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A charter for our service

This Charter outlines the services with standards and, where appropriate, performance targets, which we offer to 

  • the community at large, both within the historic county of Bedfordshire and nationally and internationally as part of a network of Archives Services in the UK
  • to individual researchers and searchroom users visiting and contacting us
  • owners and depositors of archives and records

It also tells you what we ask of you as a searchroom user and tells you how you can comment and make suggestions about the service.

We will do our best to maintain these standards. Let us know if the services you receive fall below those set out in the Charter and we welcome your suggestions and comments – good or bad – on our performance. We see ourselves as custodians of the archives on behalf of society. We see you as having a stake in what we do, and look to you too, to contribute to the development and improvement of our Service.

What you can expect from us:

1. Services to Schools, Societies and Voluntary Groups - the Community at Large


We will:

  • maintain accreditation of the Service as part of the national network of Archives repositories in the UK 
  • collect and develop the Archive according to a published Collecting Policy (available as a free leaflet)
  • encourage all staff to develop specialist skills and knowledge and to share them widely 
  • produce effective ‘finding aids’ to the archives we hold to national standards – and using best practice
  • make our holdings available to those at a distance by the provision of Enquiry and Copying Services, a web-site, catalogues online and through licencing
  • encourage the use of archives in education and Life Long Learning
  • promote and support the use of the archives in publications, marketing and advertising, media research and reporting
  • support exhibitions and displays
  • give talks and lectures about our archives to increase awareness of what we hold and to explain how to make best use of our facilities
  • maintain effective links with related Services (e.g. Libraries, Museums) and voluntary groups and societies in Bedfordshire
  • give advice on the preservation and handling of documents.

2. Services to researchers and searchroom users visiting and contacting us

We will…

  • treat you courteously
  • reply to your enquiries in full within two working days - average response target 1½ - 2 days
  • reply to at least 65% of enquiries on the same day as received
  • answer telephones promptly (normally within 18 seconds-target 95%) and reply as soon as possible to answer-phone messages 
  • provide effective ‘finding aids’ to national standards and without charge help you identify, use and understand the documents you need for your research by providing at least two duty staff in the searchroom
  • get out any document for you to see – or warn you of delays, restrictions on access or unavailability – within five minutes of the request being made: target 75%
  • offer a choice of copying facilities to cater for most document types and formats
  • always take care to listen and to give you accurate and helpful advice using plain language and involving specialists where appropriate
  • help you to identify our staff by displaying photographs of them

What we ask of you as a searchroom user:

We ask that :

That you will please comply with our Code of Conduct

This code of conduct is designed to protect the documents we hold and to safeguard the interests of their owners. We ask you to help us by observing the following simple conditions and to sign our visitors’ book as an undertaking to do so.

  • Please sign the visitors’ book each day. This indicates your agreement to observe this code of conduct.
  • Lockers are provided for your personal belongings and we ask that you take into the Searchroom only those things which are essential for your research.  For security reasons, we must insist that all coats, umbrellas, cases, bundles of papers, cameras, mobile phones, folders, bags (including personal handbags), and food and drink are left in the lockers.
  • All mobile phones must be switched off, or put into silent mode and left in the lockers.
  • Please handle documents, books and microfilms carefully, and always return them to the desk as soon as you have finished with them. Never take anything out of the searchroom unless you have been specifically authorised to do so by the duty staff.
  • Please use pencil for making notes – all other types of ink and writing implement can harm documents. The use of biros, pens and felt-tip markers is not allowed.
  • Please do not eat or drink in the searchroom. You may use the lobby area if you wish to take a refreshment break while you are visiting the Record Office.
  • Please show consideration for other users, and speak quietly when talking to staff or companions in the searchroom.

If you fail to comply with this code of conduct, then you may be asked to leave. The Archives Service reserves the right to withdraw the privilege of access to the archives to anyone who persistently refuses to abide by these conditions.

3. Service to owners (or donors) of documents. If you place documents to be preserved in our care, you can be assured that we will:

  • take all necessary steps to preserve and protect the documents you entrust to us
  • discuss with you at the time of transfer any special terms of deposit
  • send written acknowledgement (if required) for all gifts and loans of archives and records
  • provide final catalogues to national standards of incoming records as soon as resources allow
  • store your records and supervise their use to the national standards
How can you help us improve and develop our services?

If you have a problem or complaint about our services or if you wish to comment favourably or make some suggestions, then please do one of the following:

  • talk to any member of staff, who will try to sort things out for you where you have a complaint or will record positive comments and suggestions for further consideration. If they cannot resolve a complaint you can speak to Pamela Birch, our Service Manager or to Keith Simmons, Head of Service
  • complete one of our Customer Feedback Forms which are freely available in the Reception area
  • Contact us.
  • contact Bedford Borough Council, Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP, tel: 01234 267422

If you have made a complaint about our service then we would welcome any comments about how you feel your problem was dealt with and the efficiency of the complaints procedure outlined above.

We will reply within five working days to all written comments and suggestions. 

Our aim is to listen, to learn, and to improve and it helps us greatly if you do comment.  It is particularly helpful to us if you can make comparisons between our Service and others – not just other Archives Services but indeed any Services whether in the private or public sector. We can’t guarantee to meet all your needs, but we promise to look carefully at all your suggestions and to act on them when we can.


You can also help by telling us about archive material outside the Archives Service suitable for deposit or under threat (see separate leaflet on our Collecting Policy), so that we can try to secure and preserve it.

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