The State Record
A Semi-Annual Newsletter of the
State and Local Records Management Division
Fundamental Issue -
Record or Convenience Copies
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 state record, defined for the purposes of records management, is �any written, photographic, machine-readable, or other recorded information created or received by or on behalf of a state agency or an elected state official that documents activities in the conduct of state business or use of public resources.� [Government Code �441.180(11)]. Specifically excluded from the definition is �an extra copy of recorded information maintained only for reference.� [Government Code �441.180(11)(B)]. These are convenience copies.
For the purposes of records management, convenience copies are not listed on the agency�s retention schedule submitted to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) for approval. Only the record copy of each records series is listed on the retention schedule with its retention period, but convenience copies do have to be managed as part of the agency�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 with or falsification of a government record.
Management of both convenience and record copies in all formats begins with their identification by the agency�s records management officer (RMO). Before a retention schedule is created all records in the organization must be identified through the inventory process, documenting functional data for all records in the organization. Through analysis of the inventories, the RMO learns exactly what records the agency maintains, determines the retention period of each records series and identifies which department maintains the record copy. All other copies of a records series are designated convenience copies. This information is then used to list all of the agency�s records on the retention schedule, which is then submitted to the TSLAC; but only the record copies are listed. The agency�s approved retention schedule is then used to maintain active records, store inactive records, and manage the destruction of obsolete records.
The last step in managing state records is their final disposition. Upon completion of their retention periods, records are either destroyed or, for records with historical value, transferred to the State Archives. 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 disposed of 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. How does the RMO track the convenience copies? The inventories completed as the foundation of the retention schedule contain this information. 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 or transfer to the Archives 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 or transferred to the Archives verifies that the records met their retention periods when disposed and that they were destroyed in the normal course of business. How does an agency 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 space for current records.
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 that are then relegated to dirty storage sheds and closets, causing the agency to lose track of information vital to its business process.
Open Records Compliance: Open records compliance is an important issue in this session of the Legislature. Removal of inactive or obsolete records speeds access to the active records of the organization, helping staff quickly retrieve records in compliance with the Open Records Act. If destruction procedures do not include disposition of all copies of records, then the agency�s Public Information Officer (PIO) could fail to supply records that 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 agency is vulnerable to litigation or punitive action.
Litigation Support: Effective management of records destruction ensures that records that should exist, do exist, and records that should no longer exist, 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 that may not even exist. If convenience copies are destroyed appropriately, opposing counsel will not be able to surprise the agency by presenting documents found in discovery.
Record copy or convenience copy? It is the responsibility of RMOs in Texas state agencies to determine this for their organizations. By identifying record and convenience copies, agencies operate more efficiently, benefiting agency staff and the citizens of Texas.
by Mary Ann Albin, RMA manager
return to top
New RMICC Officers and SLRM Director
New officers for the Records Management Interagency Coordinating Council (RMICC) were announced recently: Carolyn Purcell, council chair, and Dan Procter, vice chair.
RMICC plays a significant role in the management of state government records.
Other members of the council include Teresa Morales, Robert S. Martin, Becky Payne, Hadassah Schloss, and Vandita Mehta-Zachariah.
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.
Staff News: Consultants Stress Teamwork...
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.
return to top
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
return to top