The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently proposed a reduction in the number of hours that the agency's facilities are open to the general public. Weekend and evening hours would be especially curtailed. The result will be a major hardship on genealogists, especially those who cannot visit during normal business hours.
Dr. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States and head of the National Archives and Records Administration, attended the FGS/NEHGS 2006 Conference in Boston this week and addressed the Opening Session on Thursday. Following his remarks, he was presented with a letter by the Chair of the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) addressing concerns about the proposed changes in the hours of operation for the Research Rooms at the National Archives.
The members of that committee have been told that very few genealogists have responded to the agency's proposal. In this case, silence will be interpreted as agreement! Comments close on September 8. There's not much time left!
A discussion ensued among many of the genealogists present at the conference, resulting in a petition to ask for reconsideration. I was able to upload that petition, and conference attendees were asked to sign the online petition through announcements over the public address session, at the Friday evening banquet, in many of the sessions, and in the hallways. Many people lined up at computers supplied by many of the vendors and added their names to the petition. Others signed the petition from their laptops in hotel rooms, from the hotel's public access computers in the lobby, and elsewhere. I hope that others returned home and will sign the petition from there.
As I write these words, 651 names are on this petition. We need more, many more, In fact, we need YOUR name.
Just before the close of comments by the National Archives and Records Administration, this petition will be printed and sent to the agency via overnight mail.
With the limited amount of time left until the close of comments, genealogists everywhere need you to immediately copy and paste this or similar messages and send them to your friends, asking them to add their "electronic signatures" to the petition. Please post information about the petition on web sites, newsletters, and mailing lists as you deem appropriate. We need to have as many signatures as possible from concerned U.S. residents BEFORE September 8.
To add your voice to the messages being sent to the National Archives, please go to http://www.petitiononline.com/FGS2006.
NOTE: The letters "FGS" in the above web address MUST be in upper case.
Here is the text of the petition:
To: Regulations Comments Desk (NPOL)
Dear FGS Conference Attendee:
We were honored to have Dr. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States attend the FGS/NEHGS 2006 Conference in Boston and to address us in the Opening Session on Thursday, August 31, 2006. Following his remarks, he was presented with a letter by the Chair of the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) addressing concerns about the proposed changes in the hours of operation for the Research Rooms at the National Archives.
It has come to our attention that very few of our constituencies are making their voices heard on this issue. This lack of response sends a loud signal to the Archives that this is not a serious issue and that closing the Archives on evenings and Saturdays is irrelevant. The RPAC has recommended the following suggestions for the Archives to consider:
1) To accommodate the needs of those who need access on Saturdays, we propose that you close one other day per week. This would be at your discretion. Other archives often close Sunday and Monday.
2) Users who need evening hour access could be accommodated by opening the archives later in the day, again at your discretion.
If you agree with the recommendations stated above, we are asking your support by immediately going on-line and adding your "signature" to our petition to substitute the hours of access and still help the archives to meet their need to consolidate their hours of operation. Please "electronically sign" below to add your voice to this letter.
In addition, if you would like to send your own personal letter, send it prior to 8 September 2006 and address it to:
Regulations Comments Desk (NPOL)
Room 4100, Policy and Planning Staff
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001