Jimmy Carter Library and Museum
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Jimmy Carter Library Reference Procedures and Services

Frequently Asked Questions


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Who may use the library's research collections?

Anyone is welcome to use the library's research collections. Scholars, mass media production staff, teachers, journalists, schoolchildren, attorneys, current government officials, and interested citizens are typical users by mail and telephone. On-site users are less diverse overall. Most are scholars researching publications or undergraduates doing course papers and special projects. On-site researchers under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult researcher.

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On what topics does the library have materials?

Shortly after leaving the White House, Jimmy Carter donated to the U.S. Government all of his Presidential historical materials including the files of his White House staff. The library has added, and continues to acquire, important additional collections to supplement and enhance these core research holdings.

U.S. government domestic and foreign policies and national political affairs in the last half of the 1970s are the primary topics of library collections. Many aspects of American society, business, and culture are also represented. Material currently available on foreign affairs and national defense issues is often limited in scope and excludes policy-level discussions on most topics, but more material is being declassified with the passage of time.

Although it is impossible to list all topics on which the library holds material, a general idea of the holdings can be gleaned from the list of manuscript collections on which the library has open materials. Researchers are encouraged to write or e-mail the Library to ask about the availability of materials on specific topics.

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How do I plan for research at the library?

Write, call or e-mail the Library to ask if we have material on your topic. We will consult our holdings and give you an assessment of the quantity and quality. The publication Historical Materials in the Jimmy Carter Library contains basic information about our collections. A general description of the collections in the Library is available on this Web site. Finding aid information is also available in the research room and on loan by mail.

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How do I find the documents I need?

Researchers may use a number of techniques. Most begin with the brief descriptions of collections in Manuscripts at the Jimmy Carter Library or the publication Guide to Historical Materials in the Jimmy Carter Library. These will help identify which collections are open and look promising.

Next, they might consult detailed inventories to specific collections. These inventories list folder titles, analyze contents, describe the people and subjects involved, and explain the collection's relationship to other holdings. The folder title list also allows the researcher to request specific boxes of material. These finding aids are kept in the research room, but many are available on this Web site. Finding aids also may be borrowed overnight and by mail in limited quantities. (See How can I do research by mail?).

The Carter Library also has an automated database called ARC to simplify access to materials.

Please do not hesitate to ask an archivist for help.

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Are all the papers open to research?

Many of the most significant domestic policy and political affairs materials are processed and open to research. Some defense and foreign policy materials also are open.

Most open collections have some items that are temporarily restricted from public use. Document Withdrawal or "pinksheets" in the collections identify these withdrawn items and mark their file locations. Most closed items are national security classified or of such a nature that their release would be an unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy. The National Archives and Records Administration temporarily restricts these and a few other categories of historical material regardless of source. Occasional other restrictions derive from specific agreements between the library and those who have donated materials. Researchers may formally appeal the restriction of items closed for privacy or other reasons unrelated to national security.

The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to donated historical materials, including the Carter Papers. The act does apply to a few groups of federal records placed at the library.

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Must I make advance arrangements to see materials in the Library?

No. However, if researchers will let the Library know before they arrive to do research, it will enable the Library staff to prepare for them in advance, and that will speed the process for the researcher.

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May I see items in "unprocessed/closed" collections?

No. The library will release only files it has archivally processed, i.e. preserved, arranged, described, and reviewed for restricted information.

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How can I request declassification?

President Clinton's Executive Order 12958 directs that national security information will become declassified 25 years after the date of document creation, with limited exceptions. The order provides government agencies with a 5-year grace period to achieve full implementation. Carter Library archivists, in close collaboration with State Department and other Federal agency officials, are working hard to meet our deadlines for the years 2002-2006. This work is our top archival priority.

Researchers may seek earlier access by submitting mandatory declassification review requests. The requested items must be individually identified by the requester and locatable by an archivist with reasonable effort. In processed files, Document Withdrawal citations ("pinksheets") will give the requester enough information to start a mandatory review. Library handouts and Code of Federal Regulations Section 36, Chapter XII explain the program more fully.

Library staff will strive to submit your declassification request as soon as possible after receipt of your completed request forms. However, there currently is a backlog of requests. If your request exceeds 35 documents, Library staff will put the balance of your request in a submission queue. Then, as other mandatory review workload permits, Library staff will submit further 35-document increments from your request in the queue.

Subject specialists in the State Department, National Security Council, and other agencies make the declassification decisions under the mandatory review program. In the past, eight to ten months was a common turn-around time for their decisions, but the time frames varied greatly from request to request. The turn-around times could become much longer as these agencies focus their efforts on screening files to meet the new 25-year declassification requirement.

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How can I do research by mail?

The library welcomes all inquiries, whether by telephone, fax, mail, or e-mail. Please include a mailing address and telephone number in your query as our responses may include lengthy ARC search reports, library handouts, and the publication Historical Materials in the Jimmy Carter Library. You may also borrow up to 2 finding aids for 2 weeks at a time by writing to the library (Attention: Finding Aid Loans).

If a personal research visit is not possible, you may wish to hire a research assistant. The Carter Library may be able to direct you to a local researcher. You would contact this person, evaluate their suitability, and negotiate terms with them individually.

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How can I order reproductions by mail?

The National Archives sets standard fees for reproduction services. Mail order photocopies are $0.75 per page with a minimum charge of $15.00. Charges for other audiovisual services can be found in our list of Fees . Please do not pay in advance of billing.

The difficulty lies in finding and selecting the items to be copied. Library staff cannot undertake extensive searches for items, nor can they select the "good" items interfiled with related items. For manuscript materials, we will photocopy the entire contents of any folder a researcher can cite from a finding aid, ARC search, or reference letter. We can also photocopy any specific item that a requester might cite, provided we can easily locate it.

For audiovisual materials, the requester should call or write the library's audiovisual unit.

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