Government Records News
News from the State and Local Government Record Commissions

Vol. 4 No. 4

February 2000

State and Local Records Commissions Approve New, Revised Records Disposition Authorities

At its meeting on January 26, 2000, the State Records Commission approved new records disposition authorities (RDAs) for the ALABAMA BOARD OF NURSING and the ALABAMA INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF AND BLIND.

The Local Government Records Commission, also meeting on January 26, approved new RDAs for MAYOR-COUNCIL MUNICIPALITIES and ALABAMA RACING COMMISSIONS. The commission also approved disposition requirements for newly mandated Scrap Tire License Files as an addition to the RDA for COUNTY PROBATE OFFICES. ADAH staff will distribute these requirements to each probate office for inclusion in its copy of the RDA.

The next meeting of the State and Local Government Records Commissions will be held on Tuesday, April 25, 2000, 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).

ADAH 2001 Budget Proposes $300,000 for Local Records Grants

As reported in the last issue of Government Records News, Local Government Records Commission members, ADAH staff, county and municipal officials, and local historians and genealogists met in Montgomery on November 15 to plan the establishment of a new, state-funded grant program for local records preservation. Since that meeting, ADAH has requested an additional appropriation of $394,000 in its 2001 budget, $300,000 of which would be distributed to local governments as records preservation grants. ADAH archivists have also discussed the proposal with staff of the Alabama League of Municipalities and received their support.

Current plans call for relatively small awards, so that funds would be available to a large number of grant applicants. Applications could propose such work as improving records storage space; purchasing archival storage boxes, file folders, and shelving; hiring temporary workers to inventory records and apply retention standards; and conducting limited microfilming or records conservation projects. Initially, participation in the program would be restricted to agencies of local government. In later grant cycles, local historical and genealogical societies might also become eligible. The Local Government Records Commission would make decisions on individual awards, advised by a review committee representing the constituencies (local officials, historians and genealogists) who manage, research, and preserve Alabama's public records.

Further action on this program is dependent upon legislative funding. If the proposal is successful, future issues of Government Records News will carry information on grant guidelines and application procedures. Meanwhile, if you or anyone you know wishes to support the establishment of local records grants, or if you would like more information on other ADAH services and programs, please contact the Government Records Division at (334)242-4452.

Loose Records Microfilming Program Continues to Make Progress

About 25 Alabama counties continue work in the loose records microfilming program, jointly administered by ADAH and the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). Other counties are now recruiting volunteers to assist with records preparation. Since our last report, Autauga and Calhoun Counties have nearly completed filming their loose records; the microfilm will soon be available in each county and the ADAH reference room. Information on these two projects recently appeared in the Birmingham News and Anniston Star, resulting in much favorable publicity for the local officials, historians, and genealogists. Meanwhile, another pair of GSU camera operators has arrived to begin filming Shelby County marriages and estate files. Limestone and Morgan Counties will be the next to have their records filmed. If your county government or historical/genealogical society is interested in starting a loose records project, please contact Tom Turley at the ADAH Government Records Division (334-242-4452, ext. 234) or

Alabama Survives Y2K

January 1, 2000-the so-called "millennium"-has come and gone. The ball has fallen in Times Square; the champagne corks are dry. Now everyone is wondering what happened to the most widely hyped disaster of the 1990s: the dreaded "Y2K bug." Predictions had ranged from the wrong date appearing on computer screens to nuclear warheads exploding or a mass financial panic, ushering in the end of civilization as we know it. Some people stockpiled food and water or took to the hills in anticipation of world-wide chaos and collapse. Thousands of businesses and government agencies spent billions of dollars preparing for the worst, while the coming catastrophe was heralded by a plethora of books, articles, and web sites (see Government Records News, vol. 1, no. 4 [March 1997]). Glorying in its heady, fleeting boom, the "Y2K fix" industry raked in huge profits as the clock ticked down toward zero.

In the end, Y2K's aftermath was about as exciting as opening Al Capone's vault. Expecting global holocaust, the globe survived with minor glitches. A video store computer in Albany, NY (the Mobile Register reported) charged a patron a 100-year, $91,250 late fee. One company rolled its computers' calendars back to 1972 (the sequence of dates is identical to Year 2000's) while attempting a last-minute, low-cost Y2K fix. Otherwise, not too much happened. If the absence of dire consequences seemed to anger newscasters, it also showed that records managers were-in this case-poor prognosticators who sometimes failed to sweep their own doorsteps. (During January, the Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA International) displayed dates on its web site ranging from 900 to 199000.)

Of course, records and information managers can argue--validly, no doubt--that millennial disaster was averted only because their plans were funded and the fixes worked. At any rate, the worst Y2K-related problem now facing state and local governments is figuring out what to do with all those vendor bids, reports, and invoices generated in trying to head off "the millennium bug." For assistance with such records, or to get an early start on Y3K (only 999 years to go!), contact the ADAH Government Records Division at (334)242-4452.

Factors to Consider in Rebinding Bound Records Volumes (Part 1)

Local officials care for historical records in many formats including videotapes, audiotapes, photographs, computer files, standard paper documents in file folders, and bound volumes. Each of these formats requires special care and handling to ensure its preservation over time. Bound volumes often contain the most valuable historical records found in a community; however, continued use leads to their deterioration and a need to remove them from public access.

Bound records may be valuable for the information they contain and/or for their historical value as artifacts. Volumes of intrinsic historical value should be treated separately from those considered for routine commercial binding. If a book is important only for its information, the information can often be preserved more cheaply in another format, such as microfilm. Historically valuable volumes should be protected by investing in the best, least damaging binding method or repair. It is better to do nothing than to damage a volume through improper binding or rebinding techniques and materials.

In selecting binding methods, it is more economical to distinguish between high-use and low-use volumes. Low-use volumes do not require the binding strength of those used more frequently. A high-use volume should be given a strong, long-lasting binding that allows it to be opened flat and repaired again if necessary. In addition, historical volumes may require special binding methods such as hand-sewing, rebacking, or recasing, rather than routine rebinding. They may also require conservation treatments which might include cleaning, deacidification, mending, and/or encapsulation in inert polyester (Mylar).

Because the bindery cuts off old adhesive or threads, rebinding almost always results in the loss of some of the gutter margin. Therefore, a volume can only be rebound once or twice, depending on the width of its margin. Eventually, it will be impossible to rebind a volume without losing print. Volumes also become more difficult to open as the margin

decreases. While the main concern in rebinding a volume should be longevity, other factors-such as durability-must also be considered. Desirable characteristics of bookbindings include: usability (adequate margins for easy reading and opening), durability, longevity (resistance to chemical deterioration, such as yellowing and brittleness), and repairability.

Anatomy of a Bound Records Volume

Before making any rebinding decision, it is helpful to understand a bound volume's construction. The following information is intended to provide the basic knowledge needed in working with a bookbinder.

Covers. The cover of a bound volume has several parts, all of which affect its longevity. The hinge is the most important part, for if the hinge holds together the volume generally will too. The strength of the hinge is determined by its construction, and by the durability and longevity of the volume's cover material and end papers. The grain of the cover material, the boards, and the end papers should run parallel to the hinge to minimize warping. The use of strong (80- or 100-pound) acid-free end papers and acid-free crash (open-weave cotton used to reinforce the volume's cover) will aid in extending the useful life of records volumes.

A strong woven cloth is preferable for the cover of a volume when longevity is required. It lasts longer and withstands wear better. However, there are tremendous differences in cloth, which ranges from very weak linen to very strong buckram. Costs range proportionally. Cloth with an acrylic coating is soil-resistant and should have a long life. Long-lasting, non-woven materials, such as Tyvek (Type III synthetic fiber) and polymer- or resin-reinforced paper (Type II fibers), are strong and may also be satisfactory. Choose a grade of cloth appropriate for the size and weight of the volume.

Boards. There are two general types of cover boards: binder's board and chip board. Both are recycled products made from waste paper. Both types are acidic, but disintegration of the boards does not appear to be a major problem. Because of its extra strength and resistance to warping, binder's board is preferable to chip board. The board's thickness should be chosen in relation to the weight and size of the volume.

Paper. The weight and quality of the volumes's pages must be considered when deciding on the weight of the binding boards. Binding options are drastically reduced for volumes with brittle paper. In some cases, reformatting is the best-if not the only-option. Coated paper stock (such as that used in photostats) is shiny, smooth, and slippery. Such binding methods as cleat-sewing and adhesive binding do not work well on coated stock, as coated pages will pop out of cleat-sewn binding and few adhesives will adhere well to the smooth surface.

Margin Width. When volumes are considered for rebinding, the width of the inner margin is of particular importance. The narrower the margin, the fewer the binding alternatives. A very general rule (used by a number of binders) is that a book must have a " or larger inner margin to be oversewn, and a 3/8" or larger margin to be cleat-sewn. Any book with a margin under 3/8" can only be adhesive-bound or sewn through the fold, which usually costs more.

Once you have determined the nature, value, and physical condition of a volume being considered for rebinding, this article may be useful in helping to make decisions that will add to the useful life of bound records in your care.

[To be continued in the next issue of Government Records News. For more information on records conservation issues, contact Linda Overman, ADAH conservation officer, at (334)242-4452, ext. 229, or]

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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: