Building a National Finding Aid Network

"Building a National Finding Aid Network" (NAFAN) is a 2.5-year research and demonstration project (September 2020 to February 2023), rooted in the goal of providing inclusive, comprehensive, and persistent access to descriptions of archival collections or "finding aids." We believe we can more sustainably manage and provide access to these materials by developing a large-scale, national finding aid network that is community-driven, -sustained, and -governed.

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Research findings (June 2023)

OCLC has published five reports comprising research findings from the project:

  • Summary of ResearchSynthesizes findings from across all research activities on the NAFAN project
  • Pop-up Survey—Summarizes results from a national survey of online archive users on their search behavior, information needs, and demographic characteristics
  • User Interviews—Details findings from interviews with archival aggregation end users on their information needs and information-seeking behavior 
  • Focus Group Interviews—Shares outcomes from focus group discussions with archivists to examine their needs for describing collections and contributing description to an archival aggregation 
  • EAD Analysis—Analyzes EAD data as raw material for building a finding aid aggregation by looking for common data structures present and probing for gaps that could impede user discovery  

This research will inform next steps for the NAFAN project and offers a wealth of information on archival user behavior and needs, and the current state of archival description workflows and data.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, through grant LG-246349-OLS-20. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. To learn more, visit