Managing the Minutes

By Anna Reznik, Archivist

NOTE: In this article, we answer frequently asked questions state agencies may have about the transfer to the archives of meeting minutes.This post is aimed at those who manage such records and is published in conjunction with The Texas Record‘s article, Conversation with TSLAC Archivist About Meeting Minutes.

1856_minutes.jpg. Handwritten text of minutes from Texas School for the Blind, 1856.

Minutes to two Texas State Asylum for the Blind board meetings, August 1856. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired meeting files, 1989/073-23. These minutes are some of the earliest state agency minutes in TSLAC’s holdings.

When others ask what I do at the State Archives, a task I highlight is my minutes duties. This record type may not seem flashy at first glance, but meeting minutes often contain a rich documentation of who, what, why, and when a government body took the actions that it did. Since minutes are a record of what transpired in a meeting, this series can provide the most information bang for one’s buck.

Due to the important documentation found in open top-level meetings, the minimum retention period for both Local Governments and State Agencies is permanent at the agency with a copy sent to the designated body. For state agencies, that body is the State Archives at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC). Note that meeting notes and minutes to staff meetings fall under different series and have a different retention period.

QUESTION: “I’m with a state agency and we’ve been sending copies to the Texas Legislative Reference Library (LRL). That’s enough, right?”

No, sending copies of minutes to the State Archives meets the record retention schedule requirement, while sending a copy to the LRL meets requirements outlined in that government body’s statute (Texas Government Code, Section 324.008). TSLAC keeps minutes permanently, but LRL does not.

QUESTION: “How do I transfer the minutes?”

The answer is “it depends.” To find the best fit for you within the range of acceptable transfer methods, I generally ask a few questions to provide the pros and cons of the available options.

My first question is “what is the format of the records?” Not surprisingly, the transfer options available for minutes in paper or microfilm form differ from those in electronic form. For paper and microfilm, the total extent affects your options. The easiest and simplest transfer method is interagency mail.  Cover letters and inventories assist with our documentation as well as help you identify what was sent to the Archives and when. I am the primary archivist working with minutes, so I am the point person for most minutes-related questions and transfers.

For larger physical transfers, let’s touch base. This happens more with the related meeting documentation series; however, larger transfers of minutes occur when there are gaps in the State Archives’ holdings.

inbox.jpg. Anna Reznik standing in her work area with her inbox full of minutes received through inter-agency mail.

My work area with my inbox full of minutes received through interagency mail.

QUESTION: “But the record copy is electronic, do we have to print a copy for the State Archives? Do you want me to kill all those trees?”

In the last few years, the State Archives has begun to accept records in electronic form. Our internal procedures for electronic are less tested than our practices with paper, so procedures will evolve. It’s highly recommended that you have a consultation with me before sending minutes in electronic form. I promise the chat is short and painless. Our Transferring Electronic Records resource provides guidance on acceptable transfer methods.

QUESTION: “How often should I send minutes?”

Another frequently asked question is how often agencies should be sending minutes. In other words, should minutes be transferred as they are approved or in bulk at a specific date (e.g., beginning of the fiscal or calendar year)? Again – “it depends.” For some agencies, the former is easier to integrate into current workflows. Other agencies like being able to see the entire year’s worth of minutes to make sure every meeting is sent. As my workflow is similar for both approaches, I defer to each agency’s preferences.

A peek at the “magic” used to make records accessible. Folders of minutes (left) store records, with a summary of the contents written across the top. Archivists create finding aids to provide the context on the who, what, and why of the records being described. They encode all of the information into an online document using a standard XML called EAD, depicted in the image in the center, with the resulting finding aid pictured on the right. Finding aids are used to learn about what is contained in any given collection and to request items from that collection. Call numbers are added for requesting items.

QUESTION: “Does TSLAC have all the minutes from my agency?”

An important part of my duties involves creating EAD finding aids, which includes an inventory for the records being described. If a finding aid has been created for your agency, it’s a good starting point to see what we have; however, finding aids with minutes are often out of date by the time they are uploaded online. Please contact us if you would like an updated list of our holdings.

I hope this post helps state agencies prepare to send minutes to the State Archives. Please contact me with any questions you may have about preserving your minutes!

Anna Reznik:

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