Updates from the State Records Commission: October 28, 2020

The State Records Commission (SRC) is responsible for determining which state government records have permanent historic value and which may be destroyed after specified periods of time. 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 retention requirements for all other records. The SRC held its regularly scheduled meeting on October 28, 2020. In accordance with Governor Kay Ivey’s proclamation issued on March 18, 2020, the SRC conducted its October 2020 meeting via a publicly accessible online teleconference. The SRC’s April 2020 meeting was cancelled due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Agency Outreach and Training

Records Management staff reported on state agency consultations and training sessions. In late March, the section transitioned from mostly in-person consultation to remote consultation via online teleconferencing platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fiscal year 2020, Records Management staff held a total of 72 outreach sessions with 230 attendees, with 40 of those sessions occurring remotely. Meeting topics included RDA development and revision, records management training, permanent records transmittal, and the Records and Archives Modernization Project (RAMP), a collaboration with the Alabama Office of the Secretary of State.

Here are some highlights from the year:

  • From October 2019 to March 2020, Records Management staff worked with staff with the Executive, Elections, and Finance divisions of the Alabama Secretary of State’s office to organize files, properly dispose of records which have met the RDA’s requirements, and transmit permanent paper and electronic records to the ADAH. One key objective of RAMP is to organize the Secretary of State’s offsite storage facility. From December 2019 to January 2020, ADAH archivists from the Records Management and Collections sections inventoried the legislative volumes at the facility; set aside extraneous copies of the volumes in keeping with the Code of Alabama 1975 § 36-14-6; and supervised the destruction of obsolete paper records, as well as the surplussing of office furniture and computer equipment.
  • In March 2020, Ms. Rebecca Hebert provided records management training to the Laserfiche user group. Laserfiche is a private company which produces document management software. Attendees included 49 state employees from 24 agencies. The meeting educated agencies about the records retention requirements promulgated by the SRC and how to utilize Laserfiche in accordance with these requirements.
  • As the ADAH RDA was last approved by the SRC in April 2015, Ms. Sophie Law began work on a revision to the RDA during March and April 2020. Much has changed at the department within the last five years; moreover, the RDA’s structure and language are inconsistent with current practices. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff used platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to conduct 22 records surveys with ADAH staff.

New and Revised State Agency RDAs

The SRC approved new or revised RDAs for the following agencies:

Tourism Department (Revision)

The Tourism Department plans and conducts publicity programs to attract tourists to the state of Alabama. The department disseminates information about the state’s resources, plans and attends travel shows and travel-related activities, and contracts with regional promotional agencies for the purpose of advertising the state. In addition to promoting the state, the department maintains eight Alabama Welcome Centers which annually assist more than six million visitors.

The revised RDA gives the department more flexibility in managing its publications, photographs, and audiovisual materials in an electronic world. The department may take a hundred similar photos or create a dozen similar advertisements for use on various platforms. The department may create a ten-minute video by editing thirty minutes of raw video footage. Only a selection of these materials or a final version should be preserved.

Office of State Treasurer (Revision)

The Office of State Treasurer is the state’s central banking agency. The agency maintains custody of all state funds deposited with the state, pays duly executed warrants, and makes payments on the state debt. The Office of State Treasurer also administers several savings investment plans including the CollegeCounts 529 Program and the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program. These programs provide eligible disabled individuals with a tax-exempt savings program which does not impact their eligibility for other resource-based benefits. The RDA revision accurately describes the Office of State Treasurer’s current programs and initiatives, while also including definitions and explanations that make the document widely accessible.

Department of Youth Services (Revision)

The Department of Youth Services (DYS) promotes and safeguards the well-being and welfare of youth in the state through a comprehensive and coordinated program of public services for the prevention of juvenile delinquency and the rehabilitation of delinquent youth. To this end, DYS screens and places youths committed by juvenile courts to DYS custody; operates institutional facilities; educates students; provides treatment services; and advocates for students by investigating complaints and misconduct.

The comprehensive RDA revision includes a notable change for the DYS School District. The district operates in relation to the State Department of Education as do other local boards of education in the state. Local boards of education have their own RDA approved by the Local Government Records Commission which is more frequently updated to reflect changes in legislation, requirements from the State and Federal Departments of Education, school practices, and other developments. The DYS RDA therefore includes a statement referring to the Local Boards of Education RDA’s retention guidelines for educational records.

Agricultural Museum Board (New)

The Alabama Agricultural Museum Board works in coordination with Landmark Park, a nonprofit organization and the official Agricultural Museum of Alabama, to preserve and share Alabama’s agricultural history. Located in Dothan, Landmark Park maintains, exhibits, displays, and interprets artifacts, and provides educational programing to the public. Staff and volunteers demonstrate historic farming techniques using vintage agricultural implements at the Park’s “living history” farmstead. Other educational activities include farm tours, live animal demonstrations, and historical re-enactments. Landmark Park and the Agricultural Museum receive approximately 30,000 and 40,000 visitors every year from the Wiregrass region and beyond.

The new RDA for the Agricultural Museum Board will aid agency staff members in identifying records which provide essential documentation of the Park’s collections and educational programming.

Athlete Agents Commission (New)

The Alabama Office of the Secretary of State acts on behalf of the Alabama Athlete Agents Commission to register athlete agents in Alabama (Code of Alabama 1975 Title 8 Chapter 26B). An athlete agent is an individual who “… recruits or solicits a student athlete to enter into an agency contract or…procures employment or offers, promises, attempts, or negotiates to obtain employment for a student athlete as a professional athlete…” (Code of Alabama 1975 § 8-26B-2). The Alabama Athlete Agents Commission promulgates rules and standards of conduct for athlete agents.

The Alabama Office of the Secretary of State requested the creation of this RDA to clearly distinguish the office’s work with the Athlete Agents Commission from its other duties.

Bicentennial Commission (New)

The Alabama Legislature passed Alabama Act 2013-10 on February 14, 2013, establishing the Alabama Bicentennial Commission. The act tasked the commission with promoting scholarship, education, and economic development through local and statewide observances of the state’s 200th anniversary. The commission and its partners engaged in a mission to support and create events and activities that commemorated the stories of Alabama’s people, places, and path to statehood. Between March 2017 and its December 14, 2019 finale celebration, ALABAMA 200 engaged residents of all ages in each of the state’s 67 counties and hundreds of communities via educational programs, community activities, and statewide initiatives designed to teach, inspire, and entertain.

The new RDA for the Bicentennial Commission will aid staff in identifying and preserving the historic records that document the state’s 200th anniversary.

Multiple Needs Child Office (Alabama Children’s Services Facilitation Team) (New)

The mandated function of the Multiple Needs Child Office is to assist the Alabama Children’s Services Facilitation Team in its work to provide services to multiple needs children. A multiple needs child is defined as “a child coming to the attention of the juvenile court or one of [five child-serving agencies] who is at imminent risk of out-of-home placement or placement in a more restrictive environment, and whose needs require the services of two or more of the following entities: Department of Youth Services [DYS], public school system (services for exceptional needs), Department of Human Resources [DHR], Department of Public Health [ADPH], juvenile probation officers, or Department of Mental Health [ADMH]…”(Code of Alabama 1975 § 12-15-501(2)). The Multiple Needs Child Office provides coordinated care for multiple needs children across the state.

The new RDA for the Multiple Needs Child Office helps to distinguish the work of the office from the work of the many state agencies with which the office collaborates.   

Capstone Email Retention Policy – Status Report

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) unveiled the Capstone approach to email retention in 2013. Capstone attempts to simplify email management by categorizing and scheduling email based on the work or position of the email account owner instead of each email’s content. The email accounts of so-called “Capstone” positions are scheduled as permanent records, while all other email accounts are designated as temporary records and retained for a fixed period of time.

Several state archives are evaluating and implementing more widespread adoptions of the Capstone approach. For instance, the State Archives of North Carolina implemented a Capstone approach with its Transforming Online Mail with Embedded Semantics (TOMES) Project.

The SRC first began discussing the Capstone approach for Alabama state agencies in 2018. In summer 2020, the Records Management Section developed a list of 310 positions from 73 state agencies (representing about 1% of the state workforce) which they suggested should be designated as Capstone accounts. All email messages sent and received by the Capstone accounts would be automatically designated as permanent records. The email accounts would be transmitted to the ADAH for permanent preservation when the records are no longer needed by the originating agency, similarly to other permanent records. Records Management staff provided this spreadsheet and an accompanying memo to the SRC. After further refinement, the list will be presented for approval at the April 2021 State Records Commission meeting.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the SRC is scheduled to occur on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.