Managing Local Records in Alabama Resource Guide

We have a quick quiz for all local government employees! 

Q1: Do you know what a “Records Disposition Authority (RDA)” is?

Q2. Do you know the definition of “retention”?

Q3: Did you know that Alabama law requires you to practice appropriate records management?

Believe it or not, local government institutions in Alabama are all beholden to the Local Government Records Commission and the Records Disposition Authorities (RDAs) produced beneath the commission’s auspices. If that’s news to you, read on!

Using RDAs, understanding retention requirements, preserving permanent records, and submitting records destruction notices for temporary materials are crucial aspects of managing local government records. As a government employee, you should understand your responsibilities when creating or handling the public records generated by a local government office. Fortunately, the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) is here to support you in complying with Alabama records law. With this in mind, the ADAH Records Management Section produced the resource guide, Managing Local Records in Alabama. Regardless of whether you answered “yes”, “no” or “maybe” on the quiz, Managing Local Records in Alabama will be a valuable resource for you.

This booklet introduces government employees’ responsibilities regarding maintaining and disposing of government records, including delineating the sections of the Code of Alabama that apply to government records and their management. As a busy public servant, you likely do not have time to read the code in its totality, so having these specific sections highlighted and explained is beneficial to understanding your duties towards public records.

No local government official shall destroy or dispose of any government records without first obtaining the approval of the Local Government Records Commission.
– Code of Alabama 1975 § 41-13-23

The Local Government Records Commission (LGRC) plays a substantial role in local records management. The LGRC issues the requirements for how long local government entities must retain records based on historical value and other obligations, including legal and fiscal considerations. If the record is determined to be temporary, a “retention period” is how long the local entity must keep the record before it is eligible for destruction.  Managing Local Records in Alabama provides more information about the LGRC.  

You’ll remember at the beginning of this blog you were asked if you knew what a Records Disposition Authority (RDA) was. An RDA is where the requirements issued by the LGRC are recorded. The RDA identifies which records must be maintained permanently and provides legal authority to destroy temporary records. Managing Local Records in Alabama explains thoroughly what an RDA is and why it matters to you. Most county and municipal government entities have an approved RDA. You can find copies of all RDAs on the ADAH website.

If you have a question about records management, it is likely others do too. Records Management staff compiled many of the most frequently asked questions from local government officials and answered them in the Managing Local Records in Alabama. One pervasive question is, “How do I request permission to destroy records?” Local governments must obtain approval from the LGRC before destroying any eligible temporary records. The resource guide answers how to request approval by walking readers through the surprisingly easy process.

As more offices move towards paperless systems, a question that Records Management often hears is, “How long should I keep electronic records?” The LGRC holds that it is the content of a record rather than its format that determines retention requirements; this approach is known as “format neutrality.” As the way we conduct government business continues to evolve, local government employees must also continue to adapt and learn how to preserve electronic records along with paper records. Managing Local Records in Alabama offers basic, valuable information and tips on dealing with electronic records.

In the back of the booklet is a glossary of terms where you can find the definitions of “retention,” “records destruction notice,” and several other terms used throughout the booklet. Managing Local Records in Alabama seeks to be a thorough but comprehensible introduction to managing your local government records.

While our booklet provides many FAQ answers for records management, it also, more importantly, helps you understand precisely why these terms and concepts are essential to managing your local government records. If you are interested in receiving copies of Managing Local Records in Alabama for yourself, coworkers, or employees, please contact Devon Henschel at Devon.Henschel@archives.alabama.gov or 334-353-4693. You can also download a digital copy from the ADAH website here: https://archives.alabama.gov/officials/managing_local_records_guide.pdf

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