Measuring Access to Public Archives and Developing an Access Index: Experiences of the National Archives of Zimbabwe
The reason for the existence of national archival institutions and, indeed, archives is to preserve and give access to the national cultural heritage. The level of access to archives may be used as a measure to establish how far the archives have been taken to the people. One of the National Archives of Zimbabwe‟s strategic goals is to increase access from 75 to 100% by 2013. This goal raises several questions including: Is access measurable? What exactly is constituted by the current 75% and the proposed 100%? The National Archives of Zimbabwe (NAZ), in seeking to answer some of the above questions, has embarked on an exercise to develop an auditable access regime. This development coincides with ongoing efforts by the International Council on Archives (ICA) to develop an access standard and global thrust towards open and transparent societies. A discussion of access invariably leads to other debates that include acquisition policies, archival automation, legislation that have a bearing on, for instance, closure periods, freedom of information and copyright, archival processing, access fees, facilities capacity and access times. This article looks at current efforts to develop an access index for the National Archives of Zimbabwe. To achieve 100% access by 2013 requires that an access baseline be established using quantifiable parameters such as accessioning and processing volumes, reader figures,finding aids, publications and access carrying capacity. Although this is work in progress, the numbers so far seem to show that access can be objectively quantified at the National Archives.
Keywords: Access to Archives, Access Index, Accessibility for the Disabled, ICA Access Principles, Measuring Performance, National Archives of Zimbabwe, Wikinomics