PROCEDURAL LEAFLET

Approved by the Local Government Records Commission October 1998

PROCEDURES FOR IMPLEMENTING A LOCAL

GOVERNMENT RECORDS DEPOSITORY AGREEMENT

Providing adequate storage conditions for its records is a problem that every local government must face. So long as public business is transacted, records will continue to accumulate, inevitably overwhelming office files and storage space unless measures are taken to deal with their proliferation. Fortunately, there are many useful ways of dealing with the problem. Local officials can destroy outdated temporary records as soon as legally permissible, following disposition procedures authorized by the Local Government Records Commission. They can save space by employing alternative records storage media, such as microforms and digital imaging systems. They can remove inactive paper files from office space and keep them in low-cost, high-volume records centers until the recordsí retention periods expire. For more information on these and other records management strategies, contact the Government Records Division of the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) at (334)242-4452.

Special problems arise when local governments must deal with old bound volumes or loose documents of permanent retention value. Both counties and municipalities maintain a variety of records (council or commission minutes; property and taxation records; audit reports; newspapers; wills, marriages, and other probate records) that document the history of their locality from the time of its foundation. In addition, the Local Government Records Commission has decreed that any record created prior to 1900 must be permanently preserved. Unfortunately, many Alabama counties and municipalities are ill-equipped to provide optimum storage conditions for their paper records. Even if the records are well-kept and accessible, environmental conditions prevailing in courthouses and city halls may not be conducive to their preservation. Destructive acids from wooden shelving migrate into records, even those housed in acid-free boxes and file folders. Overheated attics crack bindings and embrittle paper, while damp basements encourage the development of mold and mildew. Rats and insects infest such areas as well. Overhead water pipes may burst; badly wired buildings may burn down. Tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes periodically threaten to sweep everything away.

The ADAH Government Records Division can advise local governments on developing records management programs and disaster plans to combat such emergencies. The slow deterioration of improperly stored paper records is harder to control, because the damage is insidious and the only real solution--renovating an old facility or building a new one--is too expensive for many counties and municipalities. Fortunately, the Local Government Records Commission can offer local agencies a less costly alternative: storing their records in an off-site depository that can provide a better storage environment for records. The vehicle for this arrangement, authorized by the commission in accordance with Attorney Generalís Opinion 91-00249, is the Local Government Records Depository Agreement.

The depository agreement establishes a contract between a local government agency and its chosen depository, with oversight from the ADAH Government Records Division and the Local Government Records Commission.

  1. When Not to Use the Records Depository Agreement

  2. Some local governments try to solve their storage problems by consigning surplus records to old jails, schools, or other unused public buildings; or by leasing room in a privately-owned warehouse or office. In these instances, the building merely provides space; there is no contract with its owner to furnish the local government with optimum storage conditions or access to its records. Use of the Local Government Records Depository Agreement is therefore not required. While this type of off-site storage may alleviate a "space crunch," it is inadvisable except for temporary records. Security, access, and environmental control are unlikely to be better in such areas (and may actually be worse) than in the recordsí originating offices. Permanent or historical records should never be stored in such conditions, and the local government should continue to search for better storage space.

  3. Evaluating and Selecting Off-site Records Depositories

    1. Finding Suitable Depositories. Any depository chosen should offer significantly better conditions for preserving records (security, environmental control, and ease of public access) than the local government has available in its own storage space. "To the highest degree possible," the depository should satisfy the records storage guidelines endorsed by the Local Government Records Commission. (See items 2.2 and 2.3 below.) Several kinds of institutions may be considered as depositories:

      • Public libraries. The local public library may be interested in holding old county or municipal records as part of its historical collection. Assuming that the library has proper space available, this can be a useful option, as it ensures that the records remain close to their originating offices.

      • University libraries or archives. If a college or university is located near the seat of local government, its library or archives probably has climate-controlled space suitable for storing records. Historical local records are often of interest to academic institutions, and their staff members can usually provide reference assistance to researchers.

      • Historical or genealogical societies. Perhaps the people most concerned with preserving historical records are a communityís historians and genealogists. Many of them are trained researchers who willingly volunteer their time. If the society has an adequate physical facility and clearly understands the conditions of deposit (as outlined below), its members will make zealous guardians of public records. Such an arrangement can eventually lead to the development of a full-scale local archives program.

      • Commercial records storage facilities. Employing a private storage vendor may be a viable option for temporary public records, but it becomes more problematic for records of enduring value. Commercial vendors base their profit margin on storing a large volume of short-term material. Therefore, most of their space offers only a basic "records center" environment suitable for paper records with brief retention periods. The "archival vault"--if any--is usually designed for high-volume record formats, such as microforms or magnetic tape, rather than old or fragile paper documents. Because commercial storage companies most often deal with business clients, they are not always sensitive to preservation and access issues involved in keeping public records. Many charge clients for retrieving and returning records on demand, in addition to the basic storage cost. Local governments may be willing to absorb a charge to their employees, but the Local Government Records Commission has prohibited depositories from charging citizens for access to a public record. Unlike libraries or historical societies, commercial records storage facilities cannot readily accommodate research requests by members of the public.

      • Local government archives. Ideally, the best off-site storage facility is an archives or records center run by the local government itself. Although local archives programs lie beyond the scope of this discussion, the Local Government Records Depository Agreement is well-suited to define the terms on which a county or municipal archives stores records for the offices it serves.

    2. Obtaining Standards for Evaluation. The Local Government Records Commission has endorsed standards for records storage facilities outlined in The Selection and Development of Local Government Records Storage Facilities, a leaflet issued by the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA). The ADAH procedural leaflet "Guidelines for Storing Inactive Paper Records" is a briefer compilation of similar material. Both sources are available from the Government Records Division, and local governments should consult them when evaluating a potential records storage site.

    3. Evaluating Candidate Depositories. The NAGARA leaflet lists a number of desirable features for records storage facilities, such as: location near the seat of government, concrete block construction, monitored access, and controlled humidity and temperature. Local governments should recognize, however, that no readily available depository is likely to meet all optimum standards for storing public records. While absolute adherence to the NAGARA guidelines is not expected, the Local Government Records Commission requires that the chosen depository "satisfy to the highest possible degree the storage guidelines outlined in the NAGARA Guide."

  4. Authorizing and Preparing the Agreement

  5. Normally, a local government documents its decision to negotiate a depository agreement through council or commission action. Agreements may be renewed after the initial two-year period. As a model for city council or county commission resolutions, this leaflet includes the Local Government Records Commissionís resolution to establish minimum depository guidelines (pp. 5-6). A sample records depository agreement is found on pp. 7-8. Any depository agreement concluded between a local government and an off-site depository should cover several basic issues:

    1. Custody of Records. Only physical custody of public records can be transferred to the depository. The originating local government agency retains full legal custody and responsibility for the records it creates.

    2. Role of the Local Government. The local government agency provides the depository with an itemized list of all the records transferred, keeping a copy for its own future use and sending a copy to ADAH. Agency staff should inspect the depository at least annually, checking its itemized list against its records actually on the depositoryís shelves. More frequent inspections are strongly recommended. The agency should be fully satisfied that the depository is properly observing the agreementís terms and implementing the Local Government Records Commissionís (NAGARAís) records storage guidelines. Results of agency inspections should be reported to the commission on an annual basis.

    3. Role of the Records Depository. The depository must allow access to the records as specified by the transferring agency, usually during the same hours that government offices are open. The depository may not charge the public for simply viewing records, but may impose a reasonable fee for duplication services. It may take no other action affecting the records (such as altering or removing them) without written permission from the responsible agency official. Besides adhering to the Local Government Records Commissionís storage guidelines, the depository must furnish fire protection, insurance, and surety bonds to protect the records against loss or damage. It must also cooperate in all inspections by agency or ADAH staff.

    4. Role of the Local Government Records Commission and Government Records Division. On behalf of the commission, ADAH Government Records Division staff members review draft depository agreements and inspect proposed depositories before any records are transferred. Thereafter, the division maintains copies of all agreements currently in force. Should the local government wish to renew its agreement beyond the initial two-year period, ADAH staff and agency staff will again inspect the depository and the agencyís records stored there. If the results are satisfactory, the local government and depository may renew their contract by filing a new depository agreement with the Local Government Records Commission. When feasible, however, the local government should consider investing the financial and staff resources needed for an adequate records storage facility under its own jurisdiction.

For assistance in evaluating candidate depositories or reviewing draft agreements, or for help with other records management concerns, county or municipal officials may contact:

Alabama Department of Archives and History
Government Records Division
P.O. Box 300100, Montgomery, AL 36130-0100
Telephone: (334)242-4452; FAX: (334)240-3433
ADAH web site: http://www.archives.state.al.us/index.html

LOCAL GOVERNMENT RECORDS COMMISSION

"Resolution Establishing Minimum Depository Guidelines for
The Physical Storage of Long-Term Government Records"

WHEREAS, the Local Government Records Commission has legal responsibility to oversee the disposition of local government records, as outlined in sections 41-13-5 and 41-13-23, Code of Alabama 1975; and

WHEREAS, the Local Government Records Commission has adopted A Guide to the Selection and Development of Local Government Records Storage Facilities issued by the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) as recommended guidelines for the storage of local government records; and

WHEREAS, the Commission also recognizes that, while implementation of the NAGARA guidelines is highly desirable, many local governments do not have the resources to meet all of the conditions outlined in the NAGARA Guide; and

WHEREAS, the Commission recognizes that local government agencies may wish to enter into depository agreements with another governmental agency or with a local historical society for the improved preservation of, and access to, historical records; and

WHEREAS, the Commission recognizes that a local government also has the option of contracting with a private company in accordance with state laws respecting contracts between agencies of the government and private suppliers (including, but not limited to, the provisions of the bid law (41-16-50, et. seq.., Code of Alabama 1975; now

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT RECORDS COMMISSION OF ALABAMA, that this Commission approves the following guidelines for compliance with the Local Government Records Depository Agreement as outlined in the Attorney Generalís Opinion 91-00249:

  1. The records custodian will:
    1. Choose a depository that will satisfy to the highest possible degree the storage guidelines outlined in the NAGARA Guide.

    2. Provide to the records depository an itemized listing that includes the records title; records schedule number; date span; volume; and box container listing, if appropriate. This information should be attached to the depository agreement.

    3. Conduct periodic inspections of the records depository to ensure that the records are secured, maintained, and accessible in accordance with the depository agreement.

    4. Record the results of the periodic depository inspections and make them available to Local Government Records Commission representatives on request.

    5. Provide for the inspection of the records and the records depository by the Alabama Department of Archives and History staff for the Local Government Records Commission.

  2. The records depository will:

    1. Provide access to stored records to the general public during hours of operation as specified by the transferring official. The records depository will not charge fees to view the records, but may charge for records duplication services.

    2. Adhere to environmental controls, as outlined in the NAGARA Guide, to minimize the deterioration of the records.

    3. Maintain proper physical security and protection of the records, as specified by the transferring official. The records must remain in the records depository for the duration of the agreement, and may be removed only with the specific written authority of the transferring official on a case-by-case basis.

    4. Perform proper oversight to ensure the integrity of the records. Security measures must ensure that the records are not clipped, unbound, mutilated, or altered for any purpose.

    5. Obtain adequate insurance and surety bonds, as determined by mutual agreement of the two parties, to insure against damage or loss of the transferred records.

  3. The staff of the Alabama Department of Archives and History is authorized to:

    1. Review agreements on behalf of the Local Government Records Commission.

    2. Maintain copies of agreements currently in force.

    3. Periodically inspect depositories and report the results to the Local Government Records Commission.

______________________________________               ________________________
Chairman                                                                                           Date
Local Government Records Commission

LOCAL GOVERNMENT RECORDS DEPOSITORY AGREEMENT

(Sample)

WHEREAS, the ________________________ of _________________________
                                       (officialís title)                                       (locality)
has the responsibility of creating and/or maintaining certain governmental records to document the conduct of official business; and

WHEREAS, government records accumulate over time and pose storage, preservation, and access problems because of their quantity and fragility; and

WHEREAS, the records depository has the facilities and professional staff to provide proper care for and access to this valuable public resource; and

WHEREAS, in accordance with the Attorney Generalís Opinion 91-00249, the Local Government Records Commission may authorize the deposit of certain government records in an offsite storage facility; now, therefore,

The ________________________________________ agrees to transfer and deposit
                                  (officialís title)
certain public records from the ____________________________________________
                                                                             (local government office)
to _______________________________________ for the purpose of storing the
                      (records depository)
records and providing proper maintenance and access to them.

The ________________________________________ further agrees to:
                                (officialís title)
  1. Provide an itemized list of records to the depository that includes the records title, records schedule number or records disposition authority functional area, date span, volume, and a box container listing, if appropriate.

  2. t periodic inspections of the records depository to ensure that the records are secured, maintained, and accessible in accordance with the depository agreement and the guidelines issued by the Local Government Records Commission.

  3. the results of the periodic depository inspections and make them available to Local Government Records Commission representatives upon request.

_________________________________________ agrees to provide:
                              (records depository)

  1. Access to stored records to the general public. Patrons may view the records during normal hours of operation. The records depository may not charge for the viewing of the records, but may charge for records duplication services.

  2. Proper administrative control of the records. The records will remain in the records depository for the duration of the agreement. They cannot be removed except by the transferring official or his/her designee. They cannot be clipped, unbound, mutilated, or altered for any purpose.

  3. Adequate fire protection and environmental controls appropriate for records of long-term value.

  4. Adequate insurance and surety bonds as required by mutual agreement of the two parties to insure against damage or loss of the transferred records.

  5. This agreement recognizes that legal title to the records remains with the transferring government office; only physical custody will be transferred to the records depository.

    This agreement authorizes the Alabama Department of Archives and History staff to inspect the records and the records depository on behalf of the Local Government Records Commission.

    The agreement will extend for a period of two (2) years from the date of signatures. It may be renewed upon the mutual consent of the parties for the same period of time thereafter by filing another deposit agreement with the Local Government Records Commission. It may also be terminated by the public official if the records depository or its services are unsatisfactory or below accepted standards of the Local Government Records Commission. Upon termination of this agreement by either party, the depository agrees to return all records, in an orderly and proper manner, to the responsible public official.

    Financial or other remuneration relating to the storage of said public records shall be arranged separately from this agreement and upon the mutual consent of the parties.

    _________________________________________      _______________________________________
                (signature of transferring public official)                      (signature of records depository representative)

    _________________________________________      _______________________________________
                                              (title)                                                                  (title)

    _________________________________________      _______________________________________
                                              (date)                                                                (date) _________________________________________      _______________________________________
    (signature of chairman, Local Government Records                                      (date)
    Commission)

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Revised: 03/03/1999