At the National Archives, we connect with customers in a multitude of ways: face-to-face, over the phone, across the desk, in our research rooms, in the classroom and of course, online. We serve a diverse set of customer communities, including educators, historians, genealogists, researchers, veterans and now groups such as civic hackers, Wikipedians and many more. To meet our goal of making access happen, we need to become more agile, more creative in connecting with them – whoever they are, wherever they are, to deliver what they want when they want it.
This second post in a series for American Archives Month explores the impact the National Archives is making as we strive to meet the needs and requests of our researchers, visitors, and customers, both in person and online.
As we review the numbers from the past year, we see that our researcher community is as active as ever before and the total number of researchers we serve is growing. Researchers explore our nation’s history through documents, photos, and other records in the holdings of the National Archives. During Fiscal Year 2015, the National Archives opened its doors to 84,000 researchers nationwide who visited our research facilities (a slight decrease from 104,000 in FY 2014). In terms of written reference requests (requests received through fax, letter or email), our staff across the country answered over 1.1M requests in fiscal year 2015, which is a 5% increase over last year. Our online research catalog received over 1 million views in fiscal year 2015, which is an increase of 20% from the previous year (834K). Additionally, there were over 243 million views of National Archives records on our partner websites, including Ancestry.com, Fold3 and FamilySearch. As the number of platforms we use to connect with our customers grows, so does the total number of researchers we are able to help.
Another important consideration is how information seekers are benefiting from and interacting with National Archives records online. On Wikipedia, for example, more than 7,600 National Archives images are currently being used in Wikipedia articles, and those articles have been viewed 925 million times during Fiscal Year 2015. These incredible numbers demonstrate how much online researchers, as well as Wikipedia editors, interact with our records on a daily basis.
The outstanding work NARA staff perform on a daily basis to engage with the public makes all the difference in satisfying the needs and requests of our researchers, whether in person or online. Through their many efforts and dedication to our mission, our staff will continue to honor our goal to connect with customers, understand their unique needs, and respond to their requests with professionalism and courtesy.
See my first post in this series exploring the impact the National Archives is making through our increased efforts to make access happen by maximizing value through web and social media. Stay tuned for more details on the results of our digitization and citizen engagement efforts.