DRAFT FY 2018 - FY 2022 Strategic Plan
September 11, 2017

Strategic Goal 1. Make Access Happen

Make Access Happen affirms that “public access” is NARA’s core mission and is a higher calling that gives purpose and meaning to all our work. We are reaching beyond the traditional role of making records available for others to discover and we are instead making access happen by delivering increasing volumes of electronic records to the American public online, using flexible tools and accessible resources that promote public participation. In order to achieve success in this goal, NARA must digitize millions of records we hold in analog formats, keep pace with the continuous stream of new records we receive each year, and develop new ways to help citizens find our records through the online National Archives Catalog.

1.1 By FY 2021, 82 percent of NARA holdings will be processed to enable discovery and access by the public.

Archival processing refers to those actions NARA must take in order to provide efficient access for research, including: performing basic holdings maintenance, describing the records in the National Archives Catalog, so that the public knows the records are available for research, and entering the records into NARA’s inventory control system, so that NARA staff can retrieve and serve those records when requested.

NARA must accelerate archival processing in order to increase the total percent of records that are available for research, even as the total volume of records grows every year. Currently, 78 percent of NARA traditional (analog) records and 89 percent of electronic records are processed. Given the size of NARA’s holdings, this means a significant number of records have not been processed and are not available for public access. In addition, NARA receives about 100,000 cubic feet per year of new archival records in traditional (analog) formats. The volume of new electronic records transferred varies significantly from year-to-year, but is substantial.

Strategies:

  • Fully deploy standardized processing procedures and internal controls, and benchmark performance.
  • Develop new applications for processing electronic archival records in the modernized Electronic Records Archive 2.0 information system.
  • Explore cutting-edge technologies such as advanced search to automate processing of large volumes of electronic records.

Contributing Programs: Research Services; Legislative Archives, Presidential Libraries, and Museum Services; Information Services.

1.2 By FY 2024, NARA will digitize 500 million pages of records and make them available online to the public through the National Archives Catalog.

NARA has committed to digitize all of its traditional (analog) holdings and make them available to the public online. NARA holds approximately 12.5 billion pages of documents, photographs, films, and other records in analog formats, the majority of which are only accessible in-person, in public research rooms or through reproductions provided in response to specific customer requests.

NARA must accelerate digitization processes and address technical limitations in the National Archives Catalog so that the public can access NARA records from any location. Today, NARA has nearly 235 million pages of records digitized, but only about 15 percent of those digital records are currently available to the public through the National Archives Catalog. Challenges with the technical solution behind the Catalog have limited NARA’s ability to add new digital files to the system.

Strategies:

  • Enter into new public-private digitization partnerships with new types of partners.
  • Integrate digitization into the responsibilities of archival units nationwide.
  • Acquire and provision digitization equipment and software across the enterprise.
  • Modernize the National Archives Catalog to address scalability issues.

Contributing Programs: Research Services; Legislative Archives, Presidential Libraries, and Museum Services; Information Services; Office of Innovation.

1.3 By FY 2025, NARA will provide digital, next-generation finding aids to 95 percent of the holdings described in the National Archives Catalog.

Finding aids are tools that help researchers find information in a specific record group, collection, or series of archival materials. NARA staff are adept at creating finding aids based on the physical location of analog records; however, NARA has struggled to apply these skills in an electronic environment. NARA must develop new products that help the public to research, explore, and discover digitized and electronic archival records.

Strategies:

  • Build capabilities in design and user experience, to better understand user needs.
  • Pilot finding aids in different platforms to find the most effective delivery methods.
  • Develop models and governance processes to allow decentralized and ad-hoc preparation of next-generation finding aids.

Contributing Programs: Research Services; Legislative Archives, Presidential Libraries, and Museum Services; Information Services; Office of Innovation.