The FY 2021 Annual Report of the ADAH Records Management Section

2021 proved to be another turbulent year, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to cause upheaval. The Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) deployed flexible and creative strategies in response to these continuing obstacles. The ADAH Records Management Section’s Annual Report grants readers a detailed perspective into the section’s output, adaptability, and outreach.

The 48-page report highlights proceedings from the State Records Commission (SRC) and Local Government Records Commission (LGRC) meetings; showcases permanent records transmittals from state agencies; quantifies outreach efforts by Records Management Staff, and summarizes the records management activities of Alabama state and local governments from October 2020 through September 2021 (FY 2021).

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the LRGC and SRC were able to conduct all scheduled meetings in FY 2021, holding these meetings via Zoom. For local governments, the LGRC approved twenty-six revisions to Local RDAs during their two meetings. The SRC was similarly busy, approving the revision of six existing RDAs and four completely new State RDAs during FY 2021. To learn more about Records Disposition Authorities (RDAs) in Alabama, please see our blog, Records Disposition Authority: Roadmap for Records Retention.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History building.

The FY 2021 Annual Report spotlights one RDA revision the Records Management Section is particularly proud of: The ADAH’s. The revision to the ADAH’s RDA began in the spring of 2020 and saw approval by the SRC at their April 2021 meeting. The new version of the RDA represents records created by several new initiatives undertaken by the ADAH and incorporates administrative work done on behalf of other agencies such as the Local and State Records Commissions. Records Management staff have started to create more comprehensive agency histories as new standards for RDAs have been developed. The ADAH’s updated agency history is an example of the new comprehensive history style that is meant to provide research insight into government operations and functions in Alabama. The agency history has been included, in full, in the annual report.

A notable highlight from the report is the transmittal of permanent records from Alabama state agencies to the ADAH. In total, 55 agencies transmitted physical and electronic permanent records during FY 2021.  Over 210 cubic feet of physical permanent records and 625,780.59 MB of electronic permanent records were transmitted.

Permanent paper records are transmitted to the ADAH where they can be made available to researchers onsite in the reference room. See our transmittal highlights in the annual report and be sure to check out the posts in our New and Featured Collections category on our blog for information on recent transmittals.  Paper records come in a wide variety of formats. Ledger books, file folders, maps, and photographs are just a sample of the types of paper records transmitted to the ADAH by state agencies. Once transmitted, paper records are stored in clean and environmentally stable storage rooms in order to preserve and protect them and help ensure their availability in the future, to both the agencies who created the records and researchers.  If you are interested in learning more about the steps Alabama State Agencies must take to transmit permanent paper records, our blog entitled “A State Agency’s Guide to Transferring Permanent Paper Records to the Archives” is a great place to start.

In addition to paper records, state agencies also transmit permanent electronic and born-digital records. Just like paper records, the format of electronic records varies widely. Word processing files, databases, geographic information systems (GIS), and digital photographs are a few formats of electronic records. Like their paper counterparts, electronic records require proper storage and preservation in order to ensure their availability in the future.

The ADAH provides access to many of the transmitted electronic and born-digital records through Preservica. This cloud-based service verifies file integrity and migrates electronic file formats to ensure their long-term preservation.  Within the  Electronic Records Collections, researchers can view materials accessioned through the transmittal process, including items like meetings files and rosters.

Full-text publications produced by state agencies can also be found in our Electronic Collections. These documents, known as state publications, include annual reports, newsletters, and bulletins. FY 2021 saw the largest transmittal of state publications to date, with 84 state agencies transferring 912 publications, totaling 2,139 MB. Learn more about state publications at the blog, “State Agency Publications Now Live on Preservica.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health transmitted an impressive 679 MB of electronic permanent records during FY 2021. These records include documentation of Alabama’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a 2019-2023 strategic plan report, press releases, and maps of public health districts.

Destroying eligible obsolete temporary records is an essential component of records management for both local and state agencies. Doing so also allows government staff to focus their limited resources on maintaining active records and preserving historic permanent materials. In taking charge of their records management, local government agencies and educational institutions in Alabama submitted destruction notices for over 81,000 cubic feet of eligible obsolete temporary materials in FY 2021. The annual report includes information about the destruction notices received, such as the type of agencies submitting notices and the agencies which submitted the most approved notices.   

The annual report also details the outreach work undertaken by the Records Management staff. During 2020, Records Management staff adapted to offer virtual sessions for training; in FY 2021, the section continued to provide virtual training and offered in-person training when able to safely to do so. In all, 93 outreach sessions were held, and Records Management Staff responded to over 2,000 inquiries from state and local governments throughout FY 2021.

In addition to training, the Records Management Section furthered their outreach with the publication of the resource guide booklet, Managing Local Records in Alabama in FY 2021. Attendees of records management training received a copy of the booklet, and Records Management staff distributed additional booklets by mail to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama and nearly every police chief, city clerk, circuit court clerk, and county clerk in Alabama. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the booklet, contact Devon Henschel at Devon.Henschel@archives.alabama.gov or find the electronic copy on our website.

Records Management Section staff work with state and local agencies to organize, manage, and preserve their records for long-term access. This work is vital to preserving government records for the benefit of current and future generations of Alabamians. Please see the full report to learn more about Records Management’s work during FY 2021. If you have any questions or are interested in training, please reach out to the Records Management staff.

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