New York City Hall
February 6, 2002
Society of American Archivists
Thank you for allowing me some time to offer the viewpoint of the Society of American Archivists on the disposition of Rudolph Giuliani's mayoral papers.
My name is Tom Connors and I serve on the national Council of the Society of American Archivists. SAA is the oldest and largest national professional organization of archivists in North America. SAA serves the educational and informational needs of more than 3400 archivists and provides leadership to ensure the identification of, preservation of and access to records of historical and cultural importance.
SAA strongly deplores Rudolph Giuliani's decision to by-pass the New York City Department of Records and Information Services to deposit his mayoral papers and other materials in a privately maintained third-party institution. These records were created during Mr. Giuliani's tenure as a public servant and are therefore public records.
His action, though he might state otherwise, has the practical effect of delaying and thereby denying access to an important body of public information by those with a legitimate interest in the policy history of Mr. Giuliani's term as Mayor of the City of New York.
It might be asked why a national organization of archivists wants to speak out on a local records issue. SAA believes that Mr. Giuliani's action has ramifications beyond Manhattan and the five boroughs. There seems to be a movement among certain parties in positions of power in various American locales to create barriers to American citizens' right to know what their governments—national, state and local—are doing. Archivists find this trend alarming and want to join the chorus of outrage that is being raised by the many constituencies who believe in open access to government information.
In September 2001, this city took a terrible body blow in the form of a terror attack against the people and institutions of New York and America. The world has marveled at how this city has rebounded from that blow, how New Yorkers have come together to rebuild and recover, and how public institutions have done their part in this effort.
Rudi Giuliani's action seems to work counter to this message of moving forward. This is a time when New York's public institutions should be strengthened, not weakened. The former mayor's action weakens the very institution whose charge is to serve as the custodian of the historical record—indeed the institutional memory—of New York City government.
The Society of American Archivists is proud to join with the other signatories to the letter and calls on Mayor Bloomberg to rethink this matter and return Rudolph Giuliani's mayoral records to the City of New York. Thank you.