Thursday, 17 February 2011

Complaints about archives

How easy is it to register a complaint about an archives you use, in the physical or virtual world? The question was provoked by reading a user consultation report from the UK National Archives - see the item as part of a meeting agenda here.

As it isn't practical to visit various archives I went on a virtual world tour to investigate online means of filing a complaint.

The (UK) National Archives
The TNA front page has a link "Have your say". There you find the information that:

Your views are important to us.
You can give us your feedback in a number of ways.
If you have any questions, suggestions or complaints about our services, please use our contact form.

The comments form has several mandatory fields. Complaints are acknowledged within three working days and responded to fully within ten, where possible. If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, they can escalate the issue, including the option to submit it to an Independent Complaints Reviewer."

National Archives of Scotland 
The "Contact Us" link on the main page brings up a page near the bottom of which are links to avenues for various complaints which include clear service standards.

Library and Archives Canada
Clicking on the :Contact Us" link on the LAC front page leads to a page, toward the bottom of which is a sub-heading "Comments."

It states that "To submit a comment on the content of this site, or to report a technical problem, please contact webservices@lac-bac.gc.ca." Clicking that link opens an email page with your default email address and the LAC address already entered. No service standard for feedback is given.

(US) National Archives and Records Administration
There are three "Contact Us" links from the organization front page which lead to a page stating "The National Archives welcomes your questions, comments, suggestions, compliments, and complaints as one critical way to continuously improve our services to you."

Scrolling down on that page, or clicking the link in the left hand column, provides a form in which complaints may be registered. You have the option of providing contact details if you want a response. NARA was the only archives that seemed ready to accept anonymous feedback. There is no indication of a service standard for response.

National Archives of Australia
"Contact Us" is found in a drop down menu from "About Us."  This leads to a page with the text "You are welcome to give us feedback about this website. It leads to a page "We welcome your comments and suggestions" and a form which cannot be sent anonymously. There is no indication of a service standard for response.

Archives New Zealand 
A complaints procedure is documented on the web site under "Our Services." There is no procedure for online complaints. There is a clearly documented procedure for mailing complaints with a service standard specified.

Archives of Ontario
From the main English archives page there is a prominent link from "Feedback" and another link from "Contact Us." A service standard for acknowledgement within two working days is given but there is no indication of a standard for a substantive response.

Comment:  While it was not difficult to find out how to file a complaint on the websites for all the archives visited only the two UK sites indicated a service standard for a substantive response to online complaints.

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