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Electronic Records Program 1994-1995 Report

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First Year Accomplishments

Data Management and Administration

Internal Data Administration

One of the first-year goals of the Electronic Records Program was to "establish a minimum level of management for data in the State Archives' possession." This included not only the data transferred from state agencies but also data created at the State Archives. The work was divided into two parts: media and content preservation and internal policies and procedures.

Media and Content Preservation

The State Archives has reappraised and improved access to data transferred from other agencies. Program staff identified 58 nine track magnetic tapes in its possession. The tapes were acquired between 1983 and 1985 in a grant-funded electronic records program and consisted of eleven record series (see Appendix 1 for more information).

Program staff reappraised the series based on the following criteria:

  • Existence of technical and contextual documentation,
  • Completeness of the data,
  • Ability to retrieve missing data,
  • Duplication of data in other sources, and
  • Archival and research value of the data.

Program staff retained only one of the eleven series. This series, the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, was retained because it was complete and had adequate documentation. Program staff also decided to attempt data recovery of a tape from the Department of Public Instruction in order to learn more about the data recovery process. The Department of Public Instruction and Governor's Commission series represented a total of three tapes. Program staff took the tapes to the Department of Health and Social Services where staff read the tapes free of charge. The files were converted from EBCDIC to ASCII and transferred to the State Historical Society's local area network. Staff found no data loss in the series from the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women and some data loss in the series from the Department of Public Instruction.

Policies and Procedures

Program staff completed draft policies and procedures to manage data created by or submitted to the Archives. This includes:

  • Draft guidelines for the transmittal of electronic records from state agencies (see Appendix 3),
  • Procedures for taking custody of electronic records (see Appendix 4),
  • and Guidelines for the creation of electronic finding aids.

The State Archives has also:

  • Begun formulating policies on acceptable Internet use,
  • Developed a procedure for the storage of electronic monthly reports, and
  • Prepared a draft document listing the duties of an Archives Division data custodian.

Review of State Agency Records Disposition Authorizations

Program staff identified all Records Disposition Authorizations (RDAs) that scheduled electronic records for permanent retention at the creating agency or for the State Archives. Once the RDAs were identified, program staff contacted state agencies to determine if the electronic records still existed and were in an accessible form. The review of these retention schedules revealed some startling problems with the scheduling process. Staff identified 22 records series scheduled for permanent retention at the State Archives or within the state agency; thirteen of the series no longer exist in their entirety (see Appendix 2).

Working with state agencies

During the first year of the Electronic Records Program, several agencies requested information and support with electronic records issues. The following is a summary of work done in each agency

Department of Health and Social Services, Client Assistance for Reemployment and Economic Support System (CARES)

Program staff met with staff from the Division of Community Services, the Bureau of Information Systems, and the Bureau of Administration Records and Forms Management to discuss data retention for the CARES database system. This system manages many statewide welfare benefits. The system was looked at for two reasons: CARES was scheduled to have all data sets classified for the new System Managed Storage system at the Department of Administration, Information Technology Services mainframe necessitating identification of the data sets that needed long term storage; and Community Services staff realized that the CARES data was growing at an enormous rate and some form of data management needed to be implemented in order to delete records from the system. Program staff have met several times to discuss the problems and aid in determining retention requirements. This project is ongoing.

Department of Health and Social Services, Department Secretary Correspondence Tracking System

Program staff identified this database as a possible index to administrative subject files scheduled for transfer to the State Archives. Department of Health and Social Services provided program staff with a sample of the database and system documentation. The data from the tracking system was appraised and determined to have little value as an index to the existing paper subject files. However, this gave program staff the opportunity to test procedures for obtaining data and documentation that will be required from state agencies.

State Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation, Architectural History Inventory

Program staff met with Historic Preservation staff to determine the historical value of the contents of the database and to assist in establishing a Records Disposition Authorization. The system was ultimately scheduled for permanent retention. Electronic Records Program staff will monitor this system to ensure that the database is maintained to provide continued access and readability.

Department of Corrections, Central Office Inmate Social Service Case Records Imaging System

The Department of Corrections has implemented an optical imaging system to digitize inmate-related documents and place them on optical disk. Program staff met with Department of Corrections records management staff to discuss several scenarios for the transfer of inmate case file records in either paper or electronic form. Unfortunately, the paper records will no longer be accessible and the State Archives does not have the technological or financial resources to obtain, preserve and provide access to these electronic records. A final resolution of this issue is pending.

Service and Outreach

The State Archives firmly believes that, in order to preserve historical electronic records, state agencies must properly manage all electronic records in their custody. In order to accomplish this, state agency staff require education and support in the development and management of electronic systems that comply with federal, state, and local record keeping requirements. Unfortunately, the state currently lacks a coherent records management program.

In fulfilling its mandate to "assist state agencies in planning archival management of their electronic records," program staff provided a considerable amount of education and support on all aspects of electronic records management. In the first year, staff:

  • Provided consultation on developing records disposition authorizations for electronic systems,
  • Participated in state automation planning meetings,
  • Provided program information and updates to the Public Records Board and the Records and Forms Council,
  • Taught a class on developing records schedules for electronic systems, and
  • Presented papers at a regional archives conference on electronic records issues.

This work has resulted in a higher visibility of the State Archives in the area of electronic records management and an increased understanding of the problems associated with preserving state and local government electronic records.

Electronic Records Program Advisory Group

The Electronic Records Program cannot meet its statutory mandates without input and support from a variety of interest groups. In order to expand upon program staff work, the State Archives has established an advisory group of representatives from a variety of technological, record keeping, and policy areas. The technological area is represented by several data administrators, information technology directors, and members of the Department of Administration's Division of Information Technology Services and Bureau of Technology Management staff. The record keeping area is represented by several agency records officers, legal and audit specialists, agency administrative officers and a representative from the Public Records Board. Other special interests on the group include a University of Wisconsin-Madison Social Science data librarian and UW-Archives representative.

This group held its first meeting on May 10, 1995 and discussed a variety of issues. It was clear that each area has differing perspectives on the challenges that electronic records bring to state agencies. The group agreed that there is a general lack of understanding of how public records are managed within the state and of sound records management procedures. They agreed to draft a series of white papers to clarify the issues and educate state employees. Program staff have started to draft these documents and will be seeking input from the group.

The full advisory group will meet again in October, 1995 to review the issue papers, discuss ways to disseminate the information, and determine the future direction of the Electronic Records Program.

For a list of issues presented at the first meeting, see Appendix 5.

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