Government Records News
News from the State and Local Government Record Commissions
Vol. 5 No. 1 May 2000


State Records Commission Approves New, Revised Records Disposition Authorities

At its meeting on April 25, 2000, the State Records Commission approved new records disposition authorities (RDAs) for the DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRIES, the BOARD OF OPTOMETRY, and the STATE PERSONNEL DEPARTMENT. Likewise approved were revisions of the RDA for the ALABAMA MEDICAID AGENCY and DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH.

The quarterly meeting of the Local Government Records Commission, also scheduled for April 25, was canceled because some of the major business items were still in preparation.

The next meeting of the State and Local Government Records Commissions will be held on Thursday, July 27, 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).

New Model Records Management Policy, Records Transfer Instructions Available to State Agencies

In order to provide state employees with guidelines on their record-keeping responsibilities, the ADAH Government Records Division has prepared a new "model" records management policy for inclusion in state agency procedures manuals. The document was approved by the State Records Commission on April 25 and is now available for adaptation by state agencies. Work to complete a model records management manual for state and local agency records officers and liaisons is ongoing.

The State Records Commission also approved a new procedural leaflet entitled, "Preparing Records for Transfer to the Department of Archives and History: Care and Handling Instructions." This leaflet supersedes an older one entitled "Transferring Archival Records to the Department of Archives and History." Again, it is intended for state agencies.

For copies of these and other ADAH publications, contact the Government Records Division at (334)242-4452.

New Member Appointed to State and Local Government Records Commissions

Alyce Robertson, a staff attorney in the Attorney General's Office, is its new representative on the State and Local Government Records Commissions. She attended her first meeting on April 25. Ms. Robertson obtained her law degree from the University of Alabama in 1995. She succeeds Philip Davis, who retired from the Attorney General's Office after serving on the commissions since 1985. ADAH welcomes Ms. Robertson and extends many thanks to Mr. Davis for his contribution to state and local records preservation.

Legislature Declines to Fund Local Records Grants for Fiscal Year 2001

Earlier this year (as reported in previous issues of Government Records News), ADAH requested an increased legislative appropriation of $394,000 in its 2001 budget. Of this amount, $300,000 was to provide direct grants to local governments for records preservation. At this writing, it appears that no grant money will be available for the next fiscal year. Nevertheless, the Government Records Division is moving ahead with plans for a grant program, in hope of obtaining funds for fiscal year 2002. Division staff will survey local governments to determine their records management priorities (see p. 2). Local records archivists will continue to provide on-site assistance, focusing on counties and municipalities where records are especially at risk. While offering any help now within our power, we will document the need for additional state funding with photographs, correspondence with local government officials, and follow-up reports to legislators. Given another year to prepare, archivists and local officials should be able to make a much stronger case for a grant program when submitting the ADAH budget package for 2002. Meanwhile, we are grateful to county and municipal officials who helped to plan and support this year's initiative, and to members of the legislature who were prepared to vote for it.

ADAH Conducting Survey of Potential Local Records Grant Recipients

Enclosed in this issue is a "Local Government Grant Program Survey" that will assist ADAH staff in establishing the parameters of a local records grant program when one is funded. The survey form contains 12 questions that assess the status of Alabama's county and municipal records programs, document local governments' previous records-related contacts with ADAH, target their specific records preservation needs, and specify the kinds of grant-funded assistance they desire. Respondents may identify themselves or remain anonymous, but a survey based on a large number of responses will have far more legislative impact. Therefore, all readers of Government Records News (except personnel from state agencies with no local government connections) are encouraged to reply. Please return your completed survey form by June 30, 2000, to the ADAH Government Records Division, P.O. Box 300100, Montgomery, AL 36130-0100.

Digital Imaging Guidelines for State and Local Agencies

As noted by Government Records News in 1996, both the Attorney General's Office and Alabama courts have tended to uphold digital imaging as a legal records storage medium (see Vol. 1, No. 2 [October 1996]). However, the Code of Alabama does not expressly authorize or directly mention computerized record-keeping systems. (A bill to legalize electronic signatures was introduced-and failed-during the current legislative session.) Instead, the Code still speaks of probate judges keeping "well-bound books" (Section 12-13-43), although elsewhere it authorizes "duly authenticated" microfilm as a legal substitute for paper records (Section 41-13-40). In the absence of a clear legal mandate, some state and local government officials have avoided the use of digital technology for public records. Conversely, an increasing number-attracted to the medium's high-volume storage and speed of access-now use digital imaging systems as their sole record-keeping format, returning or destroying paper records as soon as they are digitized.

Alabama's State and Local Government Records Commissions do not oppose the use of digital technology. Properly employed, it offers unparalleled advantages in accessing short-term records. However-despite the frequent claims of vendors to the contrary-it was not designed for records preservation, and it is still unproven as a long-term records storage medium. (For this technology, "long-term" is ten years.) ADAH and the other authorities represented on the two commissions (in particular, the Examiners of Public Accounts) remain dubious about using digital imaging as the only storage format for permanent or long-term records. Before an agency commits itself to such a step, it may wish to discuss the plan with the examiner who conducts its audits.

To provide public officials with guidance in this area, ADAH has published a technical leaflet, "Guidelines for the Use of Digital Technologies for Long-Term Government Records in Alabama," outlining the commissions' policy on digital record-keeping systems. To summarize two of its main points:

Government agencies should employ computer hardware and software that are standard in the industry. An agency's records should not be locked into a proprietary (non-standard) system that might not be obtainable elsewhere should its original vendor not be available in a few years. When an agency agrees to purchase an imaging system, the vendor should provide a bridge for migrating records from existing hardware and software to newer technology as record-keeping systems continue to evolve.

Government agencies should always maintain back-up security copies of permanent or long-term records kept in a digital imaging system. Formerly, the commissions specified that a traditional medium (such as microfilm or paper) be employed for making back-up copies. Although ADAH and the commissions still prefer this option, others-for example, maintaining two back-up CD-ROMs with one stored off-site-may provide acceptable alternatives. Government Records Division archivists may require documentation of an agency's system specifications and back-up procedures before approving the destruction of original permanent or long-term records.

The main point to remember is that permanent records remain permanent regardless of the format in which they are maintained. By choosing to keep such records only in digitized format, public officials are committing themselves and their successors to funding and implementing whatever future system upgrades or replacements become necessary to ensure the records' permanent preservation and accessibility. As rapidly as records technology is changing, that commitment represents a considerable responsibility and long-term expense.

For copies of the ADAH technical leaflet on digital imaging, or for advice and information on this and other records storage, contact the Government Records Division at (334)242-4452.

Factors to Consider in Rebinding Bound Records Volumes (Part 2)

[Note: This list of binderies concludes an article that was published in the previous issue of Government Records News (Vol, 4, No., 4, February 2000).]

Certified Binders That Do Conservation-Quality Repair

INFORMATION CONSERVATION, INC., 911 Northridge Street, P.O. Box 21568, Greensboro, NC 27420; (919)375-1102.

HECKMAN BINDER, INC., 1010 North Sycamore Street, North Manchester, IN 46962; (219)982-2107.

Certified Library Binders in the Southeast That Do Some Minor Repair

TUSCALOOSA LIBRARY BINDERY, 2704 Sixth Street, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401; (205)758-2204

This bindery also recases volumes and can do double fan adhesive binding. (Cold adhesive is applied to each side of the
binding edge, thus attaching one page to another.)

SOUTHERN LIBRARY BINDERY CO., 2952 Sidco Drive, Nashville, TN 37204; (615)244-5045

This bindery does not have a representative in Alabama. It uses acid-free products, end papers, etc. It also recases
volumes, but deacidification and encapsulation are contracted out.

To obtain a list of certified binders, or a copy of the national standards for library binding (ANSI/NISO Z39.78-2000), contact the Library Binding Institute, 7401 Metro Blvd, Suite 325, Edina, MN 55439; or call (612)835-4707.

For more information on records conservation issues, contact Linda Overman, ADAH conservation officer, at (334)242-4452, ext. 229.

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: http://www.archives.state.al.us.


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Created: May 31, 2000