Local Government Records Destruction: Avoid Common Errors

When submitting your Local Government Records Destruction Notice to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, avoiding common errors will help the Archives staff process and return your destruction notice more quickly.

For detailed instructions on completing a Local Government Records Destruction Notice, please visit our blog titled “Local Government Records Destruction 101.”

Use a Records Disposition Authority

The place to start when filling out a local government destruction notice is the Records Disposition Authority (RDA), starting with identifying the correct RDA for your locality (ex. Municipalities, County Commissions, County Probate Offices, Boards of Education, Law Enforcement Agencies, etc.)

In the Records Disposition Authority (RDA), the third section lists the types of records your locality creates and the minimal amount of time the records must be maintained; however, local governments are permitted to keep records longer than the time interval specified. You will use the information found in the RDA to complete page two of the Local Government Records Destruction Notice.

Identify and List Record Type, Number, and Retention – Do NOT List Records as “Joe’s Desk Drawer”

Inheriting a basement full of boxes labeled “Joe’s Desk Drawer,” or “Misc.” is frustrating; however, if you list “Joe’s Desk Drawer” or “Miscellaneous” on a destruction notice, Archives’ staff cannot determine if these records are in fact eligible for destruction. Because you have access to these records, you must identify the record type(s) in that box. Are these files “Accounting Records,” “Routine Correspondence,” “Administrative Reference Files,” or “Project Files?”

Each record type should be listed on page two of the Local Government Records Destruction Notice with the corresponding retention and number. Also note that some record types may be broken into its components (ex. 16.05a, 16.05b, 16.05c). Being specific and completing all columns on page two (RDA Record #, Records Title as Shown on RDA, Date Span, Retention as Shown on RDA, Date Audited, and Volume) will eliminate the need for follow-up phone calls that delay approval.

Understand “Date Audited Field”

Some retentions are dependent on audit date. For the “Date Audited” field on page two, do not automatically list your local government’s most recent audit. We need to know when the records you want to destroy were made available for audit. For example, if records originally produced in 2008 were audited in 2010, the agency should write 2010 in this field, as this was the audit cycle in which the 2008 records were made available. Even if these records weren’t pulled for the audit, we need to know when they were made available.

If the retention does not mention an audit (ex. “Retain 3 years”), put N/A for Not Applicable.

Include Appropriate Signature

Don’t forget to have your locality’s destruction notice signed. The signature can be completed in ink and scanned or electronically signed in Adobe PDF. Typing in the name does not count as an electronic signature. In addition to the signature, also include the name and title of the authorizing official who has signed the destruction notice.

For schools, the notice must be signed by the Superintendent of Education for your district, in accordance with Alabama Department of Education policy.

For Assistance

Proper destruction allows local governments to focus limited resources on vital, essential, and historical records important to citizens. ADAH staff are here to assist your local government in identifying which records are eligible for destruction and to aid in the preservation of your local government’s permanent records.

For questions, please email Becky.Hebert@archives.alabama.gov.

Local Government Records Destruction 101

Is your local government conducting a basement cleanup project, carrying out its annual destruction activities, or sorting through electronic files? Did you know that you must request authorization from the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) each time you plan to destroy local government records?

We have provided step-by-step instructions below to guide you through the process of completing and submitting a Local Government Records Destruction Notice.

After submitting a Local Government Records Destruction Notice to ADAH’s Records Management Section, your local government will receive a Letter of Eligibility verifying whether the records are eligible for destruction. After receiving the eligibility letter from ADAH, you may then proceed with records destruction.

Guide to Completing and Submitting a Local Government Records Destruction Notice

Access the Local Government Records Destruction Notice

Downloading and then opening the Local Government Records Destruction Notice in Adobe Acrobat Reader will allow your local government agency to complete the form electronically. Hover the mouse over blank fields on the form for detailed instructions in completing each part. You may also print the form and fill it out manually, if preferred.

Reference the Sample Completed Destruction Notice

The Sample Completed Local Government Records Destruction Notice  clarifies the types of information requested for each specific field.

Identify the Appropriate Retention Schedule

Select the correct Records Disposition Authority (RDA) for your locality (ex. Municipalities, County Commissions, County Probate Offices, Boards of Education, Law Enforcement Agencies, etc.).

The third section of the Records Disposition Authority (RDA) lists the types of records your locality creates and the minimal amount of time to maintain records; however, local governments are permitted to keep records longer than the time interval specified.

The records listing will help you in determining if records are eligible for destruction; furthermore, information found in the RDA will be used to complete page two of the Local Government Records Destruction Notice, as described in more detail below.

Complete the Contact Information Section (Page 1, Section 1)

The first section of the Local Government Records Destruction Notice consists of contact information. The individual listed at the top of the Destruction Notice will be the primary point of contact for any questions. Anyone who needs to be copied on the Letter of Eligibility returned by records management staff may be included in the secondary box.

Complete Manner of Destruction, Approximate Date, and Type of Retention Schedule (Page 1, Section 2)

    • Identify how records will be destroyed (ex. shredded, burned, etc.).
    • Specify the approximate date for when you plan to destroy the records.
    • Notate which Record Disposition Authority (RDA) your local government used (ex. Municipalities, County Commissions, County Probate Offices, Boards of Education, Law Enforcement Agencies, etc.).
    • Delay entering the total volume being destroyed until after completing the second page.

Delay Adding a Signature until the End of the Process (Page 1, Section 3)

Identify who is the authorizing official to sign off on the destruction notice. The form should be signed after completion.

Complete the Section on Records to be Destroyed (Page 2)

  • “RDA Record #” Field

To find the record type, you will need to access the third section of the Records Disposition Authority (RDA) and determine if the record type(s) is/are eligible for destruction. Check ADAH’s Records Management website to make sure your local government has the most recent update of the RDA.

Identify the numerical code(s) in the records retention schedule that corresponds with the record type(s) eligible for destruction. Inclusion of the numerical codes will facilitate a timely review of your Notice by ADAH records management staff.

Important Note: If a record type has a multipart listing (i.e. 10.03A, 10.03B, etc.), please clarify to which record type your local government is referring, as the individual parts often have different retentions.

Tip: To easily search for a record type in the RDA, use Ctrl+F to pull up a search box that will allow for a word search.

  • “Records Title as Shown on RDA” Field

Use the appropriate RDA as listed above to find the record type. The records series title immediately follows the RDA number and will be shown in bold.

You may include variant titles that your local government uses to refer to the records in parentheses. For example, you may list “Routine Accounting Records” as the official title, but in parenthesis list “Cancelled Checks.”

Important Note: Each line should list only one record type regardless of the volume. For example, “Accounting Records” may be 50 cubic feet, whereas “Contracts” may only be .2 cubic feet.

Tip: Copies of the second page of the Local Government Records Destruction Notice may be included if necessary to document additional records requested for destruction.

  • “Date Span” Field

For each record type, include the year(s) in which these records were created (ex. 2016 or 1970-2005).

  • “Retention as shown on RDA” Field

Fill in the minimum records retention as listed on the RDA. This information helps determine if the records are eligible for destruction.

  • “Date Audited” Field 

Some minimum retentions are dependent upon an audit date. If the retention in the RDA mentions an audit date (ex. “Retain 2 years following audit”), identify when these records were made available for audit.

Note: Do not list your local government’s most recent audit. Please include when the records being listed on the destruction notice were made available for audit.

Example: Let us consider a local government that has been audited in 2010 and 2017. The local government is submitting a destruction notice that includes records whose minimum retention is “Retain 2 years following audit” and which were originally produced in 2008. The agency should write “2010” in this field, as this was the audit cycle in which the 2008 records were made available.

If the retention does not mention an audit (ex. “Retain 3 years”), put N/A for Not Applicable.

  • “Volume” Field

Paper Records

Paper Records
List how many cubic feet are being
destroyed for each record type
1 Box of Copy Paper1 Cubic Foot
1 Banker’s Box2 Cubic Feet
1 Legal-Sized File Drawer2 Cubic Feet
Fifty 100 Foot 35mm Microfilm1 Cubic Foot
3×5 Cards, Ten 12″ Rows1 Cubic Foot
3 Large Bound Volumes1.5 Cubic Feet

Electronic Records

Electronic Records

List how many bytes (B, KB, MB, GB, TB, or PB)
are being destroyed.
1 Byte (B)8 Bits
1 Kilobyte (KB)1,024 Bytes
1 Megabyte (MB)1,024 Kilobytes
1 Gigabyte (GB)1,024 Megabytes
1 Terabyte (TB)1,024 Gigabytes
1 Petabyte (PB)1,024 Terabytes

Complete the Total Records Destroyed (Page 1, Section 2)

Add up the total in the volume column on the second page. Then, go back to the first page and enter the total cubic feet of obsolete paper records destroyed and/or the total bytes of obsolete electronic records destroyed.

Complete the Signature Section (Page 1, Section 3)

Have the authorizing official sign the destruction notice. The notice form may be signed electronically. Alternatively, the form may be printed and signed. Please remember to include the printed name and title of the authorizing official as well.

Note: For schools, the notice must be signed by the Superintendent of Education for your district, in accordance with Alabama Department of Education policy.

Submit your completed Local Government Records Destruction Notice via Email

Email the Local Government Records Destruction Notice as an attachment to the Records Management Section of the Alabama Department of Archives and History at becky.hebert@archives.alabama.gov.

Please include a subject line such as “Local Government Records Destruction Notice” and a signature line so that our staff are sure to distinguish your local government email from spam..

Wait for an Email including the “Letter of Eligibility” from the Records Management Section

Notices filled out correctly may be returned in a few days; however, those destruction notices with errors may take a few weeks to be processed. Your Letter of Eligibility will include a copy of your Local Government Records Destruction Notice.

Destroy Records in a Secure Manner

Employ secure destruction methods such as shredding or burning to ensure the complete destruction of confidential information.

Maintain a Copy of Your Letter of Eligibility and Destruction Notice

Your local government should keep a copy of the Letter of Eligibility and the Local Government Records Destruction Notice for your files to prove legal destruction of records.

Additional Information

For additional information on RDAs, please visit our blog post titled, “Records Disposition Authority: Roadmap for Records Retention.”

Records Disposition Authority: Roadmap for Records Retention

Do you ever wonder why some records are kept for just a couple of years, while other records are kept for decades or even forever? Do you know where to find how long different types must be maintained? Let’s discuss a document that serves as a roadmap for state and local government records retention: the Records Disposition Authority (RDA).

An RDA is designed to help state and local governments manage their records more efficiently by identifying how long specific records should be kept, when records can be destroyed, and which records should be preserved permanently.

The Code of Alabama 1975 mandates that no state, county, municipal or other public official shall cause any state or local government records to be destroyed without first obtaining approval of the State and/ or Local Government Records Commissions (Code of Alabama 1975 § 41-13-21 through 23).

Public officials include not only elected officials, but any employees whose salaries are paid in whole or in part by Alabama taxpayers. The definition references the Code of Alabama 1975 § 36-12-1, which defines the phrase “public officer or servant” as, “in addition to the ordinary public offices, departments, commissions, bureaus and boards of the state and the public officers and servants of counties and municipalities, all persons whatsoever occupying positions in state institutions.”

Public officials from state agencies must obtain approval for records destruction from the State Records Commission, while public officials from local government agencies obtain approval from the Local Government Records Commission (Code of Alabama 1975 § 41-13-21 through 23).

In practice, authorization from the Commissions is provided in the form of retention schedules, called Records Disposition Authorities (RDAs). The RDAs describe the “disposition” of records (temporary or permanent) and stipulate minimum retentions of record types (ex. routine accounting records) after which destruction is authorized to take place.

Permanent records as identified in the RDA (ex. meeting minutes, annual reports) cannot be destroyed and must be preserved in perpetuity. State agencies may transmit permanent records which are no longer regularly referenced to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) for permanent preservation. Local government agencies are generally responsible for maintaining permanent records in their communities to provide greater access among citizens.

Temporary records as identified in the RDA may be destroyed once their minimum retention periods have passed. State agencies may destroy temporary records without requesting preapproval from the Alabama Department of Archives and History; however, records liaisons must submit logs of records destroyed in the previous fiscal year as part of the Annual RDA Implementation Report.

Local government agencies must request preapproval from the Alabama Department of Archives and History each time records are to be destroyed. Destruction can only proceed once an agency has received a Letter of Eligibility authorizing destruction of the records. Our next blog entry will describe the Local Government Records Destruction Notice Process in more detail.

Records management staff have worked over the past twenty years to develop approximately 175 State Agency RDAs and 15 Local Government RDAs. State agency RDAs are highly specific and describe the records produced by a single agency in significant detail. Local government agency RDAs describe “classes” of local government organizations, such as “Law Enforcement Agencies” and “Municipalities.”

The RDA serves as the foundation of a records management program that helps state and local governments comply with state records laws, meet operational goals and objectives, document financial decisions and expenditures adequately, and promote transparency in government.

If your agency does not have an RDA, you should contact us at becky.hebert@archives.alabama.gov to start this process.


Preserving Historic Ledgers and Books

Guest Contributor: Keri Hallford, Collections Archivist, Alabama Department of Archives and History

Are you considering wrapping books in your agency’s collection? Keeping bound records was once an easy and reliable way to reference important information quickly. In the digital age, however, this method is becoming outmoded, and books often fall into disrepair. As bound records become more delicate and harder to care for, some archivists choose to wrap books and ledgers to protect these aging materials.


Before you wrap your books, there are several questions that you need to consider:

  • Are you trying to prevent damage caused by friction as books are placed on or removed from shelves?
  • Have the cover and/or multiple pages detached?
  • Are you trying to keep a book from becoming dusty or dirty?
  • Is the book’s leather binding producing a fine powder, referred to as “red rot”? (Note: Red rot has certain health dangers associated with it, so please proceed with caution!)
  • Do your materials need water protection that your shelves are not supplying?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may want to wrap your books. Contemplate your budget for a wrapping project. Will this be an ongoing initiative? Are you only wrapping books on an “as-needed” basis? Will you do just a few books, or rows upon rows? The supply costs can add up over time.


You can decide to tie broken books together with cotton tying tape, to hold detached pieces in place until the greater binding issues can be addressed. Be sure to not draw the tie too loose or too tight, as either may cause damage to the book.

There are several materials that we recommend wrapping with. From least durable to most durable, you can use archival wrapping paper (like a craft paper in consistency, but better for the item); folder stock; or a spun polyester fabric-like substance called Tyvek. Tyvek is chemically inert, allows the books to breathe, and is water resistant, which may help to protect an item that isn’t protected by shelving if there’s a water leak.


Tyvek has a shiny side and a soft, matte side. Be sure to use it with the shiny side out. Much thought needs to go into how often your books are going to be used in the future. If it sits on the shelf most of the time, then you probably won’t need to use this more durable material.

To wrap a book, use the book itself as a template. Cut two strips of your chosen material to fit the length, width, and height of the book. The two strips should lie across each other perpendicularly.

Secure one strip with at least two pieces of hook and loop material (such as Velcro), and then secure the other side in a similar fashion.


Write proper identifying information on the spine or wherever it can easily be viewed in your storage area. You may use a pencil or, more permanently, a micron pen.

Before you close the book, slip an identification paper into the book so it can be identified if its wrapper is misplaced.

To shelve your book, consider the size of the volume and the size of the shelf. Very heavy and large books should be laid on their sides. Never pile up so many books that the bottom volume is impossible to move and its spine warps with the weight. If possible, do not allow a book to overhang its shelf. Serious damage may occur over time, especially when an item can be accidentally struck by people walking past the shelf.

Below is a handy rubric of archival quality supplies and companies from which you can purchase them. As with any supply company, buying in bulk will help save money.







Wrapping Paper




Perma Dur
Folder Stock


Folder Stock

Cotton Tape

Unbleached Cotton
Tying Tape

Unbleached Tape

Cotton Tying
Tape 100 yds
Cotton Tying
Tape 1,000 yds

Hook Loop


Velcro Velcoin

Velcro Velcoin

Pigma Pen

Pigma Pens

Pigma Pen

Pigma Micron

Books and ledgers remain crucial resources, even in the Web 2.0 era. They provide both intrinsic and extrinsic information, ranging from the actual content of the text to features like binding, flyleaves, watermarks, margin notes, page layout, and the ink and script used by the creator. By taking measures to protect bound records in need of extra care, these items can be made available to researchers for years to come.

Meet the Staff Feature: Sophie Howard

For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.


Name: Sophie Howard
Title: Records Management & Appraisal Archivist
Specialties: Records Disposition Authority (RDA) revision, local government records retention / destruction

How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?

I originally pursued an undergraduate degree in foreign language with the intention of becoming a teacher abroad. A close family member became seriously ill midway through my program, so by the time I graduated I was in the process of reframing my goals in life. I enrolled in a master’s program in Information Science (which is kind of like an updated version of “library school”) around the time that I had the opportunity to interview for this position. I feel very fortunate to be where I am now.

What is something you enjoy about working in records management?

The Department engages in many different types of activities; we have schoolchildren visiting the Museum of Alabama on our premises regularly, and we likewise have a reference room where members of the public can conduct genealogical research. Records management is more “under the radar” than the work of either of those sections, but the work lays the foundation for records stewardship throughout state and local government, which ensures that the Department’s efforts to provide access to Alabama history can continue. The work feels very purposeful, both immediately and for the benefit of future Alabamians as well.

What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the profession today?

Well, certainly the biggest challenge is the increasing volume of electronic records being produced by state and local governments and the accompanying influx of such records to archives like ours. The profession as a whole is working to build capacity and to develop standards for dealing with this new digital age, but the issue is multifaceted and extremely complex. Even seemingly fundamental concepts like “what is a record” have to be reconsidered in light of emails, databases, and blockchain.

What are your hobbies when you are not at work?

I enjoy reading fiction and nonfiction, scrapbooking, embroidering, and spending time with my fiancé and my dog.

You Don’t Need to Keep It All: Start Decluttering Your Email

To the phrase “You don’t need to keep it all,” I often receive this common response: “I would need to hire an assistant full-time just to manage my email.” While storage may be relatively cheap, think about how long it takes your search engine to find an email among twenty thousand messages. The value of information lies in its accessibility.

How do you begin to declutter your email account? Start by deleting transient emails defined by records that are not essential in documenting agency activities. We previously discussed deleting unsolicited SPAM, distributed messages such as reminders about getting your flu shot, and reference copies in “First Steps to Better Email Management.”

Another example of types of emails that require no documentation for destruction include listserv messages. Set up rules to automatically sort these messages into a separate folder. Also, unsubscribe from groups or even promotional emails that you do not need.

Other types of email easily identified for deletion without documentation include transient records such as accepted/declined meeting requests and read receipts. Even items such as meeting arrangements can be placed in the calendar with the back and forth coordination emails being deleted.

To start finding these types of messages, arrange your emails by “from” which will allow you to select groups of emails and delete them with one click of a button. By arranging your account by sender, you can identify those individuals who do not send email related to the day-to-day operation of government. Some users only send you messages such as “Are you ready for lunch?” Delete emails from these senders in batches.

Email management is not saving all email forever. Spend as little as fifteen minutes every day before or after lunch. Deleting transient emails will help you identify those messages that document your important work in government and will build your confidence as you take additional steps to declutter your account.

First Steps to Better Email Management

Many emails you receive at work are transient records and thus can be deleted. Managing those emails properly can be done in as little as fifteen minutes a day. So where do you begin? You start by deleting emails that you know can be deleted such as unsolicited SPAM or distributed messages sent to groups.

Microsoft Outlook has tools that can help you capture SPAM messages before they reach your inbox. Those messages are stored in a special SPAM or junk mail folder. SPAM messages that arrive in your inbox can be flagged to help your account identify similar future messages, so they go directly to your junk folder. You should check your SPAM folder weekly to ensure that emails created in the ordinary course of business were not misdirected. Otherwise, you can delete your entire SPAM folder weekly to reduce your email account’s clutter and make more efficient use of your account space.

Once you have deleted your SPAM messages, you can then tackle a common transient email – the distributed list email. These are emails where you have been cc’d or bcc’d as part of a larger group of recipients such as all department/agency employees. Often, such messages originate within your immediate workplace and include mass reminders such as “cake in the break room” or “flu shots available today.” Such emails distributed to (not by you) are transient non-substantive messages of short-term usefulness and often are not created as part of the normal functions/activities of your agency. Transient emails can be deleted.

Distributed meeting minutes are also considered transient records. Usually after meetings, minutes are sent to all attendees. As a recipient of these minutes, you can delete those messages because the minutes should be preserved permanently by its creator – recipients are not obligated to preserve those emails because you are merely receiving a reference copy.

Email management is NOT saving all email forever. As email will not manage itself, you must be a proactive manager as email management is your responsibility. Don’t attempt to clean up your email all at once but set aside small intervals of time. See future blogs for additional email clean-up strategies.