David Ferriero (Fair-ree-o) is th 10th Archivist of the United States and "collector in chief". He now blogs at AOTUS. Aotus is not a monkey or a pea (check Wikipedia) but it stands for the Archivists of the U.S.
The Archives is an independent agency that reports to the Office of the President. They provide record management advice to government agency. They also collect records. The presidential libraries are part of the National Archives system. They have also assumed some responsibility for the classification of information. The National Archives has 44 locations & 10 billion items. (He oversaw more locations when he worked at NYPL, so Paul jokes that this is a demotion!)
David is into his fifth month on the job. He is meeting with staff as well as members of the stakeholder community. Trying to get a sense of the staff. In employee satisfaction, the National Archives ranks second to the bottom. He is trying to understand what the issues are, so they can be addressed. The current survey has a response rate of 77%. He is reaching out through email, voice mail and even Facebook to encourage people to complete the survey and to be honest in their feedback.
David is the highest ranking librarian in the Administration! Paul calls him "the most powerful librarian in the country."
Why is it important that a librarian be in charge of the National Archives?
When he was first contacted about the job, he felt that they were looking at the wrong person. He got two phone calls, then a face-to-face meeting with the Obama transition team. He then traveled to D.C. to meet with a larger group and realized that he could make a difference in the setting. He always is looking to make a difference.
He has two important projects:
National Declassification Center -- 400 million pages that need to be declassified over the next four years. At the end of December, the President issued another plan around declassification. The government has an enormous backlog of documents that need to be declassified...records going back to World War II. Only national security can keep a record classified.
The federal government has 250 agencies. 2400 different classification guides. They are suppose to be reviewed every five years. Half of them haven't been reviewed in the last five years.
Open Government Initiative -- Dec. 9, 2009, Obama issued the initiative about Open Government Plan. Three pillars. Open government will be built from the bottom up. A large of this will be built on social media. This is where his blog comes in...Trying to get citizens involved. To create community.
David - "You can't have open government if you don't have good records." Records cannot be an afterthought. Records need to be created with an eyes toward how they will be maintained. The CIOs and record managers in each agency will need to work together.
What influence does the Administration have over the Archives? FDR was the president that told agencies that they must deposit their records into the National Archives. We at a similar point in history. The Archives now must get agencies to deposit their electronic records.
Keith Richards - Rolling Stones - "The public library is a great equalizer".
He sees part of the mission of the Archive is to educate the public about the government. He meets with groups that come to the Archives and encourages children to write to the President. He has seen letters sent to past presidents, including letters he wrong to Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. His military service record is in the Archives as well as those of many others including Elvis.
David - "Nice having a boss down the street, but not in my face."
David is touring each of the 44 facilities and is meeting with staff.
At MIT, they never closed because they took federal money. So he laughs when he thinks about D.C. shutting down for four days due to snow. During that time, he walked around, talked to the guards, read the Lockheed Martin contract, etc. He learned that the guards had never been given a tour of the Archives and that is something that he is now arranging. They should know what is in that building and why guarding it is important.
Saving versus preserving - We're not saving material (electronic records). His work is guided by the two acts (Federal Records Act & Presidential Records Act). One of the acts still does not recognize email as an electronic record.
Digitization - the large commercial digitization projects have developed standard language that locks up the content for some length of time (five years...or a lifetime). But these are public records (e.g., Ancestry.com). He recognizes the investment that the commercial firms are bringing to this effort, but these records should not be locked up.
Does David read on an ebook reader? No. There is something about print on page that has not been duplicated with ebooks. He does a lot of reading online and uses many online resources in his work. But he reads for pleasure on paper.
He sometimes reads a book every night. He is currently reading a book about Abraham Lincoln being a vampire hunter. (Lots of applause!) Just finished reading a book about Walt Whitman and his siblings. The author used collections at Duke Univ., NYPL and the National Archives to write the book.
What is his greatest burden? What keeps him up at night? (Vampires!) "It is the electronic records, clearly."
Greatest joy - getting to know the staff and the collection itself.
What recommendations to those here today? Push your supervisors. Look for opportunities to be involved. Get your ideas out there.
Who does he look to for direction? One of his best hires in his entire career was Josh Greenberg at NYPL. He learns continually from him on digital information and packaging information.