From the AOUTUS: Public Service Recognition Week 2019

4/18/2019 2:30 pm

The calendar is filled with special days, weeks, and months earmarked for honoring groups of people, historical events, and even particular foods. As an historical institution, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) observes many of these by pointing out connections to our records and holding special events.

The first full week of May, however, brings a week that is especially meaningful for the agency—Public Service Recognition Week.

This particular week has been set aside since 1985 to honor the men and women who serve our nation as Federal, state, county, and local government employees.

Our nation relies on dedicated public servants at all levels of government to provide services, keep us safe, respond to emergencies, teach our children, and much more. This year, it is more important to me than ever to recognize the value of public service.

I have often referred to the size of the National Archives in terms of billions of pages, miles of film, and hundreds of terabytes of electronic records. But caring for and providing access to those records is the job of more than 2,700 people working across the country, from Seattle to Atlanta. Every one of them has an important role in this mission and ensuring that those records are safe now and well into the future.

The work they accomplish in a year is impressive. In fiscal year 2018, our Military Personnel Records Center answered over a million requests for records from veterans and their families, and archival units responded to nearly 150,000 written requests and almost 90,000 in-person visits. The online National Archives Catalog received 4.7 million page views, and digital objects in the catalog grew by 17.8 million. Records accessed through Wikipedia reached more than 1.75 billion page views in the same fiscal year. Staff across the agency run 120 social media accounts, and the flagship accounts alone have well over half a million followers and reach 45.6 million people. In these and so many other ways, NARA’s public servants meet the needs of the public and the government.

Throughout the year, NARA staff do receive messages of thanks, and that is gratifying. Members of the public will sometimes send an email or leave a positive comment on social media. Often authors will acknowledge the help of our staff in their books. Recently, a roomful of researchers paid special tribute to a retiring staffer on his last day with a standing ovation. 

But having a designated week gives us a special time to reflect on the many ways we benefit from the work of our public servants. 

At NARA, we are making a special effort during Public Service Recognition Week to celebrate, acknowledge, and thank our staff for the valuable work they do every day and for their dedication to our mission of preserving and making accessible the records of the federal government.

On a Public Service Recognition Week web page that is available to the public on Archives.gov, we have gathered together articles, photographs, and other resources that highlight the important work of public servants. On NARA’s staff intranet, we created a space where we all can share our thoughts and stories about public service, highlight accomplishments, and single out colleagues for special thanks.

Other activities for the week include “wellness walks”; a series of short videos in which individuals from across NARA share their public service stories of motivation and dedication; and “virtual break room” conversations led by senior managers.

These activities are not just a way for us to check a box for observing Public Service Recognition Week. Our agency values are Collaborate, Innovate, and Learn, and throughout the year we encourage sharing our knowledge and forging connections with people across offices. Our staff is our strength, and working together in this way allows us to better serve you, the public.

In his 1961 State of the Union address, President John F. Kennedy said, “And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: 'I served the United States Government in that hour of our nation's need.' "

At the National Archives, we do say with pride that we serve the nation and its people. For myself and for all those who seek NARA’s services, I want to thank our staff members for their passion and commitment to serving the agency’s mission and the American people.

I am proud to serve with them.