The Local Record
A Quarterly Newsletter of the
State and Local Records Management Division
- Compliance Deadline: 1999
- How to Identify Record Copies
- New Committee Appointees and SLRM Director
- Staff News: Consultants Stress teamwork...
- Texas Treasures
- Seminars Focus on Archival Appraisal
Thousands of Texas local governments have already met the January deadline by complying with the records scheduling requirement of the Local Government Records Act.
Are you in compliance? Did you forget the filing deadline: January 4, 1999?
To comply with the requirements of the Local Government Records Act of 1989, contact staff at State and Local Records Management (SLRM), a division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
How to meet requirements
- File a records management plan (ordinance, order or resolution) and
- File a records control schedule or (in place of the control schedule) file a written declaration of compliance.
How to file
- Submit the records management plan (ordinance, order or resolution) and
- Submit SLR 540 (Certification and Acceptance Form) signed by the records management officer with an attached SLR 500 (Local Government Records Control Schedule) or (in place of the records control schedule) submit SLR 508 Declaration of Compliance.
Send these documents to State and Local Records Management, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, PO Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711-2927.
More than 3,200 approved records schedules are now in use by local governments to effectively manage the records of their organizations. When approved records schedules are implemented all records of the organization are routinely found quickly when needed, maintained affordably, and destroyed when legally permissible.
Government recordkeepers throughout the state are discovering that basic records management activities result in cost savings due to increased productivity and reduced operating costs.
For assistance with compliance, contact SLRM government records consultants assigned to your county at 512-452-9242.
by Harriet Roberts, government records consultant
The idea of record and convenience copies is a fundamental concept in records management. What exactly is a record copy? For those of us who remember carbon paper and onionskin, the record copy was the easily identifiable original document and the carbon copies were the convenience copies. But when ten copies of a record are printed from the laser printer, which one is the record copy?
The record copy is the official record or most important copy of the document retained by the department responsible for maintenance and disposition of the record. Each record series has a record copy and may have convenience copies retained in other departments within the organization. Convenience copies are all the other copies of the record which are not the record copy.
The concept of record copies has its foundation in Texas records management laws where a local government record is defined for the purposes of records management. In the Local Government Records Act a government record is defined as "any document, paper, letter, book, map, photograph, sound or video recording, microfilm, magnetic tape, electronic medium, or other information recording medium, regardless of physical form or characteristic and regardless of whether public access to it is open or restricted under the laws of the state, created or received by a local government or any of its officers or employees pursuant to law, including an ordinance, or in the transaction of public business." [Local Government Code §201.003(8)]. Specifically excluded from the definition are "extra identical copies of documents created only for convenience or reference or research by officers or employees of the local government." [Local Government Code §201.003(8)(A)]. These are convenience copies.
For the purposes of records management, convenience copies are not listed in a local government's records control schedule which is submitted to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) for approval. Only the record copy of each records series is listed on a control schedule with its respective retention periods, but convenience copies do have to be managed as part of the government's overall records management program. Of course, all records created or received in the course of doing business, even convenience copies, are considered government records in other legislation governing records in Texas.
The Open Records Act defines public information as "information that is collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business" [Government Code §552.002(a)]. Under the purview of the Open Records Act, a government record is open unless it is specifically listed as being confidential. Therefore, convenience copies are records as defined by the Open Records Act and are subject to its provisions.
The Texas Penal Code covers tampering with a governmental record. In this chapter, a governmental record means "anything belonging to, received by, or kept by a government for information, including a court record; anything required by law to be kept by others for information of government; a license, certificate, permit, seal, title, or similar document issued by government, by another state, or by the United States" [Texas Penal Code §37.10]. This rather broad definition also includes convenience copies and applies to tampering or falsification of a government record. These laws reinforce the need to manage all government records effectively.
Management of both convenience and record copies in all formats begins with their identification by the local government's records management officer (RMO). Before a records control schedule is created or an adopted schedule can be effectively implemented, all records in the organization must be identified through the inventory process. The RMO interviews each staff member, identifying each records series maintained, its function, the current retention period and any legal requirements regarding the records. These data are recorded on inventory forms, one for each records series, and gathered for further analysis. During the analysis and appraisal process, all inventory forms are grouped by categories, then evaluated individually. As a result, the RMO learns exactly what records series the government maintains, determines the retention period of each series and identifies which department or position maintains the record copy. All other copies of a records series are designated convenience copies.
The information resulting from the analysis is used to list the government's records. If a records control schedule is developed, all records series are listed on the schedule and submitted to the TSLAC; but only the record copies are listed. For example, the record copies of purchase orders (Local Schedule GR 1025-26) are maintained by the purchasing department and are listed under that department on the control schedule. Other departments may retain convenience copies but their purchase orders are not listed on the control schedules of each individual department. If TSLAC retention schedules are adopted, the RMO maintains a list of all records maintained by the government and the departments with record copies. The approved records control schedule or the list of records developed in conjunction with State Library schedules are then used to maintain active records and manage the destruction of obsolete records.
The final step in managing local records is their final disposition. Upon completion of their retention periods, records are either destroyed or, for records with historical value, transferred to an archival facility. Destruction of obsolete records includes the destruction of both record and convenience copies. Another basic principle of records management is that all convenience copies must be disposed of by the time the record copy has met its retention period and has been destroyed. If a convenience copy remains in the organization after the record copy is destroyed, then the convenience copy becomes the record copy. As a result, the records were not destroyed in a timely manner and the documents still remain in the organization.
The RMO is responsible for seeing that all copies of the records are destroyed. This task is made more daunting because convenience copies are not listed on the control schedule making them difficult to locate in the organization. How does the RMO track the convenience copies? The inventories completed as the foundation of the records control schedule contain this information. That is why governments who adopt TSLAC schedules should conduct a records inventory to determine what records are maintained by the government and which staff members have which records series. There should be an inventory of records for each staff member in the organization. Only one staff member has the record copy, so all the other staff members have convenience copies. Some RMOs track the custodians of both record and convenience copies using databases. Others establish procedures and performance measures making it the responsibility of the individual to accurately identify and dispose of both record and convenience copies. A follow-up visit by an internal auditor ensures that all records due for destruction were properly disposed of and all copies of records were destroyed. A disposition log listing the records series, dates of the records, retention periods and dates destroyed verifies that the records had met their retention periods when destroyed and that they were destroyed in the normal course of business.
How does a local government benefit by ensuring that all copies of a document are tracked and properly destroyed?
Space Utilization: Many of the records occupying filing cabinets and hard drives are obsolete convenience copies. By destroying convenience copies in a timely manner, hard drives and file cabinets are purged releasing file space in existing cabinets and forestalling purchase of new filing equipment. Filing cabinets full of obsolete records occupy valuable floor space which could be better utilized as productive work areas. Hard drive space is available for current, active records, speeding up access and reducing time needed to find and retrieve electronic documents.
Vital Records Protection: Elimination of obsolete records allows resources to be effectively spent on protection of vital records as required by law. Large volumes of obsolete records are often intermixed with vital records which are then relegated to dirty storage sheds, sweltering attics and damp basements. This results in the premature destruction of the essential government information.
Open Records Compliance: Removal of obsolete records improves access to the active records of the organization, helping staff quickly retrieve records in compliance with the Open Records Act. When receiving an open records request, governments must first determine if the records being requested are still held by the organization. The public information officer (PIO) consults the government's approved records control schedule to determine the retention period of the records and contacts the RMO to determine whether or not the records have been destroyed. If destruction procedures do not include disposition of all copies of records, then the PIO could fail to supply records which still exist within the organization. As a result, the PIO is vulnerable to prosecution, the RMO is vulnerable to disciplinary action for failure to perform job duties, and the government is vulnerable to litigation.
Litigation Support: Effective management of records destruction ensures that records that should exist, do exist, and records that should be destroyed, actually have been destroyed. This helps legal counsel locate records in defense of the organization's position without having to sift through volumes of obsolete records. This also prevents extensive and costly searches for records which may or may not even exist. If convenience copies are destroyed appropriately, opposing counsel will not be able to surprise the local government by presenting documents in court which were found in discovery.
Record copy or convenience copy? It is the responsibility of RMOs in Texas to determine this for their respective governments. By identifying record and convenience copies, local governments operate more efficiently, benefiting local government staff and the citizens of Texas.
By Mary Ann Albin, RMA manager
Dr. Robert S. Martin, director and librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), recently announced his appointments to the Local Government Records Committee (LGRC) for two-year terms beginning February 1, 1999.
Appointees are Rebecca L. Brewster, Roger Hailey, Andy Harwell, Shirley Maples, Dennis Marrin, Jerry Marza, George Moff, Judy Morrison, Jerry Reynolds, and Ray Sais. In addition to the 10 appointees, the Attorney General and the State Comptroller of Public Accounts or their designees also serve on the committee.
By law, the LGRC must approve administrative rules affecting local government records before the TSLAC can adopt them.
Michael Heskett succeeds William L. Dyess as State Records Administrator and Director of the State and Local Records Management Division as of April 1998.
Heskett joined the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) in 1983 and has worked in a number of capacities, including manager of the division's Program and Research Development and Records Management Assistance units.
Heskett played a major role in drafting the Local Government Records Act of 1989 and the new state records management and preservation law enacted in 1997.
State and Local Records Management Division (SLRM) is pleased to welcome new staff members to the Records Management Assistance (RMA) unit as government records consultants: Sam Burns, Ramon Noches and Kim Scofield.
Harriet Roberts is a long-term RMA consultant based in Liberty, Texas.
Manager for the RMA unit is Mary Ann Albin, who replaced Michael Heskett in May 1998. Heskett is now director of SLRM.
Tim Nolan, former information imaging consultant, is now program planning and research specialist.
Recently appointed as Imaging Services manager is Roy Bowden; new supervisor of microforms quality assurance is Thom Hanson.
Burns, who is new to the state of Texas, has worked as a reference archivist in the Florida State Archives as well as an appraiser with the records management program in Florida. His interest as a records consultant is in "developing effective ways to educate and assist a community of workers who maintain public records—often in very different environments."
Noches is a former career Air Force information management officer whose experience in records management is broad and in-depth. His previous work includes teaching college courses in office and business management several years.
As a government records consultant, Noches views his role "as part of a team..." with an obligation to help governments "with their records management program at the highest level of professional service."
Scofield, the newest member of the group, views records management as a time saver. "I want to develop and support the time-saving attitude with our clients so that there will be less reason to resist and more reason to do."
Also new to the RMA staff are Bobby French, publications assistant and Bill Boyd, training and consulting assistant. French comes from the Knoxville News-Sentinel, a daily newspaper in Tennessee, where he was a layout and design editor. Boyd previously worked as a step-and-repeat camera operator for SLRM's micrographics unit.
Historic documents and fragile artifacts from Texas history are now just a mouse-click away.
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has unveiled "Texas Treasures," a new web site featuring digitally scanned images of important resources from the State Archives' vast holdings. Among the "treasures" available for viewing online are William B. Travis' famed letter from the Alamo; county-by-county vote totals from the 1845 Texas referendum on annexation; a collection of flags from the Texas Revolution and the Civil War; as well as historical maps.
Available at http://www.tsl.texas.gov/treasures/index.html, Texas Treasures offers more than just digital images. The site also offers transcripts for the hand-written documents as well as background information to help provide historical context.
According to State Archivist Christopher LaPlante, making these resources available online serves both educational and conservation purposes. "It's one thing for schoolchildren to read about these events in Texas history, but it lends a completely new dimension to see the actual handwriting on the documents, or the bullet holes in the flags," he said. "Unfortunately, since some of these materials are more than 150 years old, any kind of display or handling places them at risk for damage. That's why digital scanning has proven to be the perfect solution."
Other Texas treasures available at the site include:
Proclamation of Sam Houston—This broadsheet, from December 12, 1835, presented Gen. Houston's impassioned call for volunteer troops. It concludes with the words: "Let the brave rally to our standard!"
Texas Flag & Seal Design— This original color design sketch by Peter Krag shows the flag and seal for the Republic of Texas. It was approved on January 25, 1839.
Public Debt Claim for Davey Crockett's widow—In December 1854, Elizabeth Crockett received this certificate from the State of Texas, entitling her to sum of $24 owed to her late husband for his service at the Battle the Alamo.
Ordinance of Secession—This document from February 1, 1861, dissolved the union between the state of Texas and the United States of America.
A Texas Republic Ranger's Request for a Government Pension—This eight-page letter offers an exceptionally vivid account of William Rozier's 1841 experiences as a Ranger in service to the Republic of Texas and his request, 32 years later, to draw a pension from the government of the State of Texas.
LaPlante says that "Texas Treasures" will remain a work-in-progress, with additional materials to be added as staff time and resources allow. "We've just begun to scratch the surface," he said.
By Jay Velgos, ARIS
Fundamentals of archival appraisal and preservation will be the focus of seminars offered in 10 cities throughout the state by the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB).
Working with the AMIGOS Bibliographic Council, Inc., THRAB and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) are sponsoring these seminars to help local governments optimize their records management and preservation efforts.
Geared toward those individuals responsible for professional records management and preservation who are working in local government agencies, these seminars will focus on appraisal and preservation of historically valuable local government documents. Seminar leaders will offer guidelines for identifying which types of records hold permanent archival or historical value, as well as which records and documents may be safely sanctioned for destruction. As the volume of government records dramatically increases each year, these fundamental appraisal skills may help prevent needless expenditures for storage or reformatting of non-archival records, while ensuring that important historical and archivally valuable records are preserved for future generations.
Elements of preservation planning will also be addressed, including disaster preparation and recovery, and an overview of how physical, chemical, and environmental factors can affect the longevity of materials. In addition, specific preservation strategies for manuscripts, monographs, photos, magnetic, and optical formats will be discussed.
Funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, THRAB and TSLAC will offer these seminars in the following cities: Victoria (March 29), Austin (March 30), Midland (April 6), Nacogdoches (April 8), Liberty (April 9), Arlington (April 14), Canyon (April 16), Waco (April 20), Edinburg (May 10), and Wichita Falls (May 12).
According to Christopher LaPlante, THRAB coordinator, the cities were selected with an emphasis on geographic diversity. "Our goal in selecting these ten sites for the seminars was to ensure that no one who wished to participate would have to drive extensive distances to attend," he said. "We're also keeping registration fees as low as possible to make sure everyone can afford to come."