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Records Advisory: Records Advisory Boards
Purpose and Role
The New York State Archives encourages state agencies and local governments to establish records advisory boards. The mission of such boards is to guide the program and assist the records management officer (RMO). The board can be a key catalyst in building and maintaining a records management program, and can help the RMO promote the program and elicit buy-in from all government officials and employees.
Some of the possible activities the board carries out include the following:
- Identify and prioritize records management problems
- Research and implement solutions to records management problems
- Assist in the development of records management policies and procedures
- Review the records management program and propose improvements when needed
- Promote the program to the governing board and the public
- Lobby the board and chief administrative officer for financial support
- Help appraise records for historical value
- Review retention schedules, ensure schedules are up to date, and propose new items to the Archives as appropriate
- Review and approve records disposition authorizations (for state agencies)
Establishment and Membership
A government entity can establish a records advisory board in one of three ways: by forming an informal ad hoc committee, by the formal creation of one by an executive officer, or by establishing one by regulation, policy, or local law or resolution. The best method is to have the board established by law or resolution at the local government level (see sample resolutions below) and by regulation or policy at the state agency level. These methods will provide the board with more prominence, authority and respect, making it more likely that key officials will want to serve on the board and the board will successfully fulfill its mission.
The Archives recommends the following government representatives be appointed to the board:
- Records Management Officer: The RMO should be appointed chair of the board since this person has ultimate responsibility for the program.
- Legal Counsel: There are many laws governing the management of government records. Various state, federal, and local laws and regulations may affect records retention, security, confidentiality, and accessibility. Legal counsel can ensure the government is in compliance with all relevant laws and provide legal guidance during the development of the program.
- Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Other Information Technology Staff: Almost all records today are created with computer technology and many records are stored and managed online. The RMO must understand the implications of modern electronic records management and the CIO must understand the records management implications of any electronic system implementation. The input and advice of an information technology professional are critical to the proper development and maintenance of a records management program.
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Other Fiscal Department Staff: A good records management program will cost money. The CFO has a finger on the fiscal pulse and health of the government or agency and can advise the RMO accordingly. The CFO can also help calculate the costs associated with managing the program or with specific records projects.
- Local Historian (for local governments): Identifying records with historical value is a key attribute of a good records management program. The local historian can assist in identifying records that relate to and document important events in local, state, or even national history.
- Key Department Heads or Records Management Liaisons: The RMO can judge who the key department heads are who should serve on the board by using several criteria. One is size: if a department has a large number of employees who produce a large number of records, that department head is a good candidate for the board. Another criterion might be the complexity of records produced by a certain department. If there are records that have long proved difficult to manage, adding the department head who produces those records to the board might prove beneficial. Last, if a certain department or department head has considerable influence within the government entity and can help gain support for the program, that person is also a good candidate.
- A Prominent or Respected Member of the Public: State agencies and local governments keep records ultimately for the benefit of the public they serve. Therefore, it’s important to have the public’s perspective on how best to manage the records.
- Records Clerk or Administrative Assistant: Often it is not those who create the records but those who file and handle the records on a daily basis who know the records best. Their input on records management and filing systems problems is a must to improve the program.
The composition of the board will be determined by the size and type of the government. For instance, a small village or agency will likely not have a CIO, and may lack any IT staff. A school district will not have an official historian but may want to invite the municipal historian for the area where its district is located. Also, the size of the board will be determined by the size of the organization: a county may choose to appoint a dozen members, where a fire district might have only three.
The Records Management Officer should serve as chair of the committee and set meeting dates and produce the agenda. The RMO should appoint someone as secretary to take minutes. It is important to keep a record of the board’s activities to ensure continuity and avoid the possibility of repeating work or tasks completed in the past.
How often the board meets will be determined by two factors:
Size of the Government: A large county will invariably have a more complex program, more records and thus more records issues. A county records advisory board may want to meet once a month. In contrast, a small village may only need to have its board meet once a year. Similarly, larger state agencies with complex operations and regional offices across the state are likely to need to meet much more frequently than an agency of a few hundred people with offices only in Albany.
Program Development: If a program is in the early stages of development, the board may need to meet frequently, regardless of the size of the government. A more developed and mature program will require less discussion and fewer meetings.
Cooperation and support are the keys to the success of any government records management program. A records advisory board will foster cooperation among departments and give the records management program prominence in the organization. A strong records advisory board will lead to a strong records management program.
Sample proposed legislation from the Town of Big Thunder establishing a Records Advisory Board:
Section 3. RECORDS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
There shall be a Records Advisory Committee designated to work closely with and provide advice to the Records Management Officer. This Committee shall consist of representatives appointed by the Board. The Records Advisory Committee shall meet periodically and have the following powers and duties:
- Provide advice to the Town Records Management Officer on the development of the records management program.
- Review the performance of the program on an ongoing basis and propose changes and improvements.
- Review retention periods not covered by the State Archives Schedule LGS-1 or retention period changes recommended by Department Heads.
- Provide advice on the appraisal of records for archival value and to be the final sign-off entity as to what is or is not archival.
A sample resolution from the Town of Meadow Springs appointing members of the Records Advisory Board.
Supervisor Smith moved the following:
Local Law No. 12345 amended the Town Code of the Town of Meadow Springs by adding a new Chapter 987 entitled "Records Management Program;" and
WHEREAS, Local Law No. 12345 was adopted pursuant to New York State Constitution Article XI and Municipal Home Rule Law 33 10 and 20; and
WHEREAS, Town Code 987-5 provides for the establishment of a Records Advisory Committee, with its members appointed by the Town Board, designated to work closely with and provide advice to the Records Management Officer, with the powers and duties contained in 987-5, namely:
- provide advice to the Town Records Management Officer on the development of the records management program;
- review the performance of the program on an ongoing basis and propose changes and improvements;
- review retention periods not covered by the State Archives Schedule LGS-1 or retention period changes recommended by Department Heads;
- provide advice on the appraisal of records for archival value and to be the final signoff entry as to what is or is not archival;
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of Meadow Springs hereby appoints, for a three (3) year term to begin April 1, 2021, the following individuals to the Records Advisory Committee, pursuant to and in compliance with Town Code Chapter 987: Mary Ahreet, Nellie Barlow, Ezra Goslee, Judson Hull, Enoch Yates.