In 1992 the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) issued a plan, To Protect a Priceless Legacy: The Preservation and Use of Historical Records. The plan is notable not only because it was the first to be adopted by the NHPRC, but also because it addressed two very important questions: "How do we save the nation's history?" and "How do we assure the American people, now and in the future, that the records of their historical experience are safely preserved and readily accessible?" Realizing that the plan's goals and objectives would require refinements and adjustments over time, the NHPRC called upon others in the field "to help the Commission continually assess needs and progress in order to keep the American people informed about what is happening to their documentary heritage." The following report by the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators (COSHRC), Maintaining State Records in an Era of Change: A National Challenge, is a contribution to that assessment.
Maintaining State Records in an Era of Change: A National Challenge is part of an ongoing assessment being conducted by the COSHRC. It follows up on COSHRC's 1993 report on state records programs, Recognizing Leadership and Partnership, the first detailed analysis of state archives and records management programs since Ernst Posner's American State Archives, published in 1964. The present report not only updates the information and data from 1993, but also details how state archives and records management programs are addressing the challenges posed by information technology, and recommends steps for further action.
COSHRC is continuing its assessment activity and is now preparing a companion report to Maintaining State Records in an Era of Change, which will provide a national portrait of non-government historical records repositories. The Council's intensive work over the past few years on these reports has provided many opportunities for collaboration among the state historical records coordinators, and has provided an important forum for sharing information and promulgating best practices. The Council is very appreciative of the financial support provided by the NHPRC.
There are a great number of people who have contributed to this endeavor, but special recognition is due to three individuals in particular. Lila J. Goff, Minnesota Historical Society, as the 1994-95 COSHRC Chair, set the project into motion and facilitated its progress in many important ways during that time. She has since served as head of the report editorial committee. Richard A. Cameron, NHPRC Assistant Director for State Programs, supplied timely guidance, support, and encouragement from the very beginning of the project through its publication. And finally, Victoria Irons Walch, who, as the project consultant, was exceptionally responsive to the concerns and interests of the coordinators, and produced a comprehensive report on state archives and records management programs in an era of change.
A large collaborative project such as this takes the willing hands and heads of many people. As in all of the projects undertaken by the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators (COSHRC), the State Coordinators themselves, as a group and individually, displayed their usual high degree of cooperation and good humor in sorting through statistics, meeting tight deadlines, and suggesting dynamic improvements in how the data was collected, interpreted, and presented.
The COSHRC Steering Committee provided continuing guidance and feedback throughout the survey and report writing process. Lila Goff (Minnesota), who became chair of the Editorial Committee after her term as COSHRC chair expired, and Roy Tryon (South Carolina), current COSHRC Chair, were especially active in bringing the project to fruition. The other members of the Steering Committee also deserve thanks for reviewing multiple drafts and determining the best formats and methods for distributing the report and state profiles: Kathy Otto (Montana), George Parkinson (Ohio), Andrea Paul (Nebraska), and Gregory Sanford (Vermont).
Several individuals outside of the COSHRC governing structure deserve special recognition for reading the text of the report, providing substantive content and editorial suggestions, and in some cases even contributing sections of the narrative based on their areas of expertise. First among these is Nancy Sahli whose editorial eye will be greatly missed in future projects undertaken with NHPRC financial and intellectual support. Tom Mills (New York)and Joyce Ray (NHPRC) contributed several sections between them that helped clarify and broaden the reports treatment of the challenges presented by electronic information systems. Bruce Dearstyne (New York) offered useful suggestions for clarifying the report. Laurie Baty (NHPRC) also suggested editorial revisions and has worked hard to make the report and profiles available electronically.
The cooperation of the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) with COSHRC in collecting additional data for during its FY1994 statistical survey was instrumental to the success of this project. The NAGARA statistical reporting efforts are led by R. Jesse Lankford with assistance from Druscilla Simpson, both of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History. Both were exceptional in their willingness to open the process and in spending considerable time following up on survey returns.
The National Historical Publications and Records Commission deserves thanks for supporting this project specifically and for providing a structure, through its cooperative agreement with the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, within which states can collaborate to solve common problems and address common concerns. Gerald George, NHPRC Executive Director, exemplifies the kind of visionary and enthusiastic leadership necessary for meeting the range of challenges confronting the records community.
Finally, my deepest and most sincere gratitude goes to Richard Cameron Assistant Director for State Programs, National Historical Publications and Records Commission, who shouldered much of the work of this project with his characteristic lack of concern for personal recognition. No one has a better grasp of the conditions of the records programs within all the states and territories nor is better able to bring all the individuals concerned, with such widely varying personalities and agendas, together in a more productive way. Dick has brought coherence and insight to every project I have worked on with him. It is a privilege to be his colleague and collaborator.
The records of our nation's history are as diverse as its geography and as numerous as its people. Reflecting our federal system of government, the enduring records of our government are housed not only in the National Archives in Washington and its various Regional Archives and Presidential Libraries, but also in state archives in every state of the union, in regional repositories in many states, and in county and parish court houses, municipal records offices, town halls, and school buildings in almost every community.
Although we tend to think of these records, if we think of them at all, as discreet documents related to a specific action of government, or a particular legal transaction between citizens, these are, in fact, part of an organic information resource. Records are in many ways the life's blood of our republic. They secure our rights as citizens, protect our vital interests, assure the accountability of our government and our public servants and nourish our understanding of our institutions and ourselves.
Each state bears the responsibility for the management and preservation of its own records and information as the federal government does for the records and information it creates. But in a larger yet very real sense, the states and federal government share stewardship for the records of our nation that have enduring value. I may be a resident of Virginia, but my American citizenship may be documented by a birth certificate in Pennsylvania or a court decree in California. Records created and maintained by each state are important to individuals and institutions nationwide.
It is possible to look at this report as a description of our nation's "other" national archives. Collectively, the states' archives represent a resource as important to our national history as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The states and territories currently hold 1.77 million cubic feet, an amount comparable to the 1.8 million cubic feet reported in NARAs 1994 annual report (although this figure does not include the holdings of the presidential libraries). The 1,700 archivists, records managers, and other staff working in the state archives and records programs are fewer than the 2,900 staff working for NARA in 1995. The overall rate of growth for all state archives in paper holdings of 100,000 cubic feet per year is roughly comparable to the annual growth rate in NARA's paper holdings reported in the 1994 annual report. Both NARA and the states, collectively at least, are experiencing a widening gap between the amount of records in their care and the number of staff they have to service them. A quick total of the budget table shows the states spending about $90 million on archives and records as compared to NARA's annual budget of $195 million. These few comparisons suggest, rather than define, the scope and importance of the archives and records programs to our nation.
State archivists and records managers have an opportunity through this report and similar cooperative efforts to learn more about each other's programs and to incorporate the best features toward the betterment of their own. The common purposes and functions that link the National Archives and state archives encourage the same kind of cooperation. Together, archives and records administrators at all levels of government can face the national challenge presented by rapid changes in recordkeeping and technology and work together toward common solutions. Citizens in every state and territory of the union have a stake in their success, and they will reap the benefits now and in the future.
This is the third biennial report of the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators (COSHRC). It is part of an ongoing effort to review and summarize the status of historical records programs in the states and to promote the establishment of national priorities addressing records concerns.
The first report, Preserving Yesterday While Planning for Tomorrow, was issued in 1991. The second, Recognizing Leadership and Partnership, appeared in 1993.
The current report builds especially on the 1993 report, which presented a substantial quantity of baseline data on archives and records programs in state governments nationwide. The 1993 effort made extensive use of the statistical data that the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) has collected annually from state archives and records management programs since 1989. For the past few years, staff at the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, headed by R. Jesse Lankford, Jr., has had chief responsibility for administering the survey. In 1995, NAGARA was generously willing to collaborate with COSHRC in collecting additional information during the survey.
NAGARA/COSHRC Joint Survey
The 1994 survey questionnaire was developed jointly by representatives from NAGARA and COSHRC. They included R. Jesse Lankford and Druscilla Simpson from the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Lila Goff of the Minnesota Historical Society and then chair of COSHRC, Richard Cameron of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and Vicki Walch, project coordinator for COSHRC. Most of the questions came directly from earlier NAGARA surveys. A number of new questions were added to address specific concerns raised by the State Coordinators.
In January 1995, the survey forms were mailed to all state archivists and, where separate programs exist, all state records managers. Their equivalents in the territories and the District of Columbia also were sent the survey form. Additional copies were distributed to State Coordinators in those states where the state archivist is not also the coordinator. The individuals who actually responded to earlier NAGARA and COSHRC surveys also received copies of the form.
The 1994 NAGARA/COSHRC Joint Survey eventually received responses from 49 states and Puerto Rico. In most, the responses covered both the archives and records management programs. In six states, only the archives program responded: Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Ohio. No responses were received from either program in Louisiana, the District of Columbia, nor the other U.S. territories. Arkansas has no active records management program for its state government.
The report that follows draws heavily on selected portions of the joint NAGARA/COSHRC survey. NAGARA will also be publishing an extensive set of tables as part of its ongoing annual statistical reporting effort.
Structure and Use of the Report top
This report is intended to have both practical use and be forward thinking. The first section examines how state governments are changing in response to the challenges and opportunities offered by new technologies and the evolving National Information Infrastructure. It focuses specifically on issues central to the archives and records programs ability to participate in policy development and contribute to effective information delivery, including
The next sections look at specific ongoing administrative concerns of archives and records management programs:
The concluding section makes recommendations about what state archives and records management programs, individually and through the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, must do to meet the challenges ahead.
As a companion to this report, COSHRC produced a profile for each states archives and records program based on the statistical data and program descriptions collected during the NAGARA/COSHRC joint survey. Appendix A in this report presents an example of one of these profiles. Copies of each of the other state profiles are available from the respective state coordinators (see addresses on inside front and back covers). COSHRC also hopes to make all of them available on the Internet later in 1996.
Appendix B presents an extensive set of tables that contain comparative statistical and programmatic data across state lines.
Archives and Records Programs
In setting the focus for the 1995 report, the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators (COSHRC) was especially interested in determining how well prepared state archives and records programs are to address the challenges brought by the information revolution. Technology is creating sometimes radical organizational and social changes and virtually every profession is taking stock of its place in the new order. Archivists and records managers have made many large and small efforts to adapt existing practices or develop new methods during the last decade. COSHRC decided to look at the progress made to date in state government archives and records programs, highlight innovative solutions so that other programs might adapt them locally, and determine where additional effort was warranted.
Some state governments are farther along than others in responding to the information revolution. The degree to which state archives and records management programs have evolved will always reflect the broader organizational culture in each of their states. At this time, for instance, nearly a third of all states have neither an information resources management nor a formal information policy body. Only nine states are known to be working on the development of a Government Information Locator Service. It is a rare archives and records program that has the wherewithal to be a leader of innovation in a state government that is not yet responding to the policy implications of the information revolution.
But change has come to many states. The sections that follow highlight the many positive achievements made by archivists and records managers in their efforts to ensure continuing access by American citizens and their public servants to the records that document our rights as citizens, the actions of our government, and our national experience.
Archivists and records managers have much to bring to the table when states are developing policies and creating new connections for delivery of information services. Archivists and records managers are familiar with the functions and responsibilities of every state agency. They have long experience in customer service, balancing citizens right to know with an individuals rights to privacy and the governments administrative needs. They bring a long-term perspective to a conversation that too often focuses on the next few months. Rapid changes in technology can make vital information inaccessible with the next hardware or software innovation, making it essential that someone serves as the advocate for tomorrows administrators and researchers whose work will depend on todays records.
To be effective participants in the management and delivery of state information resources, archivists and records managers must
State archivists and records managers in 1996 bear a double burden. On the one hand they see a rapidly unfolding electronic information maze that is infiltrating every corner of society, with radical changes promised in the ways state governments operate and the expectations citizens have about the products and services they receive. Archivists know that if they do not intervene, much critical information available today will be lost or unusable tomorrow because of changes in technology, careless mishandling, or simple ignorance of its long-term importance.
On the other hand, they are buried in a large and growing volume of traditional paper-based records. The 50 state archives already hold more than 1.7 million cubic feet of paper files, more than 2.5 million reels of microfilm, and more than 10 million photographs. Records managers deal with an even larger body of active and semiactive records that is bulging out of filing cabinets and store rooms throughout government. The sheer volume of records strains the storage capacities in most states and makes locating specific records a logistical and intellectual challenge for reference personnel.
In 1988, Hugh Taylor observed that many familiar forms of record were beginning to change and concluded that "many classes of documents at the operational level will disappear altogether." He described the massive and rapidly growing accumulation in the late 20th century as a "kind of supernova paper explosion" before recordkeeping flips entirely into electronic form.
The next several sections discuss three specific areas in which archivists and records managers are working to resolve issues raised by electronic information technology: (1) ensuring that sound recordkeeping practices continue as the media and form of records change; (2) harnessing the power of technology to improve and broaden access to records; and (3) incorporating archival and records management perspectives into state information resources management and information policy development.
Sound Programs for
All records, regardless of media, provide essential evidence of government transactions and the development and implementation of public policy. As recordkeeping moves from traditional, paper-based forms to electronic systems, policy makers, managers, and the public have a renewed interest in ensuring that the new forms sustain their evidential validity.
Paper contracts bore inked signatures and embossed seals as proof that they were authentic. What must electronic records include to carry equivalent proof of authenticity? Nineteenth century census takers filled out preprinted forms with column headings that distinguished the quantity of children from the value of property. How will users of twentieth century databases know how to interpret the strings of numbers that comprise the raw, machine-readable forms of these records?
Functional requirements for electronic records
The most straightforward approach will be to design electronic information systems in such a way that the characteristics necessary are automatically built into the creation and maintenance of records. Archivists and records managers are now defining and promulgating functional requirements for electronic recordkeeping that will do just that. Once defined, they can be translated into technical specifications and incorporated into software so that adequate recordkeeping practices become an automatic byproduct.
Those developing the functional requirements have identified three critical components of records: content, structure, and context. No matter what media are used to capture information, all three elements must be retained in order to fulfill the requirements of accurate and complete recordkeeping.
The content is the informational substance or data which can take the form of words, numbers, images, or sounds. But random strings of numbers or words are not meaningful, and therefore not a record, without a structure. Common structures for paper-based records are tax returns or birth certificates; electronic records have structures provided by programming languages or data encoding standards that must be retained along with the data itself for it to be usable. The third component, context, is the link to the where, why, and how a record was created in the first place. Context is crucial to proving that the record is an accurate reflection of the transaction it purports to document. It may be provided by an explicit fixture like a signature or official seal on a paper document; or a more subtle clue like the substance of the other documents found in the same file folder. Context is very difficult to establish in electronic records systems where data bits flow freely and can be combined in infinite variations.
A number of state archivists and records managers have been working to incorporate this thinking into their programs for managing electronic records. The process of retooling their programs to address electronic records has been greatly facilitated by annual institutes held for state archivists and records administrators at the University of Pittsburgh. A total of 88 archivists from 37 institutions in 35 states attended one or more of the six institutes held between June 1989 and June 1994. Reports from the institutes document the growing awareness of a need for change and encourage sharing of successful applications and practices among states.
The 1996 and 1997 institutes are being cosponsored by the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) and the National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE). They hope to facilitate collaboration between state archivists and records managers and their counterparts in state information resources management and information policy offices.
need guidelines and training to
One of the lessons being learned by archivists and records managers is that laws or regulations requiring good recordkeeping practices are not enough. To have a real effect on the proper creation and maintenance of records, archivists and records managers must make a concerted effort to provide ongoing guidance and training to employees throughout state government. Telling agencies they must do something will not produce the desired results unless the staff is shown how to do it.
This conclusion was one of the key findings in a recently completed three-year project undertaken by the New York State Archives and Records Administration (NYSARA). The project was designed "to develop a framework for a comprehensive electronic records program that would integrate electronic recordkeeping and archival requirements into the mainstream of agency information management practices."
New York, like many states, has a statutory definition of records that clearly includes "computer-readable materials" along with other media. NYSARA had been requiring agencies to use conventional records management practices for all types of records: inventorying records using standard forms and procedures, developing disposition schedules, obtaining authorization from the State Archives to dispose of records, and transferring records to the State Archives when their useful life in the creating agency had ended. Virtually every state archives and records program applies these same requirements to the government records in their jurisdictions. New York, along with many others, also had a number of additional requirements for electronic records: to collect information about hardware and software necessary to use the records, to maintain documentation, to prepare back-up copies, and to store magnetic media under specific conditions.
Although the law and regulations were based in standard practices in widespread use, NYSARA found three key deficiencies that illuminate the disjuncture between the intent of laws or regulations and how they are followed in actual practice:
At the conclusion of the project, NYSARA found that "Although the definition of a record in state law remains valid, the records management procedures proposed in the regulations cannot be implemented easily in the current policy and technology environment."
of Information Technology
Since the 1960s, archivists in all kinds of repositories have been using computer-based technologies to provide access to their holdings. For the most part they have been creating automated tools that describe the records in their custody: bibliographic catalogs, indexes, and other finding aids. Over time, these have evolved from strictly local stand-alone systems to integrated networks that are available over the Internet. Now archives are beginning to use automation not just to describe the records but to deliver actual contents of the records, enabling users to search the full text of archival documents from their homes or offices and retrieve the information they need without ever coming to the archives reference room.
The extent to which state archives can make these online services available, however, is heavily dependent on the overall computing environment in their respective state governments. There is broad disparity among the states in the availability of electronic mail connections, for instance.
Government Information Locator Service. One of the central components in the development of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) is the Government Information Locator Service (GILS). The federal government mandated that all federal agencies provide Internet access to descriptions of their "core records" by the end of 1995. A growing number of states are also developing their own GILS systems. Because they are all based on the same technical standards, the federal and state systems could ultimately provide a seamless source for citizens who are looking for government information no matter where it originates or resides.
The federal bulletin establishing GILS identifies three purposes: (1) to improve citizens and agencies abilities to find information created by the federal government; (2) to improve agencies abilities to carry out their records management responsibilities and to respond to Freedom of Information requests; and (3) to reduce the information collection burden on the public by making existing information more readily available for sharing among agencies.
The Office of Management and Budget is directing the GILS effort in the federal government and, appropriately, has turned to the National Archives to provide guidelines and training for other federal agencies on how to prepare descriptions of their records. It issued a manual in March 1995 and has been providing one-day training courses throughout the year.
Only a handful of states have begun GILS efforts of their own, but more are poised to start (see Table 18). In several cases, the State Archives is actively involved in shaping the system; for a few it is the host and principal developer. GILS applications are truly extensions of the work state archives have done since their inceptions. State archives and records program staffs have detailed knowledge about what kinds of records are created in every state agency through their records management activities; they have developed efficient, easily understood, and standardized methods for describing the wide range of records found in governments; they have a long-standing commitment to providing access to government records; and they know how to deliver the reference services most desired by private citizens and government employees alike.
State archives home pages on the World Wide Web. There is no greater change in the last three years than in state archives use of the Internet to provide access to potential users. In early 1993, only five state archivists even had basic electronic mail capability, and several of those were through accounts paid for by the state archivist personally. Today, no fewer than 30 have Internet e-mail and 20 state archives have their own World Wide Web home pages, with more in development (see Table 25). The links and access tools provided by each home page vary greatly. Some are in only the earliest stages of development while others are quite sophisticated.
Several state archives provide access to actual records either from their home pages or through a Gopher. A number of others have dial up or Telnet access to their online finding aids. Fourteen now accept and respond to reference requests via e-mail (see Table 24).
Bibliographic networks. For several years, state archives have been contributing descriptive records to national, regional, and statewide bibliographic databases (see Table 24). The Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) managed by the Research Libraries Group, Inc., has attracted the largest number of state archives, due in large part to an NHPRC-funded project to develop descriptive standards that would be compatible with the RLIN format and provide support for preparing entries. Fifteen state archives now provide descriptive records through RLIN.
Currently, the other major national network, OCLC, carries descriptions from four state archives. These seem to be states in which the state archives is closely linked with the state library agency; it could be that the library led the way in use of the OCLC network for bibliographic access for state government.
Two state archives, Arizona and Montana, use the Western Library Network (WLN), while five more report that they participate in statewide networks.
Descriptive coverage lags. Despite the flurry of activity reflected above in moving to automated access tools, the biggest impediment to full use of these tools may become a lag in traditional archival activities. The process of preparing descriptions of records held in archival repositories remains a labor intensive activity. When resources are tight, ongoing descriptive work often suffers as the workload shifts to reference demands.
The NAGARA/COSHRC survey asked state archives to indicate what percent of their holdings were described in four categories of access tools: (1) nonelectronic finding aids available in house (e.g., typescript inventories, card catalogs, shelf lists); (2) published finding aids (inventories and guides that could be found in library reference collections outside the state archives); (3) automated systems accessible at the state archives (e.g., local cataloging systems, standalone computer databases); and (4) automated systems accessible remotely (e.g., bibliographic networks like RLIN and OCLC, Internet services like gophers and WWW home pages).
Most of the state archives responding (36) claim to have descriptive control of 80 percent or more of their holdings at the record group level, but only 24 have control of 80 percent or more at the series level (see Table 26).
Most critical for access via the Internet, an approach favored by a growing number of researchers, only 10 state archives now have 90 percent or more of their series described in automated systems and most of those are only local systems. Only three of them (California, Minnesota, and New York) now make their series descriptions accessible through remote systems. A great deal of writing and data entry lies ahead before the bulk of the state archives series descriptions will be available for access over the Internet.
in IRM and
Implementation of information management and policy in the states. The 1994 biennial report of the National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE) was devoted to an examination of the organizational approaches being taken by each state in the management of information technology and related issues. NASIRE found that the overall trends, first identified in its 1992 report, were continuing: many states were developing information resources management (IRM) commissions, establishing chief information officer (CIO) positions, and creating dedicated information-services organizations. At the same time, the NASIRE report noted that "no two states are attempting to provide solutions in exactly the same way. . . . There is great diversity in organized design and the manner in which authority is vested in these organizations."
When the 1994 NASIRE data is compared to the 1995 NAGARA/COSHRC data (see Table 21), it is clear that a great deal of confusion exists: confusion over what IRM and information policy really is, who is responsible for its implementation in state government, whether specific states actually have assigned this responsibility or not.
For instance, compare the state-by-state responses to the questions about the existence of a central IRM body. In 1994, 25 states reported to NASIRE that they had IRM commissions, while in 1995, 29 states reported to NAGARA/COSHRC that they had a "centralized IRM function." In the aggregate this makes sense; one could expect growth in the number of IRM agencies in year between surveys. A closer examination, however, reveals significant discrepancies:
In 24 states, the responses from the two surveys agree:
In 21 states, the responses from the two surveys differed:
The NAGARA/COSHRC report also asked state archivists and records managers to report if there was a central information policy entity and, if so, does the archives and/or records management program participate in its activities. Twenty-four states reported having an information policy entity, some in the form of boards or commissions, some in Departments of Administration or the Governors Office. Four are in states in which the NAGARA/COSHRC respondents said there was no IRM function but the NASIRE respondents said there was (suggesting a difference in the way the two groups define IRM and information policy).
Participation of archives and records management in information management and policy development. Another issue of key interest to archivists and records managers is the extent to which they are involved in IRM activity or information policy development. According to the NAGARA/COSHRC survey, 16 states have both an IRM and information policy entity and involve the archives and/or records management agency in both. An additional four states have an IRM agency that involves archives/records management and an additional five have an information policy entity that involves archives/records management. Seven states have either IRM or information policy but archives/records management personnel do not participate.
One factor affecting the role of archives/records management might be the placement of the program within state government (see Tables 28 and 29). Those states in which archives are either independent agencies or are housed in the Department of Administration (where information authority often resides) or Department of Education are both more likely to have a central IRM/information policy entity and to involve the archives/records management program in its activities. Those with archives in the state historical society or cultural resources department are less likely to have an information program and only a few of those who do involve the state archives. There is a mix of activity in those states which house their archives in either the state library agency or the secretary of states office, the two most common placements.
This pattern might suggest that state officials who view archives/records management programs as part of the active administration of state government are more likely to have developed a comprehensive approach to information resources in all forms. Those who deal with archives as primarily a cultural resource, unconnected with the daily business of state government, may not be managing their information resources as well, nor fully recognize the valuable resources available among the states permanent records.
Administrative Issues and Resources of
Along with the new challenges imposed by technological change, state archives have ongoing administrative and programmatic demands that must be met. The following sections of the report cover areas of concern that are more traditional but nonetheless vital to the health of the overall preservation and availability of state government records in all forms.
Definition of a record. When the first laws establishing archival programs in state government were drafted around the turn of the 20th century, there was little question that the term "records" referred to paper documents. As late as 1939, with the passage of the first Federal Records Act, the definition of records was still tied to the physical media. However, it was not long before new technologies forced a reevaluation of this definition. The 1943 Federal Records Act added the phrase "regardless of physical form or characteristics" to try to cover all possible recording media that might appear in the future. In a 1992 study, Dennis Neilander found this same "catchall" phrase in 25 state laws defining public records.
All 48 states responding to the 1994 NAGARA/COSHRC joint survey indicated that they have formal definitions of what constitutes a record (see Table 20). Forty-six are based in statutes, while those of Oregon and Tennessee are contained in regulations. This appears to be something of an improvement over the situation documented by George Bain in his 1983 analysis of state archival law. At that time, 24 states had detailed and explicit definitions, 16 had detailed but ambiguous definitions, eight had only oblique or summary coverage, and two had no definitions at all.
In the past 10 years, more than half (28) of the states have revised their statutory or regulatory definitions of a record. Most of these (24) already had detailed definitions on the books according to Bains analysis.
Thirty-five states report that their current definitions cover electronic records (including five whose laws predate 1980) and four more indicate that they have revisions in progress that will make such coverage explicit. Only 15 specify that electronic mail is covered, while five more have legislation pending to do so.
Open records legislation. All of the 48 states that responded to the survey reported that they had a statute regarding an individuals right to access to government records (see Table 19). Undoubtedly, they are modeled on the federal Freedom of Information Act first passed in 1966 and amended in 1974. All also reported that access to certain records is restricted, and it is logical to assume that most of these restrictions are made to protect individual privacy and proprietary corporate information comparable to provisions of the federal Privacy Act. Nearly half of the states have some time limit after which access restrictions expire. These are typically based on the life expectancy of individuals and run between 50 and 75 years, with 25 years on the low side and 110 years on the high side. In several cases, restrictions expire only for records held in the state archives.
Admissibility of microfilm, optical images, and electronic records. The evidential value of records, a standard criterion by which specific records are chosen for long-term retention, has entered a new dimension with the widespread use of electronic information systems. While most paper documents can easily be recognized as "authentic" because of signatures, official seals, or similar verifying marks, it is much more difficult to link electronic data with its origins and all too easy to alter electronic files inadvertently or deliberately without leaving a trail.
Only one of the 48 states responding to the survey (Rhode Island) does not have a statute providing for the admissibility of microfilm as valid evidence in a court case (see Table 18). More than two-thirds of the reporting states also have some provisions for admitting optical images or electronic records in court or are in the process of developing statutes or regulations that will make this possible. Several, including Alabama, North Dakota, and Wyoming, indicated that such records were currently admissible under judicial rules of evidence.
The promulgation of such legislation or rulemaking has received a strong push from the professional community and imaging industry representatives. In 1993 the Association for Information and Image Management received a modest grant from the NHPRC to develop a model uniform law pertaining to the legal acceptance of records produced by information technology systems in federal and state agencies and the legal admissibility of such records as evidence in federal and state courts.
Permanent paper standards. An equally strong push for permanent paper legislation seems not to have fared as well. In January 1990 the U.S. Congress passed a Joint Resolution to establish a national policy for permanent papers. It recommended that federal agencies use acid-free permanent papers for publications and for permanently valuable federal records. Based on information provided by the NAGARA/ COSHRC survey respondents, only five states have enacted permanent paper legislation since 1990 while another six have responded with regulations or executive orders (see Table 18). A few had statutes or regulations in place before 1990, and at least one has a proposed statute in the works. But it appears that well over half of the states have no statute or guideline promoting the use of nonacidic paper for permanently valuable records.
Optical imaging standards. On the other hand, optical imaging standards, also promulgated by the imaging professionals, have been incorporated into the regulatory frameworks of more than half the states since 1991 (see Table 18). Only two have been passed as statutes; most take the form of regulations or administrative rules.
One of the most remarkable findings in the 1993 COSHRC report was the number of states that had recently completed, were in the process of building, or were planning to build new state archives facilities. The 1994 NAGARA/COSHRC survey asked for more detailed information on both state archives buildings and records centers in order to more closely evaluate this activity.
The survey data indicates that facilities are continuing to be a focal point for state archives and records management programs. More than half of the existing state archives buildings have been built since 1970 with eight more new buildings being planned.
A detailed presentation of the data is contained in Tables 9 and 10. A summary of new building and renovation activities is provided in the adjacent sidebars.
Storage capacities. When the responses to the question "when will your facilities be full?" are analyzed, the reasons for this building boom become clear. Nineteen state archives buildings (39.5% of those reporting) are already full to capacity and 15 more (31.3%) report that they will be full in the next five years. Ten (28.6% of those reporting) records centers are already full, while an additional 18 (51.4%) will be full in five years.
The 48 state archives buildings have a combined total storage capacity of 2,127,192 cu. ft. The 35 records centers have a combined total storage capacity of 4,784,844 cu. ft.
Six states (AK, CO, NH, ND, OH, WV) have no separate records center facilities. Colorado and New Hampshire store temporary records in their state archives buildings; the others do not provide any centralized storage for semiactive or temporary agency records.
Storage conditions in state archives. Overall storage conditions are fairly good, with some notable exceptions. Thirty-six (75%) of the reporting state archives facilities have temperature controlled storage for 85 per cent or more of their holdings, although only 30 (62.5%) have humidity control. A number of those with no humidity controls are in the midwest or south where hot, humid summers are the norm, leaving the holdings open to significant mold and mildew infestation.
Fire detection systems are nearly universal. Only three (CT, NE, OK) report that less than 85 percent of their holdings are stored in facilities without fire detection equipment. Fire suppression is much less common, with only 25 (52%) reporting that it is available for the bulk of their collections.
Two-thirds of the storage condition controls in state archives buildings are based on standards established and promulgated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Storage conditions in records centers. Conditions in records center facilities are much more variable since optimum storage controls are much less critical for records that are only to be kept for a few years. Only 16 state records centers (46%) have temperature controls and 12 (34%) have humidity controls.
Fire is certainly a more immediate threat to temporary records than the slow deterioration that poor temperature and humidity controls might bring. It is logical, therefore, that nearly all (91%) have fire protection systems, an even greater percentage than in state archives facilities. Fire suppression in records centers is also more common than in state archives: 24 (69%) have such systems.
State archives. Table 11 provides a detailed breakdown by media for the holdings of each state archives. It demonstrates the significant challenges archives personnel face in handling a wide variety of media, as well as the rich resources available for potential users. Combined there are more than 1.7 million cu. ft. of paper records, more than 2.5 million reels of microfilm, and more than 10 million photographs.
Government vs. nongovernment archival holdings. For the first time, the NAGARA/COSHRC survey asked state archives to differentiate between government records and nongovernment manuscripts when they reported their paper holdings. In two states (AR , MT) there are more nongovernment than government records in the state archives. In eight, one-third or more of the total holdings are nongovernment materials. Most of these are in states in which the state historical society is assigned to perform the archival function for state government.
Growth in state archives holdings. The 1993 COSHRC report found a substantial growth in the volume of paper records held by state archives from the mid-1980s to 1992. It appears that the growth is continuing at a level of just under 100,000 cu. ft. per year for all state archives (see Table 12). The average volume of paper records was 22,473 cu. ft. in 1986, 32,310 cu. ft. in 1992, and 36,980 cu. ft. in 1994.
On the other hand, the amount of microfilm held by state archives appears to have stabilized. The 1994 survey shows that there is a total of just over 2.5 million reels in all state archives, a slight decrease from the 1992 survey (see Table 13).
Nontextual media. There are still relatively few state archives that have accessioned electronic records. However, there are substantial quantities of photographs, moving images (film, videotape), and maps, blueprints, and drawings. At least nine state archives have significant collections of artifacts and other three-dimensional materials (AL, AK, AZ, GA, MA, MD, NE, VA, WA). Only one of these, Alabama, reports having responsibility for the states museum program, so additional investigation would be needed to determine the character of this material in other repositories.
Records center holdings. The NAGARA/COSHRC survey shows a total of more than 4 million cu. ft. of paper records stored in state records centers. There is also a significant volume of electronic record media stored in records centers in some states, perhaps as security backups for active files.
Security microfilm. There appears to be a variance among states in where they choose to store security and master copies of microfilm. Some of this film is reported in state archives holdings, while others report it under records center holdings. It is an administrative technicality, perhaps, but should be taken into account when reviewing the relative size of holdings between state archives and state records centers.
Wide variation in staffing levels. The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions allocated to archives and records management varies widely from state to state. Logically, factors that affect staff size include the extent of services provided by the archives and records management program and the relative population of the state.
Programs that include large micrographic operations tend to have the largest number of FTEs, but these operations are often self supporting through fees charged to other state agencies for their services.
Programs that have a substantial field operation to provide advice and services to local governments also tend to have larger than average staffs. Some local government programs are now supported, at least in part, by supplemental filing fees collected at the local level for the specific purpose of enhancing the care and preservation of important local government records.
A number of states have historical societies that provide care for both official government records and nongovernment materials like personal papers and records of private organizations. In these institutions, processing and reference services for both public and private materials are provided by the same individuals, making it difficult to give accurate estimates for the number of FTEs devoted solely to the care of government archives.
Staff size relative to demand for services. Archives and records programs are inherently labor-intensive. The current report provides two views of staffing levels in each state, repeated from the 1993 COSHRC study, that attempt to measure the number of employees in archives and records management against the demand for their services, one external and one internal.
The first examines one source of externally generated demands, other agencies of state government. It compares the total archives and records staff to the total number of state employees (see Table 4). It is based on the assumption that the overall records-related workload (i.e., the volume of records generated) will increase as the total number of state employees increases.
The second measure used is the "intensity of care" index, a concept introduced by Paul Conway in his analysis of the 1985 census of archival institutions for the Society of American Archivists. The index is the result of a simple calculation that divides the holdings of an archives by the number of staff members charged to care for them. Conway and the 1993 COSHRC report used the following formula:
(Cu ft of paper) + (MF Rolls/10) + (Computer Tapes x 10)
# of staff members devoted to archival functions
In 1985, Conway found that government-related repositories had the highest "intensity of care" indexes among all types of archival repositories (1,206 for state-level organizations). The 1993 COSHRC report found that the number of state archives employees had decreased significantly relative to the size of the holdings in the intervening seven years (the median index was 2,342 and the average was 3,347).
Using the same calculation with the data reported for the 1994 NAGARA/COSHRC survey , the disparity between responsibility and resources has widened even further. The median index is now 2,890 and the average is 4,476 (see Table 5).
A second table is also included in this years report that calculates an intensity of care index including the sometimes sizable photograph collections instead of computer tapes, of which there are still relatively few in state archives custody. Table 6 calculates an intensity of care index using the following formula:
(Cu ft of paper) + (MF Rolls/10) + (Photographs/10)
# of staff members devoted to archival functions
When paper, microfilm, and photographs are included, the average intensity of care index is 4476 and the median is 2890. The rankings for specific repositories change significantly in many cases between Tables 5 and 6.
Entry-level professional salaries. Respondents were asked to provide entry level salaries for professional archivists and records managers in order to compare compensation rates across state lines. Tables 7 and 8 show the low and high salaries in the salary range for these positions, and these were averaged to yield a rank from highest to lowest.
Forty-three states responded with figures for professional archivists. In seven states, the average was above $30,000 per year (AK, CA, MI, NE, NJ, NY, PA). The other 36 respondents to this question averaged between $20,000 and $30,000. Nearly all require at least a bachelors degree and 17 states indicated that they require a masters degree as a minimum education requirement. Four require applicants to be Certified Archivists.
Thirty-five states responded with figures for professional records management positions. Of these, seven had average salaries above $30,000 (AK, CA, NJ, NM, SD, WI, WY), but notably they were not the same seven that had high archival salaries. In fact, the overall figures indicate that records managers receive higher salaries on average than archivists. At the same time, their education requirements are somewhat lower. Only six require masters degrees, 22 others require a bachelors degree. The long established Certified Records Manager designation is required in only one state (OK).
Archives and records management programs offer a number of services that are fee-based. As state governments nationwide have begun to pursue partial or full cost recovery for specific services in the face of shrinking budgets, many archives and records agencies have adjusted their fee structures accordingly. As they have done so, they have had to keep in mind the publics right to access to public records. Unnecessarily high fees could be a significant impediment to an individuals access to government information.
The NAGARA/COSHRC survey asked each state archives and records program to provide a copy of its fee schedule. Thirty-six complied with the request allowing comparisons for specific charges among the states (see Table 10). Not all fee schedules cover all media, so there is some significant variation in the amount of data provided for each state.
Reproduction fees and others related to reference services. The highest fees overall in any state archives are found in Colorado, which was ordered to move toward full cost recovery in 1993. The Colorado State Archives now charges $1.25 for each photocopy it produces by comparison with the more typical fees of $0.15 to $0.25 per page in other states.
Many states have differentiated fees for photocopies depending on the amount of staff time involved in processing the order or on the category of user. For instance, they might charge less for photocopies requested in person and delivered to individuals in the reference room than for those requested by mail. Copies produced on self-service machines are also priced lower than those that must be made by a staff member, although self-service machines do not seem to be in widespread use at this time.
The New Mexico State Archives charges the general public $0.15 per copy, but legal firms must pay $0.50 per copy. In New Hampshire, state agencies do not have to reimburse the state archives for copies. Nevada charges a slightly higher fee than most for photocopies ($0.30 per page), but the first 10 copies are free to the public. This approach has the benefit of eliminating nuisance paperwork from small copy orders while probably getting closer to true cost recovery from high volume users.
Most state archives provide copy services for a wide range of media in addition to traditional paper photocopies, including photographs, audio and video tape, and microfilm. Most have higher charges when there is a need to create a duplicating master first before the users copy can be made (as in making a copy negative of a photograph). If a master already exists, then the fee only covers the duplicating portion of the job.
A number of states have begun to impose charges for search services, most of which are requested by users who cannot come personally to the archives to perform their own searches. Often these fees are higher for out-of-state requests than for those received from state residents. Several alternatives to staff searches are also used. Some refer genealogical requests to volunteers from the state genealogical society who charge a small fee that goes to the society. Others distribute a referral list of private professional researchers.
It is likely that in most states, the fees charged to researchers cover primarily the cost of materials used to make the reproduction (paper, toner, photo processing chemicals, etc.), while only a small portion of any staff time devoted to reproduction processing is recovered.
Fees for records management services. All of the above fees are directed to users of records held in state archives. State agencies are another significant client group of state records management programs. The NAGARA/ COSHRC survey did not systematically collect data about fees charged to other state agencies, but some information is available in Table 1 that points to the sources of income for archives and records management agencies.
Fees to other state agencies are collected for records center storage and services (including packing materials, and retrieval/refiling) and for centralized micrographics to state and local government agencies. In Florida, 65 per cent of the total budget for the Bureau of Archives and Records Management is derived from fees while 35 per cent is from appropriations. The Florida records center charges other state agencies for storage. Forty-five percent of the Texas State and Local Records Management Divisions funds are from fees for similar services to state and local agencies. Pennsylvania also receives significant income from its records management-related services.
Privatization. As governors and legislators look for sectors of government that could be privatized, many have taken a close look at records centers in the states. There are a significant number of private firms providing record storage facilities to private companies, and some have made successful bids to do the same for state government. Rhode Islands records center is fully privatized. Other states known to be considering privatization include Ohio, West Virginia, and Montana.
Paper, film, and new magnetic media each present their own challenges for long-term physical preservation. The acid in modern paper makes it brittle and can turn it to dust in a few years. Microfilm, improperly processed, can develop spots known as "redox" that make the images unreadable, while the emulsion in motion picture film and camera negatives can separate from the base. The newer magnetic media are just now beginning to show their long-term problems. All of them of course are vulnerable to erasure from exposure to magnetic fields. But we are also learning that the base in videotape shrinks in as little as 5-10 years distorting the images and sound tracks to the point that they cannot be viewed or re-recorded. The adhesive in some CD-ROMs deteriorates after a few years and the recording surface simply peels off.
Table 23 summarizes the preservation-related policies and services available in state archives as reported to the NAGARA/COSHRC survey. The strongest area is internal disaster planning. Thirty states report having a disaster plan for the state archives. However, only 16 have a disaster response team available to react to disasters elsewhere in the state.
Preservation planning has apparently received a very low priority despite the availability of funding for such work from the National Endowment for the Humanities over the last several years. Only 10 state archives report having an agency preservation plan. Only 12 state that there is a statewide preservation plan in place. Notably, state archivists in several states known to have completed NEH projects report having no statewide preservation plan; in these cases it is likely that the NEH project focused on library materials to the exclusion of archival records.
Half of the states reporting have agency preservation officers, but fewer (19) employ a trained full-time conservator. Some receive conservation services from their state libraries. Twenty-three state archives provide some form of preservation assistance to other institutions or individuals. These services range from simple advice to full conservation treatments provided at cost.
A report that gathers and summarizes so much data raises potentially as many questions as it answers. In the case of this report, there are at least as many questions as answers. But one of the goals of such an exercise is to enrich and broaden the ongoing dialog among professionals in the field, as well as others concerned about our governments' records. Such a study can enable them to ask better questions, deepen their understanding of the challenges to be faced, make the most of their opportunities, and find new solutions and better strategies in the future. This section of the report is meant to suggest rather than exhaust questions that are raised but not addressed by the report and survey.
These questions fall into three broad categories: (1) questions raised and answerable by the existing data, but simply not addressed in the report analysis; (2) questions raised by the course of the analysis, but not answerable by existing survey data; and finally, (3) the more fundamental question of whether we are asking the right kinds of questions. Many categories of data raise all three kinds of questions.
For instance, for the first time the survey asked about state archives responsibility for and holdings of the records and papers of governors. The data gathered is summarized in Table 15, but the report devotes no analysis to this issue which is not new nor a focus of debate. Nevertheless, it is an issue of perpetual interest to state archivists and has been historically a point of contention between government archives and repositories of private papers. The table suggests the idiosyncratic history of public policy in this area as well as its resolution in the generally accepted policy that the official records of the governor in most states go to the state archives, but in most states the private papers of the governor go to other repositories.
How well does practice reflect policy? The data collected does not tell us how complete the holdings are for the official records of the governor, either in the percentage of governors represented or the extent of the holdings retained. Is routine transfer of the records of the state's chief executive a measure of the effectiveness of the archival/records program? If so, how useful or effective a program measure is it?
Another program area on which the survey gathered information that was only summarized is in the area of microfilm programs (see Table 22, as well as Tables 13 and 18 for related data). The report concludes that the growth in microfilm holdings appears to have leveled off since 1992. The aggregate holdings reported by the state archives are slightly lower than in 1992, but there are dramatic swings in individual states' reporting, suggesting inconsistencies in what or how states are counting or a variety of factors affecting microfilm holdings. Perhaps a matter of some preservation concern is the fact that about half the states report redox problems in their microfilm holdings, but the survey did not gather data as to how extensive the problem is or whether the states are taking appropriate action to correct the problem. Also, the data does not support an analysis of the factors affecting the growth in microfilm holdings. It would be interesting to know if there is any relationship between the acceptance of optical and digital images as official records or legal evidence and the moderation of growth in microfilm holdings. Finally, as in all areas, there is a question about program measures versus program outputs. Does an increasing level of microfilm holdings or the presence of a certification program for microfilm labs tell us anything about whether the state is operating an effective microfilm program.
There are many other questions of interest to archival and records professionals. The report documents in a broad way the widespread acceptance of non-paper media, particularly photographic and sound recordings, in the holdings of state archives, but does not gather or present any data on how state archives are providing for the preservation, description, or use of this material. These are potentially collections of considerable interest to a wide number of researchers and require specialized handling. What strategies are state archives adopting to address these media? The report struggles to assess the challenges and strategies of state archives relating to electronic records, but is not able to tell us much about these other technologically dependent media.
Finally, the report summarizes, but draws no conclusions, from some very basic information about the archives profession. What is the average salary of an entry-level professional? This is of some practical use to many professionals, both those who are already in the field and those who are about to enter it. Presumably state archives represent a significant segment of the profession. Yet more than half of the state archives report that they require neither a masters degree nor specific archival training as a prerequisite for an entry-level position. Does this reflect the history of the development of this sector of the profession, the slowness or resistance of government personnel systems to revise requirements, the lack of new hires, a lack of acceptance of graduate education or specialized training as useful preparation for work in a government archives, or a non-competitive salary structure?
Some of these unanswered questions are worthy of further investigation. Many point to the need to develop more sophisticated measures of program effectiveness. Perhaps the most often applied criticism of the data by the Council members themselves was that too often we are still measuring outputs rather than outcomes, quantity rather than quality, process rather than result. To improve archivists and records managers abilities to identify and adopt best practices by establishing programmatic and policy benchmarks for quality archival and records programs remains a key challenge, one of several addressed in the next section of this report.
Steps for Further Action top
To address the concerns and challenges raised by this report, there are a number of areas in which state archivists and records administrators should undertake specific activities or enhance ongoing activities, both individually within each states and collectively through the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators and other cooperative enterprises. NAGARA, in particular, should consider these recommendations as it develops its future programs and planning efforts.
Administrators and staff of state archives and records programs need ongoing professional development and training
The rapid changes in recordkeeping technologies and the preservation challenges presented by diverse media require constant upgrading of knowledge and skills among state archives and records management personnel.
State archives and records programs must provide records creators in state and local agencies with sufficient guidance and training on long-term requirements for records management in all media
State archivists and records managers, along with other colleagues in the public and private sectors, are developing functional requirements for electronic information systems to ensure that the records they produce are comprehensive, authentic, and tamper-proof. These and other standards of good practice can secure government records for the long-term benefit of policy makers and citizens alike. In order to understand the significance of these standards and implement them properly, state government employees must have easy-to-understand guidelines and thorough training led by state archives and records management personnel.
Users must be informed about what records are available and how to access them
There is great unrealized potential in the use of state archives holdings for administrative, scholarly, and personal endeavors. Electronic access tools will enable much broader access to state archival holdings, initially through catalog descriptions and indexes, and eventually through electronic delivery of documents themselves.
Archivists and records managers must promote the identification and adoption of best practices among all government archives and records programs
State archivists and records program administrators have come to realize the value of sharing information about their programs with peers in other states. The annual statistics NAGARA has collected since 1989, along with the more detailed data and anecdotal evidence collected by COSHRC, could provide the basis for establishing programmatic and policy benchmarks that all programs should strive for.
Archivists and records managers at all levels of government must foster effective strategic partnerships and cooperative projects to achieve common goals
The establishment and maintenance of sound recordkeeping practices require the cooperation and commitment of all those responsible for the creation, preservation, and use of records. State archivists and records managers must continue working together on their shared concerns and must actively reach out to other organizations and institutions whose interests are also involved.
Questions or concerns?
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