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
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 . . . .
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
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
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.