By Jan Ferrari, Director of State and Local Records Management and State Records Administrator
The history of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission began in the 1830s when Texas was still a Republic. In 1909, the Texas Library and Historical Commission was created to direct the State Library, aid and encourage public libraries, and collect materials related to Texas history.
In 1946, President Harry Truman issued an executive order requiring the executive branch of federal government to implement programs for the management of its records. In 1947, the Texas Legislature established a program in the Texas State Library to manage the state’s public records, preserve its essential records, and reduce the costs of maintaining active and semi-active public records by providing storage.
In the early years, state records were kept in several locations – the basement of the Capitol, a Quonset hut in north Austin, and in prime office space in the agency itself. In 1951, the agency received funding to lease storage space, and in 1969, the appropriations bill passed by the Legislature called for construction of a state records storage center.
Black-and-white photos of the original 20-acre building site at 4400 Shoal Creek Boulevard show the gently sloping, wooded area next to Shoal Creek (just south of 45th Street) and the slab that was poured for the first warehouse in 1971.
The State Records Center was opened in 1972, and the Records Management Division moved its operation to the new location. At the recommendation of the Records Preservation Advisory Committee, the budget was expanded to increase staff and operating expenses at the Records Center to house the deluge of records being sent by state agencies. Over 4,000 new boxes were used to re-box records to ensure their safety during transit.
Over 52,000 shelves were labeled and over 70,000 boxes and bound volumes were renumbered, using a modern index, retrieval, and inventory control system. The warehouse stored over 200,000 cubic feet of records. The photo below shows the shelves before boxes were stored.
The original services included microfilming and hydro-pulping for destruction of confidential records (Biennial Report of the Texas Library and Historical Commission for 1970-1972). At this time, the agency maintained the building and grounds on-site. In recent years, these services were outsourced.
As the center approached full-storage capacity, plans were made to expand the facility. In the November 1986 meeting of the (now) Texas State Library and Archives Commission, meeting minutes show that the construction contract proposed the 80,200 square foot addition to the back of the existing Records Center.
(Click to open full document as PDF.)
In addition to providing more space for stored records, the new addition also provided space for the circulation department of the Talking Book Program, which moved into the new addition in 1988. The Talking Book Program provides free library services to Texans who are unable to read standard print because of visual, physical, or reading disabilities. The Talking Book Program’s space at the Records Center is used for housing the program’s inventory of equipment and collections of audio, Braille, and large print books and magazines. The space also serves as the shipping and receiving facility for distribution of those materials to its patrons.
In 1993, minutes of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (see image below) show that 3.626 acres of land located across Shoal Creek Boulevard from the State Library Records Center (and where now a row of houses is situated) were to be sold to fund an additional stack floor at the State Library Records Center. The neighborhood association was concerned about the use of this land, and wished to explore options – including a neighborhood park. It was decided that the funds were needed to secure revenue for the Commission, so the land was sold in 1994. Ultimately, construction of houses on the parcel of land directly across from the State Records Center began in 1996-1997.
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A State of Texas deed from 1994 shows the sale of land from the Commission to Tom Cummins, Inc.:
The purpose of the Records Management Division program was to centralize state agency efforts for records maintenance and microfilming; to reduce all costs for storage, to provide personnel support and microfilming to control state records; to document and publish records management standards and guidelines for state and local governments; to provide records management training and technical advice; and to expand Records Center storage to accommodate transfers from state agencies.
Some of the programs have changed over the years. We no longer destroy records on-site or process microfilm in our lab. The destructions are currently processed under a contract between the Council on Competitive Government, TIBH Industries, and Austin Task, Inc. with contract oversight by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The facility and grounds are managed by the Texas Facilities Commission.
One of the main purposes of the State Records Center – then and now – is to reduce costs for housing the State’s records. Economy is achieved through the use of low-cost shelving, which provides maximum use of space, and procedures that assure efficiency through orderly arrangement and control of records. Cost of downtown storage is now well over $315 annually per cubic foot (if stored correctly), compared to less than $3 annually per cubic foot at the Records Center. The cost avoidance to the state of Texas is over $8 million per month at present, proving that our storage services remain viable. We have a current capacity of about 390,000 cubic feet of storage for physical media, and microfilm storage capacity in our upper vault is the equivalent of 320,000 16mm reels of microfilm.
In addition to storing state records, we continue to offer microfilming and Digital Archive Writer services and records management assistance for all state and local governments. The Records Management Assistance unit has been developing online classes and webinars during the past year to better serve state agencies and over 10,000 local governments in our state.
Our purpose is to continue to serve the state of Texas and its citizens by preserving the record of state government. If you or your staff is interested in storage services, preservation microfilming, or questions concerning records management training, please contact our staff for assistance.
Records Management Assistance: http://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/