Updates from the State Records Commission

The State Records Commission (SRC) met on October 30, 2019 at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. The Code of Alabama 1975 § 41-13-21 charges the Commission with determining “which government records shall be permanently preserved…and which may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of.” The Commission meets every April and October to approve Records Disposition Authorities, or RDAs. These documents outline all records that state agencies create, identify which records should be preserved permanently, and provide disposition procedures for all other records.

State Agency Outreach and Training

Records Management staff reported on state agency consultation and training sessions and permanent records transmittals to the Alabama Department of Archives and History. In fiscal year 2019, Records Management staff held a total of 62 outreach sessions with 170 attendees. Meeting topics included RDA development and revision, records management training, and permanent records transmittal.

A few highlights include:

  • November 2018: Records Management staff met with the staff from the Alabama Department of Commerce to develop an internal records management policy and conduct training.
  • February 2019: Records Management staff provided records management training for Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth’s staff.
  • March 2019: Records Management staff and ADAH Director Steve Murray met with staff from the Department of Mental Health to discuss the transmittal of permanent records to the Archives, including seven large ledger books containing the handwritten entries of patients admitted to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from 1861 to 1952.
  • June – July 2019: Records Management staff conducted 13 meetings with various divisions of the Alabama Office of Information Technology (OIT) to develop a new RDA for the agency.

Permanent Record Transmittal

In fiscal year 2019, 20 state agencies transmitted a total of 528 cubic feet of permanent paper records to the ADAH, spanning from the year 1861 to the year 2019. That’s roughly enough records to fill:

  • 264 bankers boxes or legal-sized file drawers
  • 528 copy paper boxes
  • An 8’ x 8’ x 8’ bouncy castle
  • A 4,000-gallon swimming pool

The chart below shows the “Top Ten Transmitters” of fiscal year 2019 and the amount of paper records they transmitted in cubic feet. 

The majority of the Legislative Services Agency’s transmittals included Budget Change Records, Legislative Fiscal Notes Files, and Fiscal Reference Files. The Office of the Secretary of State transmitted, among other record types, 42 cubic feet of Tract Books and 18 cubic feet of Bills and Resolutions. Transmittals from the Alabama Department of Archives and History consisted primarily of State and Local Government Agency Files. Yes, you read correctly – we transmit our permanent records to ourselves!

Two other notable transmittals are the Office of Governor Fob James, which transmitted 7 cubic feet of photographs from his administration, and the State Council on the Arts, which transmitted 18 cubic feet of Field Recordings. Read all about how we processed these audiovisual recordings in our blog post, “Preserving Alabama’s Musical Heritage: The Alabama State Council on the Arts Processing Project.”

New and Revised State Agency RDAs

The State Records Commission approved new or revised RDAs for the following agencies:

Home Builders Licensure Board (Major RDA Revision)

The Home Builders Licensure Board screens and licenses applicants who engage in residential construction and remodeling in the state of Alabama where the cost of the undertaking exceeds $10,000 and applicants who engage in residential roofing in the state of Alabama where the cost of the undertaking exceeds $2,500.

Alabama Act 2018-143, effective May 1, 2018, authorized the Home Builders Licensure Board to license roofers in addition to home builders. The RDA has been revised to reflect the board’s expanded regulatory scope.

Alabama Board for Registered Interior Designers (Major RDA Revision)

The Alabama Board for Registered Interior Designers governs the registration process for interior designers, who analyze, plan, design, document, and manage interior non-structural construction and alteration projects. Interior designers submit construction documents for commercial interior projects to building officials for review and permitting purposes.

The RDA has been revised to include the outcome of Alabama v. Lupo, an Alabama Supreme Court case which required the board’s governing legislation to be rewritten. Licensees of the Alabama Board for Registered Interior Designers are known as “registered interior designers,” in contrast to interior decorators, who focus primarily on aesthetics and do not participate in renovations or structural planning.

Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (Major RDA Revision)

The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences investigates unlawful, suspicious, or unnatural deaths and crimes in the state. The department provides forensic test results to members of the criminal justice system, such as Sheriffs’ Offices, in all 67 counties of Alabama.

The RDA has been revised to include mention of databases, including a federal database and in-house case management system, and to better describe several temporary record types.

Alabama Office of Information Technology (New RDA)

The Office of Information Technology (OIT)streamlines the delivery of information technology services in state government. OIT focuses on three primary mandates: IT strategic planning, IT governance, and IT resource utilization.

This RDA is new, and its listed agency subfunctions include “Promulgating Rules and Regulations,” “Planning and Promoting,” “Providing Services,” and “Inventorying.” The agency’s permanent records are associated with the agency’s role as the state’s central regulatory body for information technology and responsibility to inventory information technology assets.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of State Records Commission will be held on April 22, 2020 in the Regions Room at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Meet the Staff Feature: Devon Henschel

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

Name: Devon Henschel

Title: Records Management Archivist

Specialties: Local government records management and training

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

I received my undergraduate degree in Anthropology, with a concentration in Museum Studies, from the University of Alabama. Despite my degree being in Anthropology, most of my work experience is with libraries, both public and academic. Many of the skills I developed in my library positions, especially my attention to detail and ability to walk patrons through obscure or complicated processes they don’t have to deal with every day, have been a great benefit in my current work at the ADAH. The ADAH was already on my radar as a great historical resource in the state, and this job proved to be great opportunity to combine my interests and experience to help create and preserve what will become the historical record, while putting to use the detail-oriented mindset I’ve fostered in the library world.

What is your role?

I work primarily with local governments and the records they create. In the future, I will be training public officials, especially local agencies, on managing their records – how to organize, store, and permanently preserve permanent records or eventually dispose of temporary records in accordance with the Record Disposition Authority (RDA) and with destruction notices. Though there are only fifteen local RDAs, they are organized by type so that each one covers a multitude of individual agencies. Think about how many schools there are in Alabama – the RDA for Boards of Education applies to all of them. The same concept applies to the RDAs for Municipalities, governing local governments, and to Law Enforcement Agencies, governing local police departments and county sheriff’s offices. Those fifteen local RDAs keep me busy!

What is something people don’t know about the Records Management Section?

Just how much we deal with! Many people don’t think about how many records government agencies produce in a given year. We’re here to help them wade through all of it, armed with an RDA. As support staff for the State Records Commission and Local Government Records Commission, we are responsible for creating and revising these RDAs in cooperation with agencies, ultimately outlining what records need to be kept and for how long. Right now, our section works with everyone from large state agencies like the Office of Information Technology, to small state agencies like the Multiple Needs Child Office, to local agencies such as the Lakeview Fire Protection District, all while keeping in the back of our minds that we’ll need to create new RDAs with new agencies like the Bicentennial Commission. There’s something new every day, and I love the variety.

For people who don’t think about their records every day, why is records management important?

Many employees – and especially state employees – produce and accumulate an enormous amount of records. These might range from historically significant documents, such as meeting minutes, to less important records, like potluck fliers and the internet printouts shoved in a drawer. Some records need to be kept permanently to show the work agencies do, but most records can be disposed of in a short period of time. Many records don’t need to be kept longer than a day, like the ubiquitous “donuts in the break room” email. Implementing a records management system and a plan to dispose of what you don’t need cuts down on the records clutter – both paper and electronic – so that day-to-day operations can run more smoothly. Luckily, we’re here to help!

What are your hobbies outside of work?

In the past few years, I’ve really gotten into cooking and baking, and I’m always on the lookout for new desserts and breads I can test out in my stand mixer. Beyond that, I love embroidering, discovering new walking and hiking trails, and piecing together jigsaw puzzles.

State Agency Publications Now Live on Preservica

State agency publications premiered in the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s Electronic Records Collections on October 1, 2019. This site provides access to born-digital records through Preservica, a cloud-based service that ensures the long-term preservation of electronic file formats. The new collections include full-text publications produced electronically by Alabama state agencies. These collections are expected to grow as the Alabama Department of Archives and History continues to receive state publications.

The new collections, organized by state agency, include annual reports, newsletters, and bulletins. Annual reports may be informational, promotional, and/or statistical in nature. Many agencies issue reports on an annual or periodic basis to provide important information to the public or to their key audience. Some agencies are required by law to submit written reports to the governor each calendar or fiscal year. Annual reports typically describe the agency’s yearly activities, ongoing programs, accomplishments, announcements, challenges, and priorities. They may provide statistics, a valuable resource for future researchers. The annual reports of agencies which engage in licensing activities may contain rosters of licensed facilities or individuals. Newsletters and bulletins, on the other hand, contain news about the agency or industry and are regularly sent to subscribers. All of these state publications document critical activities, updates, industry developments, and interaction with the public. They provide a “snapshot in time” of agencies and therefore form a unique historical resource.

Some state publications document how agencies responded to key events in the state. Following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) October 2010 newsletter described how the ADPH responded to the crisis. In the first few weeks, ADPH staff worked in Mobile to collect health data and speak with the public and journalists about the health effects of the oil spill. They worked with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) to collect data and test samples, and with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a survey of physical and mental health among residents in coastal areas. To study the potential long-term effects of the spill and help Alabama recover from the disaster, the ADPH joined two major efforts: (1) they launched a five-year study of fish and seafood products alongside the ADCNR in order to promote the consumption of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, and (2) they made a plan with ADEM and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine when swimming advisories could be lifted by sampling water and sand. These efforts were chronicled in ensuing ADPH newsletters.

The collections include state publications on a wide variety of topics, including the following:

Healthcare

State agencies such as the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) help to promote quality medical services for Alabama citizens. Other agencies, such as the Alabama Board of Nursing (ABN) and Alabama State Board of Chiropractic Examiners (ASBCE), regulate healthcare practitioners.

Professional licensing

Many agencies maintain licensing authority over professionals in their respective disciplines. Examples include the Home Builders Licensure Board, the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy, and the Alabama Real Estate Appraisers Board.

Law enforcement and public safety

State agencies such as the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) help to ensure public safety in the state by educating citizens, enforcing laws, investigating crimes, and incarcerating criminals.

Social issues

Some state agencies advocate for specific groups of people living in Alabama. The Alabama Indian Affairs Commission (AIAC) and the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA), for example, provide meaningful programs and assistance to Native Americans and veterans, respectively, and promote their rights in the state.

Economics and community

State agencies such as the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) promote economic development and oversee financial assets in the state.

Education

The Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) is one of several state agencies that coordinate and/or oversee the state’s educational institutions and student population.

Transportation

State agencies such as the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) maintain routes of travel and provide safe transportation systems in the state.

Ready to start researching? Access these electronic state publications and more in the ADAH Electronic Collections.

This initiative was supported in part by a National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) and the Office of the Governor.