Celia Heritage was kind enough to copy me on information about a new user group formed for the Archives Centre in Maidstone (Kent). I'm pleased to give it some space on the blog, especially to acknowledge the initiative for the clients of the archives, now at the Kent History and Library Centre, working to encourage provision of a better user experience. Those who use the Kent Centre remotely might want to convey any concerns to the email address at the end.
The purpose built Kent History and Library Centre (KHLC) opened among much publicity in 2012 claiming to be 'built to protect and give people access to more of our archive material'. Sadly, however, it would seem that all is not well at KHLC. Statistics show that there has been a drop of more than 16% in the number of customers rating the service of the new archives as 'good' or 'very good' compared to the service in the previous archives at the Centre for Kentish Studies (CKS).
One of the purposes of the new building was to provide easy access to the information held in the archives. However, since the move from the Centre for Kentish Studies many issues have arisen which are in fact inhibiting easy access. The focus of the new building is that of a library rather than of an active archive; the facilities are poor and there are staff with little or no knowledge of the documents. The centre currently fails to provide an appropriate environment for the public to access the records and worse, a number of important documents cannot now be located since the move from the archive at CKS.
As the custodian of these important records it is KCC’s responsibility to provide appropriate storage conditions which will preserve them for the future which KHLC does do. It is also their responsibility to ensure that they are readily accessible to the many members of the public who wish to access them. This is where it fails spectacularly. By means of feedback from users and regular meetings we hope to be able to work with management at KHLC to improve access to and understanding of the archives for all users.
The first meeting with KCC representatives will take place on Thursday 16th January at 2pm at KHLC and all are welcome to attend.
Further details of the group can be found at http://www.khcarchivesusergroup.org.uk/ If you have any concerns about the archives you would like the group to raise on your behalf please email firstname.lastname@example.org.