NARA Puts Increased Emphasis on Customer Service

09/17/2014 12:00 am

By David S. Ferriero
Archivist of the United States

Previously in this space, I wrote about what we will be doing in the next few years in pursuit of one of our four strategic goals: Make Access Happen.

We’re doing it at more than 40 facilities nationwide, in print and online publications, with our exhibits and loans of important documents, and on our web site and through our vigorous social media activities. But we can, and will, do more.

We plan to build on our successes with our customers and enhance those connections. To that end, we will be pursuing our second goal, Connect with Customers.

We want to engage our customers in what we do and be an example of open government. That way, we can respond to your needs sooner and more effectively . . . .

Some specifics:

We’re working on an integrated researcher registration system for all our research rooms nationwide. It will provide more efficient means for researcher registration and badge access control to all NARA locations having research rooms.

When this system comes online, now scheduled for mid-2015, you can register at one location of your choosing and will have access to all archival and presidential libraries research rooms nationwide.

We’re going to update our nationwide telephone system. In the next year, we plan to provide general information and public access to federal records by responding to callers, connecting them to the appropriate office and/or staff, regardless of where staff is located among our 40-plus locations, and do so within a reasonable time period.

The new system will assure that calls are accurately routed to direct lines in appropriate offices, confirm there is committed staff in place to receive the calls and report how the staff in each office responded.

We also want to increase public participation with us, which also helps us get some work done. For example, we’re digitizing film from World Wars I and II, then asking our citizen archivist community to do transcriptions. They have also been helpful in preparing documents for scanning.

We are also beginning our efforts to identify an enterprise customer relationship system, which will provide an automated system for responding to customer requests for all NARA locations. It’s important that customers have a seamless, consistent experience across all NARA offices, regardless of where they are when they need NARA.

To connect with more customers, we’re going to launch an expanded national traveling exhibit program. This will take records out of the Washington, D.C., area and exhibit them for people unable to visit us in Washington. Already, we loan some important documents to institutions all around the country.

Through our Office of the Federal Register, we are taking steps to allow citizens to get involved earlier with federal agencies in the rulemaking process. At the same time, we’re helping the agencies better handle citizen comments on regulations being developed.

Our customers also include other federal agencies and Congress, and by improving service to them, we’re also improving service to the public.

For example, we continue to provide guidance and assistance to agencies with managing their records and emails in accordance with directives and guidance we have issued in the past year or so. By doing so, we help all customers of government.

For another one of our customers, Congress, we have created a new Internet portal for congressional staff and researchers that will provide a streamlined system for them to search the legislative records held by our Center for Legislative Archives.

At the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, we’re adding staff to handle a big backlog of requests from veterans for information from their personnel file. We’ve also taken over the duty of getting veterans medals awarded to them by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard; we are already doing this for the Army and Air Force.

We hope these steps, among many others, will get citizens involved in what we do, allow us to meet their needs—and learn from them.

We plan to continue building long-term, positive, effective relationships and provide a consistent customer experience across programs, platforms, and locations. We will be a model of open, participatory government responsive to the needs of its citizens.