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Agency analysis of the Swedish National Archives (2017:4)

The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) was commissioned by the government to analyse the Swedish National Archives following the agency analysis model. Therefore, we have analysed the conditions, activities, results and challenges of the National Archives.

The National Archives have a specific responsibility for state archive services, and for maintaining the country's archives. Their activities can be divided into two main tasks, which we have titled the "cultural heritage commission" and the "administrative assignment":

  • The cultural heritage commission: The Swedish National Archives shall preserve, provide access to and supply the materials held in their archives. The majority of the archived materials originate from other agencies.
  • The administrative assignment: The Swedish National Archives shall monitor public archive activities and influence other archivists; for example, by establishing regulations, providing supervision and training. The National Archives shall also have a national overview of archive matters.

The National Archives meet their assignments, however it faces a number of challenges

The overall assessment by Statskontoret is that the National Archives achieve their assignments in a satisfactory manner. Nevertheless, the National Archives and the government should address a number of challenges that are significant to the National archive's activities and future results.

The cultural heritage commission makes up 85 per cent of the National Archives' costs. Generally these activities work well and all things considered, the interested parties are satisfied with how the National Archives work with their assignment. On the whole, the National Archives have maintained an even standard in recent years as regards volume, performance and quality. Statskontoret has established that the National Archives' finances are balanced.

However, our analysis also shows that the National Archives should improve support for other agencies and streamline some of their operations. This applies, amongst other things, to a continued large-scale digitalisation of archive materials. Furthermore, other agencies are providing fewer materials than before, thus creating an uncertain future.

The steps to implement changes need to be a success

Over the past seven years, the National Archives have more or less continually implemented comprehensive changes. One reason for this is the large change to the organisation, which took place in 2010. At this time, the seven previously free-standing national archives were merged with the then Swedish National Archives. The steps towards change have not yet achieved the desired result and are far from complete.

The National Archives are planning further measures to change the organisation. According to Statskontoret, it is important that the National Archives implement and monitor these measures. Most of all, it is important that the National Archives become a more cohesive agency; that they develop a long-term skills provision plan and that they identify how they can streamline activities.

The National Archives need to improve work with written inquiries

The National Archives have struggled to respond to the large volumes of written inquiries they receive over a reasonable time frame. This has led to the National Archives down-prioritising other services. The workload should decrease over time thanks to new online services, digital access to archive materials and the policy introduced by the National Archives to only accept printed materials from over 20 years ago. Nevertheless, Statskontoret believes that the National Archives need to streamline the work to respond to written inquires as this requires so many resources.

Digitalising the archive will create opportunities and challenges

The work to digitalise archive materials has resulted in both opportunities and challenges for the Swedish National Archives. The opportunities include the increased ability to provide access to, and supply, archive materials. Among the challenges, the National Archives cannot replace their cultural heritage materials with digital versions. As a result, activity costs may not necessarily decrease via digitalisation.

Currently, only 3 per cent of the National Archives' material has been digitalised. Therefore, they will need to carry out large scale digitalisation efforts for many years to come. Statskontoret believes it is important that the National Archives conduct this work in a long-term, strategic and cost-effective way.

Agencies submitting fewer materials to the Swedish National Archives

The number of archive materials delivered from government agencies has decreased successively over the past decade. This comes partly as a result of certain agencies planning to store their own long-term archives. This can result in agencies failing to use government resources effectively. In turn, this affects the National Archives' finances and their possibility to establish long-term plans for their activities.

Agencies demand more support from the Swedish National Archives

Statskontoret analysis shows that other agencies want more practical support from the National Archives. They also want better guidance for how to act as archive creators. This demand is particularly high due to agency progression towards digital administration. Without a coordinated strength in this development, the agencies risk having to repeatedly solve the same problem, which can be both counterproductive and expensive.

Statskontoret's proposals to the Swedish National Archives and the Government

In order to manage these challenges, Statskontoret suggests that the Swedish National Archives

  • establish a strategic, long-term plan for the work to digitalise archive materials
  • review the possibility to improve support to other agencies in their roles as archive creators.

Statskontoret also suggests that the Government

  • commissions the National Archives to present how they can streamline the work with written inquiries
  • commissions the National Archives to present the financial consequences, by making their digital archive information available as open data, free of charge
  • ensure that the forthcoming review of the archives submits proposals that make it easier for the National Archives to anticipate the revenues from coming deliveries and their future need for storage space
  • ensure that the National Archives' mandate and role in the development public archive activities towards digital administration are first examined within the framework for the forthcoming review of the archives, and are then clarified.