The National Archives and Records Administration is working on new guidance for agencies that are “transferring permanent electronic records” to them for archiving. Specifically, NARA is writing new requirements for metadata, information about the records being transferred that is valuable internally and externally for search and organizational purposes. We are excited to say that NARA is reaching out to its stakeholders, both inside and outside government, for feedback on its proposals.
Sunlight has read through the relevant documents and provided NARA with some suggestions and examples (reprinted below). NARA has asked for comments by August 22, 2014. We urge you to take advantage of this opportunity for public comment and provide NARA with your own comments and proposals.
- The schema as currently laid out does not provide for documents that may already be available to the general public via the internet (or other means). NARA should consider adding a metadata field describing where documents that are publicly available reside (a link to their webpage)
- NARA should consider making their metadata guidance and related documents open source and available via Github or another platform that would facilitate ongoing public comment. Seeking out public feedback is important. Open sourcing related documents and viewing this metadata guidance as a living document would be a valuable step forward, ensuring that all feedback is heard and helping the document stay fresh and useful moving forward. Project Open Data provides an excellent example of the utility of this approach. The POD Metadata Schema has grown more robust since its introduction thanks to its presence on Github and continued efforts at public collaboration by the POD team.
- With this in mind, we would also urge NARA to adopt the POD schema as a minimum standard. As Gray Brooks of GSA noted in his recommendation to NARA, the POD schema is both standards based and spreading across the federal government. Working from the same base will allow NARA to easily interface with a broad and growing range of agency documents and data, serving both government interoperability and, eventually, the public discovery process.
- Finally, it is worth pointing out another government that is approaching their metadata review in a similarly public manner. In July, San Francisco, CA, released a draft of their new metadata standard as well as related documents, and asked for public feedback using a short survey.
It is heartening to see governments on multiple levels thinking strategically and openly about their metadata policies. We look forward to following NARA’s efforts as they proceed.