Archivist of the United States Addresses METRO Members

(left to right, David-Ferriero, Archivist of the United-States; Dottie Hiebing, METRO Executive Director; Michael Glickman, COO of CJH; Norm-Jacknis, METRO Board of Trustees President). Photo credit: Ken Levinson.
 
Each year METRO hosts an annual meeting that is at once a great social event for the library community in this area and an important venue to exchange ideas and get the latest updates on industry issues.  The 2010 METRO Annual Meeting was all that and more!
 
Held at the Center for Jewish History in Chelsea, the 2010 annual meeting included an opportunity for METRO members to tour the collections at this world-renowned center dedicated to Jewish culture.  More than 250 members and friends joined to hear a welcome from Michael Glickman, Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Jewish History, and a keynote presentation from special guest David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. METRO also used this occasion to honor the work of Jonathan Bing, New York State Assembly Member (73rd District), who has been a tireless supporter of the library community through his work in Albany.
 
In his talk entitled “The View from Washington: The First 365 Days,” Mr. Ferriero presented a wide range of insightful perspectives on the monumental effort to manage and maintain America’s legacy of documents and other important holdings.  He touched on key issues that affect access to information and how changes in Washington are positioned to have a very significant impact on access to information in the years ahead.
 
Among the many important topics covered by Mr. Ferriero in his talk, he referenced the significant impact of the Open Government Initiative, which was introduced by President Obama to promote a stronger culture of transparency, participation, and collaboration in and among Federal agencies.  The goal of this effort is nothing less than “to transform the relationship between government and the people,” he said.
 
He also noted that the principles of open government as outlined by the President are, to a great extent, already embedded in the mission statement and strategic goals of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The work there is built on the fundamental belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that document the actions of their government.  But he also indicated that these efforts are constantly evolving.
 
“In this digital age, we have the opportunity to do more.  In response to the President’s request of all agencies and departments, we developed our own Open Government Plan.  And in keeping with his Open Government Initiative, we are working to encourage more participation and collaboration in our work, both within our staff—and especially with the public,” he said.
 
Mr. Ferriero referenced several recent initiatives to reach and engage both Federal employees and the public by leveraging the power of the Internet – including upgrades to the NARA main web site and opportunities in social networking.  He noted, “The National Archives plans to be a leader in government in the use of social media, and we have embarked on it in a big way.”
 
Strategies to advance open government include the work of three important offices within NARA:  the National Declassification Center, the Office of Government Information Services, and the Information Security Oversight Office. The National Declassification Center is working to declassify more documents, especially those that are of high public interest or that are clearly in position for future declassification. These records include many that pertain to military operations during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, all of which are of great interest to historians.
 
The Office of Government Information Services monitors activity government-wide under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Its mission is to improve the FOIA process and resolve disputes between Federal agencies and FOIA requesters.
 
The Information Security Oversight Office oversees the classification programs of government and industry, ensuring public access where appropriate while also safeguarding national security information. This office reviews requests for original classification authority from agencies and does on-site inspections to monitor compliance with security requirements.
 
“David’s presentation gave library professionals an insider’s perspective on the formidable task of protecting and managing access to documents and information at all levels of the Federal government,” said Dottie Hiebing, Executive Director at METRO. 
 
Prior to Mr. Ferriero’s talk, Dottie Hiebing provided an overview of the many important accomplishments at METRO over the past year.  In a busy year at METRO, Dottie noted several important highlights:
  • This year METRO took a major step forward in self-publishing with the new book Digitization in the Real World. This was a collaborative publishing effort led by Kwong Bor Ng, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at Queens College, CUNY, and the METRO staff led by Jason Kucsma, our Emerging Technologies Manager. This book represents a great new resource on digitization, with information from many leading libraries. Based on this success, METRO will be considering opportunities to self-publish additional reference works in the future.
  • In November, METRO hosted the first Planning our Digital Future needs assessment meeting for library professionals. More than 50 members of the library community here met with experts in digital technology and project planning and management.  Together they identified many vital opportunities for METRO in digitization in the years ahead, including training on advanced digital rights, a digitization discussion forum, expanded information sharing, and strategies to promote collaboration in digitization projects. During the year, METRO also awarded more than $73,000 in grant funding to support a range of digitization projects. We also launched a new grant program to support digitization efforts involving two or more library organizations.
  • In December 2009 METRO once again hosted an annual conference on issues of special interest to hospital libraries, including presentations from prominent hospital library directors. Meeting the special needs of hospital and medical libraries will continue to be an important focus for METRO moving forward.
  • While we helped more libraries to embrace the digital age, METRO also took some important steps forward in digital communication this year. Our course catalog is now fully digital, making it easier than ever to take advantage of our learning programs. In addition, we have expanded the focus on webinars and online learning. This will be an important area for us in the future.
  • We are also in the final phase of a major redesign of the METRO web site. Our new site will enhance our ability to communicate more effectively in many ways. It will include major upgrades in navigation, search functions and online registration for courses and events. There will also be more blogs and other platforms to share opinions and information.

The meeting also included some tributes.  Former President of the METRO Board of Trustees Heike Kordish was honored for her years of service to METRO. In addition, Dottie Hiebing, who has been Executive Director of METRO for 15 years, recently announced her plan to retire in the coming months.  In her remarks she thanked all of the METRO members, staff and trustees for their essential support in her work, and she reaffirmed her commitment to supporting the transition to new leadership in the near future.

The reception at the end of the meeting was an opportunity for many attendees to congratulate both Heike and Dottie for their work and to wish them well.
Jason Kucsma
(212) 228-2320
Author: Jason Kucsma
Phone: (212) 228-2320
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