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ARL Celebrates the Archivist of the United States (AOTUS) on His Retirement

photo of David Ferriero
David S. Ferriero

After 12 years of distinguished service as the 10th archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero will retire in April 2022. President Obama appointed Ferriero in 2009. He was the first librarian to hold the position. In an email to friends about his departure, Ferriero said it was the “honor of a lifetime” to lead the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)—“the federal agency charged with ensuring that the American people can hold their government accountable and learn from the past by accessing the records of our country.”

Under Ferriero’s leadership, NARA became a member of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in 2010. Previously David Ferriero served as an ARL member representative for Duke University and the New York Public Library. During his leadership at NARA, Ferriero raised the visibility of archives and records management within and beyond the research library and archives community, notably on openness, digital transformation, and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Along with many others, the Association of Research Libraries was a benefactor of his visionary stewardship of the US federal records.

NARA released its first Open Government Plan in 2010, and AOTUS began blogging its milestones, among other topics. In an extraordinary commitment to openness and transparency, Ferriero and NARA senior staff met regularly for years with civil society organizations. NARA created wikis, invited public comment, posted their work in GitHub, encouraged the development and participation of citizen archivists, and invited the public into web-design decisions. In 2021 the Association and the world learned even more about the central role NARA plays in US presidential transitions and public records.

Ferriero was an innovator in the digital information realm. The Office of Innovation reported directly to him and served as an exemplar for other archives and research libraries. Under Ferriero, NARA hired its first chief data officer to help prioritize its data assets to support AI research. NARA published its first digitization strategy in 2011 (updated in 2014) and in 2019 issued its first digitization policy. Together these accomplishments highlight Ferriero’s fundamental commitment to access and preservation, with a goal to digitize 500 million pages of records and make them available online to the public through the National Archives Catalog by 2024.

Throughout his tenure, Ferriero was deeply committed to diversity, inclusion, and belonging to improve staff morale at the extensive and geographically distributed agency. In 2012 he issued NARA’s first Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Plan, stating that “This Plan will serve as a road map to guide our efforts in making NARA a leader in creating and sustaining a high-performing workforce that embraces diversity and empowers all employees to achieve their full potential.” Just last year, he charged an internal agency Task Force on Racism to review and make recommendations for everything from organizational climate to archival practice and description, and he created new senior leadership positions to advance racial equity.

David Ferriero has made an indelible mark on the research library and archives world—and much more broadly, for anyone who relies on public records. The ARL Board of Directors expresses its deep admiration and appreciation for Ferriero’s vision and leadership and congratulates him on a magnificent career in public service. The Association looks forward to continuing to work with Kurt Graham, director of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum, who serves as NARA’s member representative in ARL, and to welcoming Acting Archivist Debra Wall and the future AOTUS appointee.


​​About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 126 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise; advances diversity, equity, and inclusion; and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.

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