one of our consortial partners has received an NEH grant to do some specific work with its collections. The link to the NEH grant is:

    We hope to learn from this project and hopefully find new opportunities, since this partner’s collections map very well to ours.

    We think mobile apps is an important way to also reach new generations of constinuents, who are very much tied to their cell phone and other personal devises. It would be helpful if the agency as a whole is committed to this.

    We are also working with others to create cell-phone based history tours that will evently link to our holdings, as well.

    The regional staff in Philadelphia agrees with you that these are important ways to accomplish our mission!


  5. Giovanni Mejia says:

    @KCPRO66 – KUDOS!

    I think it would be great to be able to talk to other employees in my position to see what kind of work they are doing. I’ve worked at two different NARA facilities, and there is a lot everyone can learn from eachother.


  6. Ashley Smoot says:

    Mobile is a very big growth area and smart organizations will deliver the same content for both the desktop and mobile experiences with open standards. Technology has advanced to give us more and more speed in smaller packages which don’t consume as much power, improving the mobile experience. The most used computer in our house is already the iPad which has become an Internet appliance for the kitchen and the coffee table. It is on instantly when needed, fast, generates no heat or sound, the battery lasts forever, and it only weighs about a pound. It runs a mobile OS that allows Internet content to scale down wonderfully on even 4-inch screens. That mobile OS didn’t exist until four years ago and it is no longer the only one of its kind or quality. What will things be like in five years?

    All the ideas listed will make the Archives a better and more effective institution. Bravo!


  7. Bryan McGraw says:

    You are correct, this is the future and the future is now! Last year at the NR RA/ARA meeting to work on our Balanced Scorecard I mentioned that NARA is not nimble. (Something which you mentioned in your recent meeting with the NR staff and RAs/ARAs as well). We must embrace change and become the leader in these applications if we are to survive as an agency and as value-provider to the nation. I find it ironic that we are an agency with a central mission of openness and transparency yet we are sorely lacking in innovation and creativity when it comes to embracing technology and ways of doing work that would make our central mission easier and more effective for the citizens of this great land. To that end I have a few comments on your questions.
    1. WiFi. This should be in all of our facilities and as V has stated above, not just in the research rooms. This should be incorporated throughout and leveraged to the maximum to allow for the greatest productivity in accomplishing our work. The new NPRC under construction at Dunn Road is being built with this in mind and I am hopeful we can actually deploy a wireless capability through the hardware which will be installed.
    2. Mobile Aps. I would like to see mobile applications available for all components of our operations, from databases to tools to aid in research and day-to-day work. We need apps for ARC, AAD, records requests, VetRecs, digitized records available and so on. We need to be able to do our work from anywhere and be accessible to everyone.
    3. I like the idea of Archives Wiki and social networking, though personally I’m at an age where I don’t get the whole Facebook, Twitter, MySpace thing. But, that’s OK–there is a market out there and we need to be a part of it.
    4. IT Reengineering. I think we need to reengineer our approach to IT. We cannot do anything fast and efficient. We seem to be so risk adverse that we are missing the boat entirely. What good is that? If this logic was applied to early mankind we’d still be living in caves. We have to develop an attitude of contagious innovation based in risk taking, forward thinking, and “how can I make this work?” instead of “how can I miminize the risk?” I’m not saying we should not be concerned with risk, but we need to balance that with our overarching need to execute our mission and be the best at what we do. Otherwise we risk becoming the federal equivalent of the buggy whip industry in the face of the automobile.


  8. A concerned NARA employee says:

    When I started at NARA, the strategic plan was “Ready Access to Essential Evidence,” which was essentially not possible and executed poorly. This idea sounds similar.
    Technology is usually outdated by the time it is implemented at NARA. Additionally, it is not fair to employees who do not have readily-available access to computers (and they are quite a few of those here).
    Instead of working on fantasy electronic communication, let’s start with human communication between managers and employees!


  9. T.Bailey says:

    A robust and nimble IT capability to support the staff of NARA is likely more important to an open and transparant government than most of the tools used by NARA staff.

    Pilots should be launched ASAP to begin to see how these tools might be used to support the work of staff in making NARA’s holdings available to the public.


  10. Nancy A. says:

    I’m a NARA retiree. I strongly support the comments regarding improving NARA’s IT infrastructure as a necessary element of your ideas on mobile Internet. New ideas for expanding the ways we provide access to the public are exciting, but NARA needs to make sure that the tools needed for staff to do their jobs are considered first. Otherwise, public demand for mobile Internet access will give them unrealistic expectations of what NARA can deliver.


  11. Paul Wester says:

    Excellent post! I am reminded of the fellow last week from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska who tried to access NARA’s cloud computing FAQs and the 2009 self-assessment report from his mobile device while sitting in the front row of the E-forum in Austin … and couldn’t get them to open.

    Since you asked… in addition to archival apps – or apps geared toward access to our holdings, we need to make our RM guidance and records control schedules (including our new Records Control Schedule portal as well as the GRS) more easily accessible in comparable ways.

    We will also need to figure out how to develop apps and other tools that can be used to aid agencies in carrying out their RM work. As was discussed in Austin, we need to explore the use of visualization tools to map the coverage and usage of our holdings, and compare our approved disposition authorities against our holdings so we can work with agencies to get permanent records into the National Archives that we should have, preserve them, and make them available to the public.

    These sorts of tools could really aid the NARA staff responsible for the analytic work underlying our accessioning tasks (as well as our access/reference work); let the public see how well we are doing in carrying out our mission of preserving and making available permanently valuable records; and also generally help our staff serve agency customers more effectively and more responsively.

    As importantly, these sorts of tools would also help the agencies do a better job managing their records to meet their business needs; assure rights and accountability in records; and document the national experience through the records of our government.

    BTW – What do you think of the definition of an archivist (and the related positions) in “What is an archivist?” – ?

    Do you think they track, to paraphrase Mr. Gretzky, to where the profession is going to be, or where it has been?


  12. Sean says:

    While I also agree that having WiFi @ NARA is a must, I am intrigued by the idea of a ARC app. Also, completing ARC, including all the Still Photo references.


  13. Quentin says:

    I’m a current NARA employee; I would like to see a social networking app – most likely a wiki – used at NARA, and I believe that it would greatly facilitate the creation and use of the networked talent model and NOGs (Naturally Occurring Groups). However, for this to be used for anything beyond being an electronic bulletin board and to actually leverage the extraordinary organizational efficiencies possible, it would require the full and continual support of senior management. Would you be willing to put the time and energy in to making that occur? I believe the staff here would.


  14. Mobile makes information portable. I’m reminded of the individual researchers who visit archives and leave the facility with a satchel filled with unique sets of information, designed and created to meet the particular needs or interests.

    When thinking about new apps or tools, we might think about how individuals currently use archives and how they might do so in the future.

    What sorts of information and documents go into the mobile satchels? How can we make it simple for people to get at and keep and use that info?


  15. Jerry Simmons says:

    So many great comments have already been posted for this discussion, so my post is really to support what has already said:

    1. NARA’s IT foundation has to be bigger, stronger, more flexible, and responsive to immerging user needs. WiFi has to be a part of every NARA facility and routine applications made accessible via mobile devices for all staff. The idea s for NARA staff working away from their desks via hand-held devices is fantastic. NARA could be the model for transforming the way archivists do their work in the future.

    2. Mobile apps for visitors. An obvious move would be to develop a mobile app to focus on the National Archives Experience, Digital Vaults and Public Vaults. The content for such apps already exists, so we have a head start. Mobile apps for geared to visitors standing in line to see the Rotunda and the Charters would be a one thought. Waiting visitors could enjoy a suite of mobile apps designed to preview Rotunda, but also to engage them in thought about a number of interesting points: facts/trivia about the Archives building, the Charters, the murals, etc. Something like: “Your Mobile Charters of Freedom”.

    All of these projects can be supported with a bounty of digital images already available. This is also a platform for collaboration between exhibits staff not only in the D.C. area, but between the presidential libraries and regional archives staff as well. If one considers the vast amount of unique materials and programs we offer, the list of mobile apps possibilities seems endless.

    3. Yes to an internal NARA Facebook-like tool! I want to know more about my colleagues, their backgrounds, their experience and knowledge gained here at
    NARA and on other jobs. This as a must for idea sharing, collaboration and professional community building within the agency.


  16. Sarah S. says:

    These are great ideas but I’m concerned about how they fit into NARA’s existing plans and technology capabilities. From the outside it looks as if there’s a lot of running around and throwing ideas around without a lot of thought or planning. It’s fine to ask us what we’d like, but you’ve got to have something better than a bunch of comments on a blog to support what you’re doing, don’t you? How do these ideas relate to what NARA’s trying to achieve overall? Or are you just doing a bunch of social media projects because they’re cool? When I compare how NARA is approaching this with the incredible sophistication the Smithsonian is showing in developing the Commons, it’s a pretty shocking contrast. In a future post I’d like to see you discuss how NARA is developing an overall strategy for social media, how this fits into NARA’s IT infrastructure and will contribute to increased worker productivity. Cool bells and whistles for the public are nice, but how is this helping a resource-strapped agency achieve its goals?

    Also, I think you need to start talking about what’s going on with the Electronic Records Archives. How many tens or hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent so far and what have the taxpayers gotten for it? Is it going to come anywhere near accomplishing what it was promised to do? Do we never hear anything about it because it’s a failure? When is the public going to see a product? Why not build social media functions into ERA?


  17. Digit says:

    NARA’s IT support needs to be improved. I was “blocked” from accessing one of the links posted by AOTUS in his blog. With service and access like that can you imagine how hard it is to use the most basic technology to get your work done at NARA? Many of our workflows and sadly some of the mindsets are 50 years behind the curve. I cant send files from Archives 1 to Archives 2, so I can’t imagine what mobile apps the AOTUS has in mind, unless what he is proposing is a future work around to the inefficient IT support structure already in place.


  18. StackRat says:

    Mr. Gretzky had the use of his skates to get to the puck…NARA staff have not yet been provided the tools necessary to “skate to the puck” in 2010 and beyond.

    NARA staff need access to two critical sets of data – now: agency records schedules and descriptions of our perm. holdings.

    We also need the sorts of capabilities noted by Mr. Wester above (bringing data together to support our work).

    The sooner these are available to the staff reagrdless of location (HQ or field, office, federal/pres. recs, etc.) or being tied to a desktop the better.


  19. David Ferriero says:

    Thank you for your mobile app suggestions – there’s a lot of creativity here! I am especially excited about the interest I’m seeing from NARA staff. Please keep thinking and talking about ideas that will help improve efficiencies in our work. I feel very strongly that we need to continually challenge each other. This is the only way we are going to create a culture of innovation and creativity.

    I hear your concerns about our IT infrastructure. We have work to do. We need to be nimble and embrace technology. We need WiFi for researchers and staff. We’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time, not sacrificing one for the other.

    I love hearing from our regional staff in Philadelphia! Thank you for sharing with us the important projects you are working on. Please continue to let me know what’s going on in the many corners of the National Archives.

    A social networking tool is important for improving lateral communication and helping spur the creativity and innovation I’m seeing in your comments. We’re working to make it happen.

    Paul, I relate to your story about accessing our website on a mobile device. I have experienced similar problems. We need to fix that. I also think a records management guidance application is a great way for us to help get the tools records managers need directly in their hands.

    We need to reevaluate where we’ve been and where we need to go. We all need to sharpen our skills and expertise in electronic records. How would you redefine what it is to be an archivist in this electronic age?

    We will develop a social media strategy as part of our Flagship Initiative on our Open Government Plan, available at Social media is a strategy to help us achieve our mission.


  20. Ken Hawkins says:

    Accessing and consuming electronic records and data via mobile technology and enabling NARA to support that is only part of the challenge. The technologies, open data specifications and implementations, and services that transform data in realtime for mobile consumption must be leveraged to archival purposes.

    NARA and our record creating customers’ business architecture do not scale to accomplish archival “set-aside” in the semantic web (much less scheduling, disposition,and transfer), yet capabilities exist on every major social web platform to create and stage an archival data stream that can be captured as record that is as open and consumeable as any web 2.0 “feed” now in use. Without doing the heavy lifting at the front end of the digital record’s lifecycle there will be no electronic records to use, with or without mobile technology.

    The redefinition of the archivist in the electronic age – and NARA’s strategy to accomplish its mission – needs to acknowledge and act on these realities.


  21. Pam Eisenberg says:

    ARC descriptions & images on Flickr is a wonderful idea. NARA has begun posting images there already. LOC, Powerhouse Museum, and many other orgs have fascinating content posted there. I contribute to the LOC’s, Powerhouse’s and other’s image description content – as a Flickr Creative Commons member. This is another plus – the public can contribute information they find, the organization reviews/investigates it, and may add that to the official caption information. A great tool to engage the picture loving public to help orgs to enlarge accessibility and interest. With the recent announcment that HP is negotiating to buy Palm (Palm pilots?) the indication is: larger corporations are thinking smaller=larger audience.


  22. Mary Knill says:

    I’d love to see Apps that remove the organizational boundaries from the public’s view so that they can get to what they want without having to understand NARA’s organizational structure. Some ideas:
    1. Create a challenge for Apps ideas that tells us what the public wants. Prizes could be small, like a NARA mousepad. This could help us learn of audiences and communities of interest that we don’t know we serve.
    2. Develop an App that provides a “coach” to students and teachers that help people navigate through documents from multiple physical NARA sites and create a finished project that they can upload to their school course management system (e.g. Blackboard).
    3. The obvious: mobile apps that walk people through an exhibit with options for long and short visits. Rather than reading the captions of individual artifacts, let the user select an artifact to hear more historical context, how it fits in with the exhibit narrative, or the behind the scenes stories of how we obtained an artifact – like the stairway that Americans used to evacuate Saigan at the end of the VN War at the Ford Museum. See, starting at 0:50.
    4. Online exhibits that let the public experience the National Archives without having to travel. See (>Launch the Interactive Timeline, >Exhibits. By the way, with our partners at U.T. we are undergoing a major re-design of the site so if you have suggestions, please send them to!
    5. Finally, link back to vibrant and engaging websites that focus on user interest, such as “Plan Your Visit,” “Explore Behind the Scenes” (instead of/ or in addition to “Research”) using action verbs that focus on users’ typical actions.


  23. Garfield says:

    I am in favor of innovation, creativity and change. I believe that you should always look to improve how you accomplish the work you are doing. That said, my experience is that the best way to approach any change is incremental and with proper upfront planning. Without upfront planning and change management, these ideas will not reach their full potential and could result in a waste of time and money. This does not have to take a long time, but requires a Senior Leadership commitment to change including an emphasis on internal NARA collaboration, communication and policies. If NARA offices continue to operate as stovepipes, duplicating processes and investments (including technology) there will be no true successful improvement or innovation.

    As others have noted, NARA should focus on their internal process before being positioned to really improve delivery services to the public and other federal agencies. I think this not only includes internal process (noted above) but also a commitment to and accountability for current initiatives such as ERA, HMS and ARCIS as well as core IT infrastructure improvements. Before we (as an agency or individual members) create anything “new,” we should look to leverage existing technologies, processes and lessons learned.


  24. Steve says:

    NARA can’t see the information and knowledge ecosystems (forest) for the all the pieces of paper (ground wood pulp product made from trees).

    Mobile is important as a formative technology trend for accessing information, but it is just that – a communication technology trend that facilitates access to information.

    NARA needs to be forward thinking not just about using technology that will improve access to and facilitate the use of records, but more importantly about information in general and how human societies use information.

    NARA needs to play an active and critical role in the evolution of records management and archives in the broader information and knowledge societies, ecologies, and economies.

    Let’s be as forward thinking about understanding the forest, our role as stewards in it, and the evolution of both, and be less focused on the trees.


  25. Megan says:

    I just finished reading the previous post entitled, “The Importance of Being Earnest (About Records Management).” So, I can’t help but wonder – does NARA have plans and procedures in place to effectively manage the electronic records associated with utilizing these social media/web 2.0 tools? I don’t work at NARA so I’m not sure. What I do know is that at the state level we struggle to advise agencies on practical ways to effectively manage these kinds of records. If NARA does – or will – have plans and procedures to manage these kinds of records, it would provide a very useful model for those of us who still struggle to advise agencies on how best to manage these public records.


  26. Louise Guenther says:

    Re. Pam Eisenberg’s post, one way to leverage the knowledge of researchers and teachers re. NARA holdings would be to offer our users a link to, a free, open-source web publishing platform developed by the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University. This software enables users to create a user-friendly museum-style exhibition using images, links, text, and audiovisual clips, combining items from a variety of sources if they want. Omeka’s flexible design templates allow individual items to be tagged and disseminated by people who view the exhibition, without loss of the item’s archival context. It is currently being used by numerous public entities, including the Smithsonian, where I first heard about it.

    If a link were readily available, NARA users could create Omeka exhibitions on themes of interest to them using archival holdings, and then make their displays available to other teachers, students, researchers, archives visitors, and NARA staff to add to and develop as they like. These might be published in a special area of, to enable some quality control and general orientation.

    Re. Sarah S.’s frustration with the process of setting up a workable agency-wide strategy for social media, I was present at staff-wide brainstorming meetings when the Smithsonian’s successful Web 2.0 initiative was being launched in 2009. I’d say the feelings there seemed similarly mixed; see, for example, the webcast at But they’ve had some good results. If we get on FedSpace or something similar later on, it might be interesting to accompany each other’s progress in this area.


  27. David Lescalleet says:

    Greetings Mr. Ferriero,

    My name is David Lescalleet and I am a System Administrator working on the ERA program at Rocket Center, WV. I read your blog post and per your open request for feedback, felt that I would share–with you–my thoughts on technology as it relates to the National Archives.

    I appreciate your Gretzky quote as I think that it speaks to many avenues of technology, particularly the mobile boom we have thrust into recently. A few years ago, mobile apps were a novelty and completely inaccessible to the general population. Now, with the advent of devices like the iPhone and the Android OS, technology and applications alike are readily accessible and in the hands of almost everyone, regardless of their demographic. Using the assumptions on the Morgan Stanley report, we can assess that nearly everything electronic we do in the comfort of our home today is something that we will do or might like to do on a mobile device in the near future. For me personally, it is an exciting time…I love this stuff!

    3-D is certainly an interesting addition to mobile devices, but I personally think of the technology being used for movies and games. That being said, 3-D viewable versions of certain national treasures and artifacts would be simply amazing. Being able to rotate and scale the size and depth of historic artifacts would be really exciting and interesting. I can imagine reading a scanned version of the Constitution that actually looks like the original or looking at a 3-D/rotating image of the Liberty Bell or various other artifacts. This would–at minimum–serve as a way to give students a virtual look at our Nation’s precious archives. Tthis could also give many people a chance to get a Smithsonian-level experience without ever leaving their home. With the advent of the iPad in particular, the possibilities are nearly endless. While it is still a bit early to call this device a winner, I really think that it and its successors will revolutionize not only what we see and experience, but also how we have those experiences. This device is REALLY exciting and it opens many new doors to application developers who have a clean slate on which to create.

    Okay, so going back to your challenge, I think that NARA should be exploring all of the items you mentioned. While I do find value in a Wiki, I think that we would be going back a few steps by making a Wiki unless it is served up differently. A Wiki app would perhaps be interesting or maybe there is even a totally new way to get a wiki-like concept into the hands of the people. Mobile apps are extremely interesting and NARA could enable people everywhere to have interesting and important information in their hands almost instantly. Mobile apps to view historic documents and artifacts or even make FOIA requests would be great. I can see games even being developed for use as teaching tools by teachers of U.S. History and related courses. Watching the battle of Gettsburg unfold on a virtual map of Pennsylvania would be great. Learning and having fun at the same time would be possible with mini games and strategic re-enactmens of these battles. Or, perhaps while learning about dinosaurs, games would be available to reconstruct the bones of a T-Rex in a time trial. These games and other features would easily interact with the social aspect of popular sites like Facebook or even Twitter. It is evident from the recent successes of Twitter and Facebook that people of all ages are in fact interested in social networks and the community of those services is what gives them great, universal appeal. There is–no doubt–a future for the National Archives on these platforms and other future experiences, both on mobile devices and desktop computers. Keeping yesterday’s information available and accessible on today’s devices should definitely be a goal of the National Archives. The very foundation of this organization calls for Americans to have sustainable access to all of our Nation’s treasures, no matter what the format or medium.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your blog and offer my thoughts about the various technologies available to the National Arhives. I have quite a few ideas for apps and other ways to put this information in the hands of the masses. Should have you have and questions or comments regarding my opinion, feel free to email me.

    Thanks and have a great afternoon!


  28. Technology isn’t just a fad, it is a reality and unfortunately NARA continues to be 10 to 15 years behind the curve. For over 8 years Shawn Smith and I have been trying to get an online Records Request Form created which would eliminate a lot of paperwork for staff, and make the pull request far more efficient. Bar coding the boxes in the stacks ensures that the proper pull is made. The WiFi idea is exciting, but if it is connected to the current public access servers that NARA has, the connection is so slow that using smartphones with internet will retrieve the information faster.
    Secondly, a lot of wasted employee time is spent by staff shuttling back and forth between Archives I and II for meetings. There is video conference equipment at both facilities. When I worked at NARA I set up the video conference equipment to work off of IP address instead of using T-1 Verizon to save NARA costs. By utilizing that video conference equipment, staff can successfully participate in staff meetings without losing at least 2 hours in travel time. The video conference equipment should also be used in the McGowan theater so that special presentations can have additional participation from regional facilities and libraries from staff and constituents. Using technology wisely only makes NARA stronger.
    I would like to see NARA and initiate a “paperless” policy at the researcher side. Xerox machines have had usb port support for at least five years now, and going paperless would save millions of dollars to NARA in paper and toner necessary to meet the current copy requests by researchers. By going paperless ensures better use of security and of the staff. Human error will always be a factor, and not having to physically search every piece of copy paper will help protect documents from slipping out of the research room. Charging .10 per digital copy to cover maintenance of machines is a reasonable cost, and the researcher leaves the room with only his laptop and external hard drive. With the current budget constraints, the saved money could be used to digitize records and get them online.
    Leadership making these decisions has to be willing to do paradigm shifts moving forward, not continuing to take the Archives further backwards. There is a need for new blood in management at the Archives. The Archivist can’t do it by himself and constantly meeting walls of “it’s not possible” is frustrating to both staff and researchers who know that “it can be done!”


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