Bringing Records to the Users

I've volunteered at the local National Archives branch for over a year now. Over this time I have gained the acute impression of lament over the dwindling number of researchers and members of the public who make the trip out to the archives to do research. Indeed, it is not uncommon for me to enter a virtually empty research room during my Thursday afternoon visits.

What is seldom spoken of, but is vitally central to the issue, is the instant information gratification that the general populace receives from their increasingly ubiquitous internet connections. The reams of information available through Google, or the convenience of accessing from home (instead of for free at the archives), keeps them at home and only adds insult to the injury of fewer patrons.

Feeling Out Finding Aids

I've now spent five afternoons over the last five weeks volunteering my time at the local NARA branch. The bulk of my work has focused on developing user-friendly finding aids for patron use. For the benefit of my memory, here's a recap of some of the things I have done in creating these items.

Chronicles of NARA

As it turns out, my relatively recent move has placed me within easy reach of our region's National Archives and Records Administration branch in Seattle. This branch serves government agencies and the public in Idaho, Oregon, Washington state, and to a lesser degree, Alaska. Curiosity got the best of me, and before long I discovered that they offer volunteer positions in a number of areas within the archives.

Blogs: Electronic diaries or Commonplace Books?

No sooner than I post a reading review that compares blogs to diaries, a Metafilter post proffers the idea that blogs most represent "commonplace" books.