Government Records News
News from the State and Local Government Record Commissions
Vol. 3 No. 3 December 1998

Government Records Division Offers State Agencies Assistance in Transferring Permanent Records to the Archives

As the changes in administration draw nearer, the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) would like to encourage state agencies to begin closing out their files and transferring permanent records to the Archives for preservation. By transferring records now, state agencies can begin preparing for the new administration. The ADAH Government Records Division will provide training on records transmittal procedures to state agencies upon request, as well as on-site assistance in transferring records. For more information, or for immediate assistance, contact the division at (334)242-4452.

Plans Advancing for ADAH/GSU "Loose Records" Microfilming Project

Plans are under way for the cooperative "loose records" microfilming project conducted by ADAH, the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU), county governments, and local historians and genealogists. GSU (which has already microfilmed bound probate records in almost every Alabama county) intends to film unbound ("loose") probate and circuit court records: marriage licenses, divorces, guardianships, apprenticeships, Confederate pension records, and estate case files. ADAH is recruiting volunteer workers at the county level to flatten and arrange these records prior to filming. GSU will provide camera operators and a computerized name index for the records, and ADAH will contribute a free copy of the microfilm to participating counties. On November 18, members and guests of the Local Government Archives Roundtable discussed the forthcoming project at the Morgan County Archives in Decatur. Baldwin, Barbour, Jefferson, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Morgan, St. Clair, and Tuscaloosa Counties were represented at the meeting, while Blount, Butler, Chambers, Choctaw, Elmore, Etowah, Greene, Jackson, Lamar, Mobile, Montgomery, and Pickens Counties have also expressed interest in the project. The ADAH Government Records Division will continue, in the coming months, to publicize this project among county probate offices and historical and genealogical societies. Early in 1999, the department plans to sponsor one or more workshops to train loose records volunteers. If your historical society, genealogical society, or other group would like to participate in such a project, please contact Tom Turley at (334)242-4452, ext. 234.

New Records Disposition Authorities Approved on October 28

At its meeting on October 28, 1998, the State Records Commission approved new records disposition authorities (RDAs) for the ALABAMA BOARD OF COSMETOLOGY, the ALABAMA BOARD OF PARDONS AND PAROLES, the ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AND NATURAL RESOURCES, the ALABAMA STATE BAR, and the ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTANCY. The RDA for the ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF YOUTH SERVICES was revised by the commission.

The Local Government Records Commission, also meeting on October 28, approved a records disposition authority for the CITY OF PELHAM. This RDA will be used as a model for other municipal records disposition authorities, as discussed in the article below.

The next meeting of the State and Local Government Records Commissions will be held on Friday, January 29, 1999, in the Milo B. Howard Auditorium of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, 624 Washington Avenue, Montgomery. Starting times are 10:00 a.m. (State) and 1:30 p.m. (Local).

Model Records Management Manual for State Agencies Under Development

The Government Records Division is now preparing a model records management manual that may be used by state agencies in developing their own records management manuals. The model manual will cover all the key components of an agency records management program. It will be considered by the State Records Commission in January 1999; and, if approved, will be available to state agencies in February. For more information, call Richard Wang at (334)242-4452, ext. 240.

New ADAH Publication Explains Use of Records Depository Agreement

A new ADAH procedural leaflet, "Procedures for Implementing a Local Government Records Depository Agreement," was approved by the Local Government Records Commission at its meeting on October 28. The purpose of this leaflet, which was previewed in the last issue of Government Records News, is to assist local governments in finding suitable off-site depositories for public records if their own records storage areas are inadequate. With the Local Government Records Depository Agreement, legal custody of the records remains with the originating office, but physical custody is transferred (under carefully specified conditions) to a facility that can better meet the Local Government Records Commission's records storage guidelines. ADAH staff members inspect potential depositories before the records are transferred, maintain copies of all active depository agreements, and monitor their implementation. For copies of the procedural leaflet, or for more information about creating a records depository agreement, contact the ADAH Government Records Division at (334)242-4452.

State and Local Records Disposition Authority Development Continues

Over the past three years, the Department of Archives and History has been developing a new appraisal methodology to assist state and local agencies in managing their records. The product of this methodology (functional analysis) is the records disposition authority (RDA). An RDA identifies the permanent records that document the functions an agency performs, and provides authority for the disposition of its temporary records. RDAs will eventually replace our traditional system of schedules and destruction notices for all state and local agencies.

As of its last meeting on October 28, 1998, the State Records Commission has approved RDAs for 41 state agencies: the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Attorney General's Office, State Auditor, State Bar, Children's Trust Fund, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Board of Cosmetology, Crime Victims Compensation Commission, Board of Dental Examiners, Board of Examiners for Dietetics/Nutrition Practice, Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Department of Education, Department of Finance (Risk Management Division), Board for General Contractors, Geological Survey, Board of Hearing Instrument Dealers, Alabama High School of Mathematics and Science, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Department of Insurance, Jefferson County Department of Health, Manufactured Housing Commission, Medicaid Agency, Board of Medical Examiners/Medical Licensure Commission, Board of Occupational Therapy, Oil and Gas Board, Board of Pardons and Paroles, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Physical Therapy, Plumbers and Gas Fitters Examining Board, Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, Board of Public Accountancy, Department of Public Health/County Health Departments, State and Local Government Records Commissions, Department of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Revenue, Securities Commission, Board of Social Work Examiners, Sports Hall of Fame Board, State Treasurer, Office of Voter Registration, Department of Youth Services. Copies of these approved RDAs may be obtained from the agency's records liaison or by calling the Government Records Division at (334)242-4452.

Meanwhile, RDAs are also being implemented for agencies of local government. Our first local RDA, for the county boards of registrars, was approved by the Local Government Records Commission in October, 1997. After final consultation with the Office of Voter Registration, it will be distributed to the new (post-election) members of the 67 county boards. An RDA for the regional planning commissions was completed in April, 1998. On October 28, 1998, the Local Government Records Commission approved a "pilot" municipal RDA for the City of Pelham. It is now under review by an advisory committee of town and city clerks, and will provide the foundation for a more comprehensive model municipal RDA that will go to the commission in January 1999. At the same meeting, the commission will review new RDAs for county probate offices and local law enforcement agencies. Plans for the next two years call for RDAs to be completed for county commissions, taxation officials, public utility boards, soil and water conservation districts, 911 districts, racing commissions, public libraries, and local boards of education. Fully implementing these RDAs among Alabama's hundreds of local government agencies will naturally take several years. During the interim, individual municipalities and county agencies may continue to manage their records under the general schedules and destruction procedures previously approved by the Local Government Records Commission.

In order to comply with state laws regarding public records, agencies of state and local government are encouraged to contact the ADAH Government Records Division for assistance in developing their RDAs. After receiving a request and scheduling a time to start the project, a division archivist will begin working with the agency's staff to analyze its functions and identify its permanent and temporary records. RDA development procedures for state agencies are already embodied in a division leaflet, and a similar leaflet for local agencies will be available in January, 1999. Once an agency has an approved RDA, Government Records Division archivists will conduct RDA implementation training for the agency's staff. Training for a state agency might cover the following topics: (1) understanding the RDA's components and structure; (2) transferring permanent records to ADAH; (3) storing temporary records at the State Records Center or in the agency's own records storage areas; (4) destroying obsolete records; (5) reporting to the State Records Commission; and (6) developing an agency records management procedures manual.

The ADAH Government Records Division offers publications and on-site assistance to state and local agencies on specific record-keeping problems or general issues affecting records management, such as: building an agency records program, record-keeping accountability of public officials, access to public records, legal admissibility of public records, and the use of alternative media and new technologies to store record information. Training sessions on particular topics will be advertised in this newsletter. For other assistance, call the division at (334)242-4452.

Newsprint and its Preservation

Newsprint is not a permanent paper. Since about 1885, Alabama newspapers have been published on paper made from wood pulp instead of cotton rags. Wood contains chemicals which--when exposed to light, high humidity, and atmospheric pollution--promote acidic reactions that cause paper to discolor, weaken, and eventually become brittle.

Newspapers are valuable primarily for the information they contain. This information can be preserved in several ways. Clippings can be photocopied on acid-free paper and stored to prevent contact with other acidic materials. The clippings may be deacidified with an alkaline buffered spray and encapsulated in inert polyester film. The best preservation method for newsprint collections is microfilming. Following national standards for film type, processing methods, and storage requirements can ensure the production of microfilm masters with a 500-year life expectancy. Microfilm also provides improved access to the information in newspapers. Thanks to the Alabama Newspaper Project (1983-1993), many historical Alabama newspapers are already available from ADAH on interlibrary loan and microfilm. 95 current Alabama newspapers are being filmed by the department and are likewise available for purchase. Contact the ADAH reference department at (334)242-4435.

For more information on deacidification and encapsulation, call the Government Records Division at (334)242-4452. For catalogs of archival products, contact Light Impressions (800-828-6216); University Products, Inc. (800-628-1912); or Gaylord Brothers (800-448-6160).

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"Government Records News" is published by the Government Records Division of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, P.O. Box 300100, Montgomery, Alabama 36130-0100, telephone (334)242-4452. The newsletter, and other publications, are also available on-line through the ADAH web site:

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Created: 12/22/1998