John W. Carlin
The mission of the National Archives and Records Administration is to ensure that government officials and the public have ready access to essential evidence--records that document the rights of citizens, the actions of federal officials, and our national experience. We preserve and provide public access to records on which both the credibility of government and the accuracy of history depend. This is an enormous yet vital task in a democratic republic such as ours.
As a division within NARA, the presidential libraries share in the responsibility to fulfill this mission. For the most part, the libraries ensure ready access to essential evidence by serving researchers in their reading rooms. Each year several thousand individuals from all over the world devote tens of thousands of hours conducting research in the collections held by presidential libraries. To aid these researchers, the presidential libraries prepare and publish a wide range of guides and finding aids. Some of these publications are available on the NARA website (www.nara.gov), and we are working to provide access to many more.
Yet another way that the presidential libraries can provide ready access to essential evidence is through documentary publications. Such volumes educate and inform the public of significant historical topics. They also help the presidential libraries reach broad and diverse audiences. In short, these books enable scholars and students of all ages and backgrounds to study and appreciate the nation's documentary heritage.