Executive Summary

 

 

Introduction

 

The West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority (WVCFIA) and the Records Management and Preservation Board (RMPB) contracted with the Tech Research and Development Corporation (Tech), a non-profit affiliate of West Virginia University Institute of Technology, to conduct a survey and to present findings on the current conditions of records and storage methods, and then to make recommendations that would assist the state in making decisions related to retaining and preserving essential county records using methods that reflect the best practices for modern county records management and preservation.  The Tech Research and Development Corporation received this work through an interagency agreement assigned after the competitive bid process for a contract for such work was cancelled.  To accomplish this survey Tech subcontracted training and quality control work to two well established and well qualified firms with special knowledge and experience in records management and preservation.  These firms are History Associates Incorporated (HAI) in Rockville, Maryland, and Information Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) in Rocket Center, West Virginia.   Ms. Nancy Merz, Certified Records Manager, and Ms. Anita Weber, Archivist, are from HAI.  Ms. Julie Watkins, Records Specialists, is from IMC.  Students majoring in History at Tech and one retired Circuit Clerk were contracted to conduct site visits of the courthouses in all fifty-five counties in the state and to survey county offices in the each courthouse.  Within the time and fiscal resources in the agreement, the goal was to determine the quality of the physical environment, the condition of the records, staffing levels as they relate to records matters, the presence of policies and procedures for disasters and records retention and disposition, and the existence of reformatting activities.  Survey data was requested regarding records that have been transferred to the control of some other entity such as local historical societies, the state archives, or other repositories. 

 

 

Methodology

 

Tech survey team members were dispatched to courthouses between September 16 and November 15, 2002.  Follow-up visits were made to selected counties in March 2003.  Prior to making the initial visits, students were trained in related records issues on a curriculum developed by the Certified Records Manager and Archivist from HAI.  This training included classroom presentations and a visit to the West Virginia State Archives to expose survey team members to the types of records they would encounter at the courthouses.  The HAI Archivist and a Records Specialist (IMC) also participated in the early courthouse surveys to conduct onsite training to better assure quality control.  The staff of the West Virginia State Archives met with these experts, attended the training at which time they addressed the surveyors, and also conducted surveys in Wirt, Ritchie, Wood, Cabell, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Berkeley Counties and provided the on-site training for a student contractor during the Wood County visit.  These staff utilized and helped refine the survey data collection instruments during these visits.

 

Utilizing the expertise and knowledge of the staff of the West Virginia State Archives, the Records Specialist from IMC, the HAI Certified Records Manager and the Archivist developed two data survey forms (attached as Appendix 1).  The first concerned the records themselves and sought to ascertain the physical condition of the materials, including evidence of surface dirt; evidence of damage from insects, vermin, animals, light, water, or fire; the presence of mold or mildew; the presence of red rot or other binding degradation; and the presence of metal fasteners and other binders.  The quantity of each type of record held by offices at the courthouse was also sought as was the records' formats, the types and composition of storage units employed, the areas of the buildings in which the records are housed, and the location and condition of off-site storage, if used.  The survey team members always attempted to obtain this data through physical inspection of the records. 

 

The second form was designed to survey information from the office holders about staffing levels, training, reformatting activity, electronic records initiatives, and the existence of disaster plans.  This form was also used to survey the physical environment of the areas used to store records.  Included are sections for recording data samples regarding temperature and humidity conditions, lighting sources, pollutants present, the existence of fire detection and suppression systems, and the types of security systems in place.

 

To aid in data collection, copies of relevant documentation, such as records’ schedule policies, and procedures in use, were requested from each office surveyed.  All submitted documents were reviewed and are available in the raw data collected; however, courthouse personnel submitted relatively few supporting documents.  Digital photographs were taken in the survey of storage conditions.  A representative sample of active and inactive filing areas, records storage areas, problematic situations such as mold and water damage, and examples of exemplar and problematic shelving and other storage conditions were photographed.  Those images deemed by the authors to clarify a point or description in the narrative are included in the final report and matrices.  Since areas of concern were, of necessity, the focus of the survey, the images are primarily of crowded, unsafe, or poor storage practices.  The surveyors noted that many counties and offices are storing records in well organized and safe storage.  These images were not needed for descriptive purpose.  A sample survey of active and inactive storage images is included in the submitted information.

 

The goal was for survey team members to conduct interviews with a sample of office holders or a representative in order obtain answers to many of the questions.  The goal was also to conduct physical inspections and to record environmental data from records storage areas wherever feasible. Two difficulties were encountered that prevented complete implementation of this goal.  These were time pressures and denial of access.  County office holders had time constraints; therefore, the interviewers were not always able to conduct the interviews.  There were also times when courthouse personnel did not complete or return survey forms as requested or they completed these in ways resulting in incomplete, confusing, or inconsistently recorded data.  For example, rather than give the number of employees, some office personnel indicated “yes” in the staffing category.  A telephone survey of a small sample of courthouse personnel indicates that in nearly all instances, there are not clearly defined job responsibilities related to records management.  Most often the paraphrased answer to staffing issues related to records was “no one is really assigned—whoever has the time handles records issues.”   The project was also reliant on the officeholders’ definition of the condition of the storage areas.  Twenty-four individual offices failed to return these survey forms leaving the project with challenges to fill gaps in the data, which could not always be done.  Follow up calls and visits in instances of incomplete or missing survey forms generated additional survey data.

 

While denial of access did not happen frequently, in at least twelve instances team members were prevented from inspecting records storage areas.  In fact, the Kanawha County Sheriff refused admittance of the team members, even after attempts to help by a County Commissioner.  In McDowell County the Sheriff and Prosecuting Attorney's offices were so suspicious of the team member that they took his identification to check. 

 

There were some areas not surveyed because of concern for human safety.  For instance, some areas contained bat feces, and due to its toxicity to humans, survey team members were instructed not to enter such areas.  There were some storage areas so crowded as to prevent access by the surveyor, as was the case, for instance for a storage area in McDowell County.

 

Because there were some instances in which courthouse personnel did not submit survey forms or the forms were incomplete or misinterpreted, because some areas were unsafe for human work or too crowded, and because twelve individual county offices would not allow admittance to their offices, the survey data forms are not complete in some instances.  There are, therefore, instances in which specific information from some offices or officers was not available to be included in this survey.   It is also of interest to note that, while the engineers were almost always allowed to enter any room requested to examine mechanical or electrical systems, the same level of access was not afforded the records surveyors who asked for entry into the same rooms.  This can be explained by the “host” for the entry.  Most often the hosts for the engineering survey teams were custodians or building supervisors and most often the hosts for the records survey teams were office holders or their designees.  It is of comfort to note that the records hosts were very protective of the records in their charge.  Fortunately, this is a survey project as called for in the interagency agreement and not an inventory.  While no minimum survey criteria were given in the interagency agreement or by the client for the number or types of offices to be surveyed, the number of records or storage areas to be surveyed, or the minimum percentage survey criteria, the Tech team made every attempt through initial and follow up visits, telephone calls, and letters to cover the state to such a saturation level as to produce a statistically significant survey sample. 

 

The survey teams had as their goal the five major offices of each county.   Since no specific offices are delineated in the interagency agreement, they were established through the creation and refinement of the survey instruments as:  the offices of the County Clerk, the Circuit Clerk, the Assessor, the Sheriff, and the Prosecuting Attorneys.  The request for separate County Commission information was not identified as a need to the survey teams by the client until most of the county visits were completed.  Tech is given to believe by the State staff, however, that in most counties these records are kept by another office, thus, these records are incorporated in the survey data, but unfortunately due to the late notice, they do not appear as separate entries except in Wood and Raleigh Counties. 

 

The Tech survey team inspected and collected data from every county and from approximately 420 storage sites at these courthouses and, therefore, believes that sufficient survey data were collected from enough counties, county offices, and county personnel to give substance and reliability to the overall results and recommendations herein given.

 

 

Results

 

Upon completion of the site visits, the team compiled a matrix containing the survey data for each county documenting the conditions found.  These matrices are attached as Appendix 2.  This is an Executive Summary, therefore, a brief summary of the results by category is below and more survey detail can be found in individual county matrices. 

 

1.1  The Physical Space Housing the Records[1]

1.1.A  Temperature and Humidity

Appropriate environmental conditions for records storage are 68 degrees Fahrenheit plus or minus 2 degrees and 45% relative humidity plus or minus 5%.  Office and storage area temperatures as high as 88 degrees F and as low as 55 degrees F were recorded during the surveys.  Of the 420 spaces used to store records in the courthouses for which data was obtained, only 64 fell in the 66-70 degree F range, 328 facilities failed to meet these conditions with 110 of them having temperatures of 76 degrees or higher and 33 of these above 80 degrees.  A mere 22 areas recorded temperatures at or below 65 degrees.  Since the same heating and/or cooling systems service both office and storage areas, then the same variance in environments was found in both office areas and storage areas.

 

Relative humidity levels were recorded as high as 66% and as low as 20% in the offices and storage areas.  Of the 393 areas for which data was obtained, 166 fell into the acceptable range,  104 had humidity levels above 50% and 123 had levels below 40%.

 

It is understandable that office areas will be more likely to have temperatures of 68-72 degrees F.  This is the climate most comfortable for people working in them.  If these temperatures must be kept at that level, it will not harm the records as long as the humidity can be kept at the low end of the acceptable range.  In the inactive storage areas, the temperature and relative humidity should be more closely controlled.  If the storage areas are not used as offices, there is less need for the warmer temperatures.  Adequate HVAC systems with separate controls for different areas of the building can alleviate these problems.  It is also necessary to prevent temperature cycling.  Many facilities, in the interest of controlling heating and cooling costs will lower the temperature in the winter and raise it during the summer during those hours when the building is unoccupied.  This regular temperature change can damage paper as the cellulose molecules absorb and shed moisture.

 

1.1.B Windows 

The high levels of ultraviolet light in sunlight can damage records.  Thus archivists recommend that records not be stored in areas with windows.  Not surprisingly, virtually all courthouse offices have windows and few employ coverings that could ameliorate the amount of UV light that enters the offices.  Windows were found in 210 of the active storage areas and 115 of the inactive areas. 

 

In offices, drapes, shades, blinds, and the like can be used to block sunlight, however, these are only effective if they are actively used.  A passive solution is to outfit windows with UV filtering film.  This material, which adheres to windowpanes, can block as much as 99% of UV rays and comes in a variety of light intensities. 

 

Where there is adequate artificial lighting in storage areas, the windows in them can be covered over in a more permanent fashion.  If drapes, shades or blinds are not feasible, and structural changes are not acceptable for aesthetic or historic reasons, boards or false walls can be used to block the windows.  In those areas where sunlight is the only light available, then UV filtering film is the best solution.

 

1.1.C Pollutants and other hazards to records

Airborne pollutants, including dust and mold, can damage records through abrasion and fungal growth, which will eat through paper.  Insects and animals can also chew through paper destroying records.  Water is a hazard in its own right because it can destroy records, but moisture is also a contributing factor in the presence of mold and insects.  All of these hazards can be found to one extent or another in the courthouses in the state.

 

Cigarette smoking and open flames are two other hazards that can damage records.  Fire is the most obvious peril, but the smoke itself can also damage records over time.  Evidence of smoking and candles in the courthouses was found during the site visits.  For example:

 

§         Cabell County - Lighted candles were noted in the Sheriff's office.

 

§         Kanawha County - Cigarette butts were found in the boiler room.

 

§         Mingo County - The Assessor and another employee were smoking while the surveyor conducted his interview.  Ashtrays were found in the stairways.

 

§         Taylor County - The Circuit Clerk's office smelled of cigarette smoke.

 

 

Mold

Mold was detected in 120 storage locations in twenty-eight counties that are affected by mold.  Most likely the mold is inactive, but once spores are present, warm, moist air is all it takes to create new growth.  Braxton and Kanawha counties had storage areas with active molds detected.  As recommended in the facilities study, areas of active mold should be investigated by an expert in this field for identification and elimination of the mold.

 

 

 

 

 

Moisture, Dampness

Thirty-six counties have some type of moisture problem. For example:

 

§         Cabell County - Circuit Clerk has a closet prone to flooding, and the Prosecuting Attorney's office showed evidence of water. 

 

§         Calhoun County - Records were found lying in and beside pools of water in a hallway leading to the upstairs storage area.  The ceiling in this area continually leaked.

 

§         Doddridge County - Sheriff's basement and Prosecuting Attorney's windows and ceiling have wet areas.

 

§         Gilmer County - Assessor’s and Circuit Clerk's basements and Sheriff's jail cell storage area have water on the floor.

 

§         Jackson County - The vault wall leaks.

 

§         Kanawha County - The ceiling in the County Clerk's room leaks, and the walls and ceiling in the County Clerk's basement leak.  In the County Clerk area labeled Room 6, the surveyor noted that all of the records have been destroyed by a flood.

 

§         Lewis County - Circuit Clerk garage has wet areas.

 

§         Mingo County - County Clerk Jail Cell storage area has dampness.

 

§         Summers County - Dampness on the back wall of the storage room.

 

§         Upshur County - Assessor's office has a wet corner, and the County Clerk attempts to control its situation with a dehumidifier. 

 

§         Wood County - Circuit Clerk's storage areas have holes in the ceilings.  The surveyor noted that the ceiling of the old annex (magistrate) building has holes in it.  You can look up and see the sky.  When it rains, water flows freely into these rooms.

 

§         Wyoming County - Boxes of records were found in puddles in the basement.

 

Animals

Various types of animals could be found in eighty storage areas in twenty-three of the courthouses.  Among the creatures noted were bats (10), birds (3), cats (2), mice (33), rats (4), and snakes (2).

 

Insects

Thirty-six courthouses had insects in fifty-eight storage areas.  Among the insects noted were ants (13), bees (6), beetles (1), caterpillars (3), cockroaches (19), dust mites (3), flies (13), gnats (3), lady bugs (9), lice (1), silverfish (3), spiders (23), termites (6), wasps (4), and water bugs (6).  While not all of these can damage paper, the presence of any kind of insect raises a flag about general housekeeping matters that can be detrimental to records.

 

Dust or grime on records

As might be expected most counties have problems with dust and grime thus two hundred areas in forty-five counties are affected by this problem.  With records dating back over many decades, this is inevitable. 

 

 

1.1.D Fire suppression and detection systems

Fire extinguishers

Of the 233 active records areas for which responses were received, 145 are equipped with fire extinguishers.  Of the 146 inactive storage areas for which responses were received, 52 are equipped with extinguishers.  In addition, the Hampshire County Clerk's office has smoke and heat detectors.  The Greenbrier County Assessor stated that, if there were extinguishers anywhere, they were not being checked.

 

Sprinklers 

While seven counties indicated the presence of sprinklers in their facilities, most of the individual offices within these counties responded in the negative.  The exception was Harrison County where almost all of the records storage areas were sprinklered.  Further research will be needed to verify the accuracy of these results.  Of note, when the Pendleton County Courthouse was renovated in 1996, the renovation did not include a sprinkler system.

 

Those offices that indicated the presence of a sprinkler system are:

 

§         Barbour County - Circuit Clerk inactive area

 

§         Braxton County - Assessor's office

 

§         Grant County - Assessor's inactive area

 

§         Harrison County - All offices and three of five storage areas

 

§         Jefferson County - Circuit and County Clerk active areas and County Clerk inactive area

 

§         Marion County - Circuit Clerk active area

 

§         Upshur County- Circuit and County Clerks and Sheriff active and inactive areas

 

Fire and safety issues were a part of the facilities study and a more detailed review is included in the facilities report, which is a part of the overall courthouse study and is included in its entirety on the enclosed CD.

 

 

 

1.1.E Type of security systems in place

Security in most courthouses is concerned with the safety of the people who work in and visit the facilities.  Standards set by the West Virginia State Supreme Court were used in this survey.  Records security is a different issue.  The concerns here are theft and mutilation of the records.  There is some overlap in how these types of concerns are met, but in many ways they are different.

 

Guards at entrance to area 

Only eleven offices indicated that there are guards outside individual offices, and only nine storage areas have guards stationed outside.  In both of these groups, Circuit Court areas were most likely to be under guard.  One of the Circuit Clerks noted that the guard is present only when court is in session.

 

Locked or limited access to areas with records

Limiting access through locks or other barriers is common throughout the courthouse system.  For each of the five types of offices, between 35 and 40 of the courthouses limited access to their active records areas.  Inactive records are somewhat less protected, with Circuit Clerks being most likely to lock the areas (40) and Prosecuting Attorneys the least likely (17).

 

Alarm system 

Few offices are protected by alarms.  County Clerks are most likely to have an alarm (13), although one clerk noted that his was inoperable, while only half as many Sheriffs (6) and Prosecuting Attorneys (6) are similarly protected.  One should also note that many of these alarms may be fire rather than burglar systems, since the respondents did not distinguish between the two.

 

Secured doors/windows

Secured doors and/or windows are common throughout the courthouses.  For the five types of offices, the number with secured barriers ranged between 31 and 43.  County Clerks were most likely (43) to have this sort of security while Prosecuting Attorneys (31) were the least likely.  There was a greater discrepancy in the inactive areas.  While thirty-two County Clerks secured their storage spaces, only 13 Prosecuting Attorneys did so.

 

Panic Button 

The number of offices throughout the entire courthouse system protected by panic buttons ranges between four and ten depending upon the type of office.  For instance:

 

§         Hardy County – Sheriff’s secretary stated that the alarm sounds only in the adjacent room and expressed concern that it wouldn't alert anyone to trouble.

§         Marion County - Assessor has a button that does not work.

 

Key card access 

A total of only seven areas (offices and storage) are secured by key card access systems.

 

The surveyors included comments on general security matters as well.  For instance Harrison, Mingo, and Raleigh counties have guards at the entrance to their courthouses.  In Mingo and Raleigh it is also necessary to pass thorough a metal detector prior to entering the facilities.  Security cameras were noted outside the Mingo County Circuit Clerk's office and the Ritchie County Assessor's office.  A key card is necessary to enter the Brooke County courthouse after hours.

 

Fire and safety issues were a part of the facilities study and a more detailed review is included in the facilities report, which is a part of the overall courthouse study and is included in its entirety on the enclosed CD.

 

 

1.2, 1.4, 1.5 Quantity of Records Held and Condition of Records

Each county matrix contains a survey of the records found during the site visit.  Records are listed by office and record type and were to include an assessment of their condition.  The goal of surveyors was to collect condition information.

 

The overall condition of West Virginia's county government records is fair.  While current records are well cared for, older ones most often are not.  Surveyors singled out just three offices for praise.  The Cabell County's Circuit Clerk had a very well organized active records area.  There is adequate cabinet space for expansion and compact shelving is also in use.  The Marshall County Circuit Clerk main records area is very neat and orderly.  A Kompakt movable file is used for storage.  This office has room for 12-15 years of growth.  Putnam County's Prosecuting Attorney basement storage was clean with boxes neatly stacked on shelves.

 

The problems identified by the survey range from mold, water damage, and filth, to inaccessibility due to disarray and lack of space in storage areas and dispersal of records throughout the facility.  Unless and until space pressures are relieved, these conditions cannot improve.

 

Below is a sample of the comments made by the surveyors concerning the condition of the records surveyed.  More comments are found in the individual county matrices.

 

§         Barbour County - Circuit Clerk has microfilm for 1960-1983 records that is unreadable.

 

§         Braxton County - County Clerk jail storage contains dockets with an open water pipe protruding through them.  These volumes are covered with mold and falling apart. 

 

§         Calhoun County - The ceiling storage room contains cardboard boxes and open files spread out over concrete steps

 

§         Fayette County - Prosecuting Attorney’s office has a leaking furnace in its basement.

Part of the basement is used for storage of useless items.  Offices are in the process of converting to "electronic storing."

 

§         Gilmer County  - Boxes are scattered everywhere in the basement making it impossible to move through the area to inventory it.

 

§         Greenbrier County - County Clerk has microfilm but does not where the film is or what the volume is.

 

§         Hampshire County - Assessor stored most of his current information on the computer and filed according to West Virginia Tax Department regulations.  The office maintains one file cabinet drawer with permanent records.

 

§         Hancock County -- Assessor purged his records and moved all old ones (assessments, personal property, land transfer, etc.) to a storage facility in Weirton.  A list exists but was not provided.

 

§         Hardy County - Attic records very dirty and torn.  There was no order to this space.

 

§         Jackson County- Inactive records are stored in an old ambulance garage.  All offices indicated concern that their records were disintegrating in the poor environment.  Fertilizer is stored alongside records.  Basement storage is a filthy, unorganized mess.

 

§         Kanawha County- County Clerk stored records in an area where mold is rampant.  The walls have a large hole that leads under the courthouse.  Another area is described as filthy and littered with cockroach carcasses.

 

§         Lincoln County - Garage is used for storage.  Boxes and volumes are stacked with access to many blocked.  There are places where records have tumbled over and are in disarray.  When shelving is used, it is wooden.  There is a broken window (with records stored adjacent to it and showing weather damage from the exposure), concrete floor, lawn mowers and weed whackers stored in same area  (after gas tank filled, surveyor noted a pervasive aroma of gasoline) These records are regularly used by the staff.  Holiday decorations, ballot boxes, video slot machines confiscated by state police, computers, and other equipment are all stored in the garage as well.

 

§         Logan County - Records stored in the jail were covered with dirt and stored on the floor in six-foot high stacks.

 

§         Marshall County - County Clerk deeds have been microfilmed and are stored with Iron Mountain in Pennsylvania.  As was found in several counties, large books have been reformatted to a smaller size that fits two volumes in one.

 

§         McDowell County - Space is extremely limited in the lower vault or dungeon as it is called.  Twelve crowded rolling shelves fill the room except for a narrow walking space.  This unit contains records damaged with red rot as well as useless whatnots taking up space. The Records room is also pressed for space.  Books have to be stored on top of the metal shelves.  Some volumes no longer have covers.  The area is also quite dusty.

 

In the upper vault there is no space.  There was not even enough room to walk around.

 

Although the Courthouse is on elevated ground and appears safe from flooding, the material in the basement appears to have been damaged by something other than age or improper storage.  The wooden shelves on which the records are stored are in desperate need of replacement.  The only light in the room came from the windows--there were no lights to be turned on. 

 

On the third floor, there are several banker boxes throughout the room stacked to the ceiling in a very disorganized fashion.  There is one area of the room that shows signs the roof has been leaking and records are stored directly beneath.

 

Circuit Clerk also said that they had some old Hatfield-McCoy records but they do not know where they are now.

 

§         Mingo County - Keys to storage areas seem in short supply.  No key to the jail cell storage was available the day of the survey.

 

§         Nicholas County - Records in the Circuit Clerk storage area are in poor condition.  Mice, bats, and grime are in evidence.  Boxes are stacked high enough to obscure windows.  Duct tape is used to replace missing spines.  Jail storage also contains exercise equipment.

 

§         Ohio County - Circuit Clerk has a dirt basement and houses bicycles, marked as evidence, as well as records.

 

§         Randolph County - Deeds are all microfilmed, but the film cannot be used because there is no microfilm reader.

 

§         Summers County - The upstairs storage space which holds older inactive records was disorganized with stacks of books all over the place and loose files on the floor.  The records were mixed with Christmas decorations and other various supplies and storage for the court house. The County Commissioner said that the reason it was like this is because of a lack of space in the courthouse and there are not enough employees to take time off their jobs to put the books in order.  The Prosecuting Attorney has to keep large banker boxes in his office. Boxes are scattered around the room.  The reason given was there is no more room for the records, and these need to be kept for they are fairly new.

 

§         Wetzel County - Attic not suitable for storage, but it is the only space available.  The records in this area are not organized and dust and mold are present. They said that they did not have enough people to spare to organize it.

 

§         Wood County - Uncovered insulation lines the walls in the annex.  There are holes in the ceiling through which the sky is visible.  Water comes in whenever it rains.  The attic storage area is running out of space.

 

§         Wyoming County - The Assessor's basement has boxes in puddles, bare electrical wires overhead, grime, and silverfish.  In the jail storage area, many books are covered in plastic.  The Circuit Clerk's active records room had evidence lying around including a rifle.  Records from this office are scattered all over the building.  County Clerk microfilm had a strong vinegar odor.

 

1.6 Disaster Plan

While no one ever wants disasters to occur, they are a fact of life.  It is known that planning in advance for floods, fires, power outages, and the like can limit the extent of the damage.  The courthouse survey determined that virtually none of the offices had developed a written plan for protecting records in such situations either for removal of threatened records or prioritization of records to be protected.  Forty-nine counties are without a plan for any of their offices.  Eight offices (Cabell Circuit and County Clerks, and Sheriff; Fayette County Sheriff; Marshall, McDowell, and Putnam County County Clerks; and the Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney) indicated that they had disaster plans, and although copies of these plans were requested, none were provided for this survey.  No written plans for recovery of damaged records, including prioritization of records to be recovered, exist in the counties either. 

 

Furthermore, little has been done to alleviate or remove known threats to records.  Such actions would include relocation of records from areas prone to flooding or similar dangers, relocation of threats to records such as water pipes, and repair of leaking roofs, windows, and walls.  For a sense of the situations found, the counties below are listed.  With the exception of one office in each of the four counties listed below, all the offices indicated they had done nothing to safeguard their materials.

 

§         Barbour County - Circuit Clerk moved everything out of the flood plain.

§         Berkeley County - County Clerk keeps back up records in Morgantown and Salt Lake City.

§         Jackson County - Sheriff covers records with tarps when it floods.

§         Jefferson County - Circuit Clerk stores all records on CDs and keeps copies of the CDs both on and off-site, as well as retaining hard copies.

 

1.7 Staffing

The survey was to obtain information about the number of employees in each office who have records responsibilities.  Survey team members had to rely solely on the information received from the office holders and courthouse personnel.  From responses received, it appears that for many offices the entire staff was provided instead.   In particular, the sheriffs’ offices figures on records management seem higher than should be expected and this may be because they include all members of law enforcement rather than just those charged with records management.  This may also be due to each officer being charged with retrieving and replacing records for his own use.  In the larger offices there may be employees solely responsible for records matters, but we found no office that stated such.  In those offices with fewer than five employees, it is likely that all are involved in working with records.  Follow-up calls support the theory that no personnel are specifically designated as “Records Personnel” and that records are handled by many staff members and on a time available basis.  Without written job descriptions that contain areas of responsibility specifically related to records management and without supervisors and office holders being able to distinguish which staff and their specific duties, it is not possible to determine the number of staff related to records management.  This survey, therefore, found the need and recommends that written job descriptions be created where they currently do not exist and that existing written job descriptions be revised to clearly identify staff duties and responsibilities and minimum qualifications for the records duties assigned.  Until these are available, it will not be possible to determine whether offices need more staff for records or to better utilize the staff they have.  Provided below are the numbers given to the Tech survey team.

 

1.7.A  Number of Employees by Type of Office

 

Assessor

Circuit Clerk

County Clerk

Sheriff

Prosecuting Attorney

Full-time

 

 

 

 

 

# of responses

44

40

37

38

34

  High

76

33

34

52

49

  Low

1

1

2

3

1

  Bulk

4-12

1-8

2-13

3-10

1-6

Part-time

 

 

 

 

 

# of responses

31

16

20

19

11

  High

10

3

9

9

3

  Low

1

1

1

1

1

  Bulk

1-4

1-3

1-3

1-2

1-3

Volunteers

 

 

 

 

 

# of responses

1

2

2

2

2

  Total

1

1

2

1

1

 

 

1.7.B Records Training

Training received

The amount of records training received by employees varied by office, but in general was very low.  No offices were identified as having a Certified Records Manager on staff.  Staff members in County Clerk offices were most likely to have received training (36) while staff members in Prosecuting Attorney offices were the least likely (13). As can be seen below, respondents indicated that in-house training was the most common preparation given to employees with on-the-job training a distant second.

 

Training Received

Responses

In House

61

On the Job

11

Workshops

9

Basic Assessment Training

7

State Sponsored

6

Tax Department

6

Classes

6

Association Meetings

4

Clerk's Meetings

3

Supreme Court Training

3

 

 

Annual In-service

1

Attorney Seminar

1

Auditor's Meeting

1

Conferences

1

County Meetings

1

Family Law Master

1

Records management

1

Weekly Classes

1

 

Opportunities available

A large number (145 offices) indicated that no opportunities for training existed.  Prosecuting Attorneys were most likely (35) to report this and County Clerks the least likely (20).  For those offices that indicated the types of opportunities available, association meetings were most often mentioned.  The latter is surprising in light of the answers to the question about training actually received.  As the written job descriptions are being developed and/or revised there should be included a section on minimum qualifications and essential training related to the specific responsibilities assigned and qualifications identified.  After written job descriptions are completed, then county administrators need to budget appropriate amounts for the pay and training of the identified personnel.

 

 

Training Opportunities

Responses

Association Meetings

52

On the Job

6

Tax Dept.

5

State Auditor's

5

Workshops

4

Seminars

4

Supreme Court

2

Key Personnel Meetings

2

Library School

2

 

 

Basic Assessment Training

1

College

1

Computer Training

1

County Meetings

1

In House

1

Library

1

Safety Meetings

1

Weekly Classes

1

 

 

1.1.D.b  Average Daily Retrievals of Current Records and Stored Records

As expected in the current environment of no personnel being specifically assigned and no records of retrieval activity being kept, the answers varied widely.  Some offices spent all day providing retrieval service while others indicated that none of their time was spent on this task.  This variation is seen across all offices, regardless of type.  Service was more likely to be for internal staff use than public use and most often in current records rather than in stored material.

 

1.8 Reformatting/Duplication

§ 5A-8-15 of the WV State Code specifies that "a preservation duplicate of a county government entity record may be stored in any format, approved by the board as hereinafter established, where the image of the original record is preserved in a form, including CD-ROM and optical image storage media in which the image thereof is incapable of erasure or alteration, and from which a reproduction of the stored record may be retrieved which truly and accurately depicts the image of the original county government record."  Older forms of duplication and preservation, such as photocopying and microfilming have been used for many years and are still acceptable forms of preservation duplicates.

 

The intent of this section of the survey was to determine how much reformatting activity had occurred during the past five years.  The site visits found that few counties are involved in active reformatting projects, whether they are photocopying, microfilming, or imaging.  There seemed to be a certain amount of confusion about what the question was asking as making photocopies for filed material was considered by some to fall under reformatting.  This confusion is indicative of the deficiency of and need for training in modern methods of records management.  Many counties mentioned old filming projects that they have lost track of data on.  "Old LDS film," “unknown project in county clerk's office," “some microfilming a long time ago," and "a lot" are indicative of the responses.  A sample of offices that gave clear indications of reformatting activities is listed below.

 

Photocopying  

 

§         Fayette County - Sheriff copies 10,000 pages annually.  Minor cases are discarded.

 

§         Lewis County - County Clerk could not give an estimate, but felt it was “a lot.”

 

§         Mineral County - Sheriff creates several thousand copies annually and places the originals in storage.

 

§         Nicholas County - County Clerk creates 20,000 copies annually storing the originals or sending them back to clients.

 

§         Raleigh County - Assessor's office does not do much photocopying, while the Prosecuting Attorney's office does "a lot."  Both offices store the originals after reformatting.

 

 

 

 

Microfilming

 

§         Hardy CountyCounty Clerk has had some external microfilming done in the past.  The originals are placed in storage, and there are user copies available.

 

§         Ohio County - Circuit Clerk uses an 85-year-old volunteer to microfilm.  Once records are filmed, they are sent to storage wherever it is available.

 

§         Taylor County - County Clerk contracted with an outside vendor to film everything prior to 2002.  The originals were discarded and no copy of the film is available for use.

 

§         Wirt County - County Clerk creates 18 to 20 100-foot reels of film annually and stores the originals.

 

§         Wood CountyCounty Clerk has had some microfilming done in the past.  The originals are discarded, and the master copy is stored onsite and there are user copies available.

 

Imaging/Digitizing

 

§         Berkeley County - Circuit Court records are scanned in-house.  After digitization, the paper copies of the circuit records are placed in the file, while the county clerk records are returned to their owner or the attorney.  The Circuit Court master is stored on-site while the County Court master is stored both on and off-site.

 

§         Jefferson County - Circuit Court conducted a retrospective scanning project to reformat its pre-1998 records.  Since that date, records are scanned as they are filed.  The County Clerk has embarked upon a one million page retrospective imaging project.  Both of these offices are retaining the original records on site.  The master copies are also stored in the courthouse.

 

§         Marion County - County Clerk has been digitizing all its records since 2001, placing the originals in storage (where is not indicated) and storing the master copy off-site.  This follows a project to film all pre-2001 material.

 

§         Mason County - County Clerk installed imaging system in 2000. Microfilming is current through Deed Book 160. Scanning/Imaging begins with Deed Book 161 to date, as well as lien indices to date.

 

§         Nicholas County - County Clerk's office indicates that it digitized 35,000 pages per year and stored the originals after scanning.  The master copy is stored onsite.

 

§         Pocahontas County - County Clerk installed an imaging system in 2001.  They have not created a written plan for data migration of these items to prevent loss.

 

§         Ritchie County - Assessor is planning to scan the tax maps and daily forms.

 

1.9 Electronic Records

The surveys indicate that a certain amount of confusion exists about electronic records.   While some were quite clear that tax records or criminal investigations are created in electronic format, others did not seem to understand the question, thus indicating additional need for records management training.

 

1.9.A.  Record groups and/or series created and maintained in electronic format 

 

Assessor 

Record Type

Number

Appraisals

1

assessment returns

1

CAMA

3

CAPPA

2

Correspondence

1

dog tags

1

Exonerations

1

Forms

1

land, oil, gas

1

map cards

1

Maps

2

mobile homes

1

personal property

4

real estate appraisals

1

real property

2

state tax dept.

1

structures on land

1

supplemental assessment

2

tax records

1

 

Other responses:                           “all records to Charleston”

“all from state”

 

 

 

 

Circuit Clerk   

 

Record Type

Number

Accounting

1

adoption 

2

case works

1

civil

4

criminal

4

dockets  

8

domestic

2

financial

2

Guardianship

1

indexes

2

jury master

1

juvenile

3

mental hygiene

3

Payroll

1

Petitions

1

Voting

1

 

Other responses:           “records of every case since 1991” (Randolph)

 

County Clerk   

 

Record Type

Number

deaths

1

deeds

3

election information

1

indexes  

7

liens

1

marriages

1

minutes

1

probate

1

record of deeds

1

voter registration

4

wills

1

 

Other responses:                 “all records since July 2002” (Harrison) 

“all records since 1995” (Logan)

 

 

 

Sheriff

 

Record Type

Number

accounting

2

bank accounts

1

committee accounts

1

conservancy

1

criminal investigation

2

criminal process

1

daily reports

1

disbursements

1

DMV

8

financial

1

lien holding

1

personal property

3

real property

3

receipts

3

redemptions

1

reports

1

state auditor's program

1

tax collection records

3

tax information

3

tax receipts

1

taxes

3

taxes collected

3

 

Prosecuting Attorney

 

Record Type

Number

civil criminal

1

court documents

1

past cases

1

 

Other responses:                       “all files since 1991” (Harrison)

 

1.9.B. Software and Systems Support

 

The types of software used to create these electronic records ranged from Microsoft products to custom programs.  In all, the respondents named thirty-eight separate programs.  Complete System Support Inc. was most frequently named after the combined Microsoft products.  Below is a summary of the most frequently named programs

 

Software

Number

Microsoft Products

25

CSSI

19

Software Systems of Morgantown

14

CCMS

13

AS 400

10

ACS

3

Supreme Court

3

Tax Department

3

USSI

2

IAS

2

WVISC

2

 

Respondents indicated that twenty-six separate organizations provided system support to the offices.  Software Systems of Morgantown was the company most often named.  Below is a summary of the most frequent responses.

 

Software

Number

Software Systems of Morgantown

16

CSSI

5

AS 400

5

Microsoft Products

4

CCMS

3

TMC Technologies

3

ACS

2

State Tax Department

2

None

2

 

1.9.C. System Security

 

Passwords are the most common security mechanism for the electronic storage systems.  Office storage, sometimes in an office other than the creating office, was a distant second choice.  Below is a summary of the most frequent responses.

 

Security System

Number

password

46

office

16

vault/safe

6

daily back up

4

none

3

firewall

2

 

Passwords are also most often used to provide security for the back-up systems.  Again, the office was a distant second choice.  Below is a summary of the most frequent responses.

 

Security system

Number

password

25

office

9

vault/safe

8

at state

8

weekly back up

5

none

4

county back up

2

daily backup

2

offsite

2

 

Procedural rules used for creation, storage, reformatting, and retirement of electronic records are nearly non-existent.  Twenty-four offices responded in the negative to this question.  Three offices replied yes, but gave no examples.  Of those who did provide their procedures, the respondents indicated a lack of understanding of what was being sought.  Once again, staff training issues are evident.

 

Response

Number

back up system

3

per statute

1

state rules

1

copy software onto disk and store in vault

1

ACS contract

1

 

 

1.10 Records Retention/Disposition (Retention Schedules, Destruction Process, Electronic Records Guidelines Used)

Twelve counties appear to be completely lacking in any type of retention schedule.   In the other counties, more than half of the offices are without schedules.  Circuit Clerks (20) were most likely to state they had a retention schedule and Prosecuting Attorneys (7) least likely.  Few actually were able to give the name of the schedule they used.  Those who could name their schedule gave either the 1977 County Records Manual or the 1995 Circuit Court Records Retention Schedule, although as many as six Circuit Clerks indicated that they used a 1977 schedule.

 

In Braxton County, the Prosecuting Attorney stated that all records prior to 2000 were destroyed.  The Prosecuting Attorney in Greenbrier County noted that felony cases are kept for three years and then purged leaving only those cases he considers important.  Magistrate files in that county are kept one year and disposed.  In fact, several Magistrate and Prosecuting Attorney offices gave similar answers, as this is an acceptable and established retention period for this record.

 

Thirty-four offices indicated that they document disposition of records.  The majority of these offices (19) were Circuit Clerks.  Electronic Records Guidelines were even less common than destruction documentation.  Only seventeen offices indicated that they had electronic records guidelines.  However, given the confusion about what constituted an electronic record, this information may not be particularly relevant.

 

1.11 Material being stored outside the office's jurisdiction

While many counties indicated that some records are stored somewhere, including "the historical society," only three offices indicated that some of their very old records are housed in the West Virginia and Regional History Collection (WVRH) at West Virginia University, however, Mr. Fred Armstrong, State Archivist, stated that eighteen counties’ have original records stored there. 

 

Despite these limited reports, records from thirty-nine counties, dating to as early as 1754, are housed in Morgantown.  Only 18 are original records, whether filmed or not.  The WVRH Collection website contains two listings with county records.  One is the Guide to Manuscripts and Archives at the West Virginia and Regional History Collection and the other is the West Virginia Court Record Index.  The Court Record Index is a listing of microfilmed material, while the Guide contains both paper and filmed material.  Material in the Guide appears to have been donated between 1934 and 1983 with the bulk of the donations made pre-1959.  It is not possible to tell from these listings if there is overlap between them.  One composite list should be compiled for each county.  The counties should then be given the listing of their records.  The Guide is available at http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/wvcollection/manuscripts/wvcguide.pdf   The Court Record Index is available at www.libraries.wvu.edu/wvcollection/countycourt/index/htm .

 

Microfilm copies of County Court Records from 1754-1992 (later records are indexes only) for all fifty-five counties are available at the state archives.  These records both duplicate and supplement those in Morgantown.  These listings should be provided to the counties as well.  This list is available electronically at www.wvculture.org/history/countyrec.html

 

For Berkeley, Brooke, Clay, Lewis, Putnam and Greenbrier Counties, an investigation needs to be made as to what records are held by the historical societies in those counties.  Inventories should be made and then given to the counties for their files.

 

Issues and Options

 

"The state that neglects to preserve its Public Documents loses much to future generations - to the whole world indeed."  These words sounded an alarm when West Virginia State Archivist and Historian Virgil A. Lewis first stated them in 1908 and the concern expressed then remains true today, nearly 100 years later.  The state archives uses them as talisman and the State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB) harkened back to them in 1996 when preparing its "Appeal for Future Generations."  However, words alone cannot save these important records and action needs to be taken to preserve for the state’s future all records that are deemed important. 

 

In its 1996 strategic plan the SHRAB noted six issues requiring immediate attention.

 

1.      The public lacks understanding of historical records issues.

2.      There is need for a coordinated archives and records management program for publicly funded agencies at the state and local government level.

3.      Adequate training and education for archival and records management is not available.

4.      The absence of adequate storage facilities and preservation measures places records at risk.

5.      Revenue sources are insufficient to protect and manage the historical record.

6.      Many West Virginia records of continuing value are inaccessible for research use.

 

Since 1996 these six issues have persisted and have become more severe in nature.  A comprehensive solution will require:

·        Development and implementation of a uniform records management plan

·        Cost effective training programs for personnel involved in records management

·        Investment in both facilities and systems to provide sufficient, secure storage and access to physical and electronic records

·        Development of funding alternatives for ongoing record management requirements including investigation of fee for service alternative

 

Coordinated records management program

In the six years since the strategic plan was released, little has changed for the state's local government records.  However, on July 1, 2002, the state took a step toward remedying the problem addressed in Issue 2 above when it established a County Records Management and Preservation Grant Program.  Section §100-1-4 of Title 100 creates a grant program for records projects.  The Records Management and Preservation Board (RMPB) is to compile and publish a Records Management Manual with retention schedules, and provide information on records storage requirements both on and offsite, filing systems, reformatting and electronic records guidelines, destruction procedures, disaster preparedness procedures, and other records issues.

 

The RMPB workload is already significant.  In order to implement this mandate, therefore, the state should create an office, such as the Local Government Records Office, whose sole responsibility would be to deal with county level records management issues.  This office is found in many other states and is located within the state archives organization in those states.

 

While the State can name such an office and officer any appropriate title, the titles for the office and officer used in other states is used here for discussion purposes.  One of the first tasks of the Local Government Records Office would be to update the current records schedules.  Because the current general schedule is 25 years old, its revision will be a large undertaking.  To update these schedules will require researching state and federal code for each record title, determining all new records titles not found in the existing schedule and creating schedules for them, and developing a system for the regular review and maintenance of the schedules. 

 

The best use of resources is to contract with those with records experience to work with local government records officers to update these schedules.  Upon completion of the new records schedules, the contractor would then train the Local Government Records Officer and turn maintenance and implementation responsibility over to the Local Government Records Office.   To accomplish the implementation, it will also be necessary for the Local Government Records Manager or Archivist to conduct regular site visits to the counties to ensure compliance.  The final title of this officer can be determined at the time of implementation as there may be support for an Officer, Archivist, or Records Manager title.

 

In West Virginia State Code § 5A-8-15, it is written: “The Legislature finds that the use of electronic technology and other procedures to manage and preserve public records by counties should be uniform throughout the state where possible.”  Other states have demonstrated that use of contemporary technologies and business models can greatly assist in these efforts.  Based on the lessons learned by these other states, West Virginia should investigate development and implementation of a standardized record management system for electronic archive and access to records.  Models for such a standardized systems are available in other states.  The standardized system should include all the requirements identified by the RMPB or Local Government Records Office.  Use of a properly designed Internet browser-based system would have both compliance and economic benefits for the state and counties.  These benefits include:

·        Purchase/implementation of a more robust system through consolidating the purchasing power of the county courthouses

·        Reduced costs for system operations and maintenance

·        Improved disaster recovery and continuing operations capabilities

·        Increased compliance with state regulations

·        Standardized online training for local and state personnel involved in records management

·        Improved public access to most frequently used records

·        Improved preservation of historical documents due to use of digital files

·        Ability to implement fee-for services (subscriptions, research, e.t.c.)

 

Training

Issue 3 of the 1996 Strategic Plan addresses another critical need: training.  Currently county employees are insufficiently trained, if trained at all.  Although training opportunities exist in the state, many offices are unaware or do not take advantage of them.  Training must be regularized and considered part of county employees' jobs, therefore, county offices need to identify the personnel in need of training due to records responsibilities, budget funds for training, incorporate minimum skills and knowledge in written job descriptions, and include training as an expectation in the annual performance appraisal.  All office operations and staff will benefit from attending training sessions and the sessions should be germane to their actual work so that they can apply what is learned.  The annual cost of training should be estimated by the Local Government Records Officer and based on training schedules.

 

The proposed Local Government Records Officer would also be responsible for training county employees in records issues.   West Virginia already has at its disposal one tool that can be put to good use in this effort.  This is the West Virginia Association of Counties (WVACo).  Through its meetings and those of its member associations, a regular program of records training could be implemented.  The training program should include seminars, computer-based training available online, or self-study programs that could be downloaded from a centralized website. Such a program could be supplemented by on-site visitation and reinforcement from the Local Government Records Officer. 

 

Storage

Adequate storage was the fourth issue of concern in the 1996 plan and it continues to be an issue.  The courthouses face two types of storage problems.  They have inadequate space and they inefficiently use what space they have.  The companion study done by the Tech Research and Development Corporation, focusing on facilities, has recommendations and cost estimates for additional storage, improved storage, and improved environmental conditions for storage in each county matrix appended to that study.  ((See West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority:  Facilities Report to the Legislature 2003, Volumes 1-8 (WVCFIA Facilities 2003), CD included)

 

Storage at courthouses is not confined to records.  Courthouse personnel also store office supplies, criminal evidence, and current and obsolete equipment.  As is the case with all organizations of great duration, material accumulates.  One of the methods for coping with space limitations is to clean out and re-arrange more efficiently.  Broken, outdated, unneeded, and unwanted items should be removed from the facilities. Formally designating records storage areas and then removing supplies and other material from these areas can increase the amount of usable space for both types of material.  Many of the facilities seen during the surveys had holiday or party items stored alongside records.  Records shared space with fertilizer, lawnmowers, and seized slot machines, as well.  There often was not a separation between operational materials to be kept and the permanent records of the county.  Inactive and active records were often co-located.  Some storage areas were so crowded as to prevent staff access.  Crowded conditions added to the instances of filth and infestations of animals and insects.  Remedying these situations can improve space pressures while more storage is sought through expansion or other methods.

 

This "rearrangement of the deck chairs" should be seen as an interim solution while the counties increase their space to cope with the vast amount of records material in its possession.  Removing old, bulky, infrequently used records from the courthouses is a laudable goal, but the planning and building of space is essential to actually accomplish this goal.  (See WVCFIA Facilities 2003, Vol. 1-8, CD included)

 

The records in West Virginia's courthouses can be divided into four areas: current records, short-term inactive, long-term inactive, and permanent, historically valuable records.  Each type has different requirements. 

 

·        Current records need to be readily available and accessible to the many who have legitimate and approved access.  These are most often stored in the office area. 

 

·        Short-term inactive records are those that must be kept for a limited period of time and then are destroyed.  There is less need for access to these materials than there is for current records. 

 

·        Long-term inactive records are those that must be kept for decades, but are rarely used.  These records ultimately can be destroyed after their retention period has elapsed.

 

·        Permanent records are those that the state is required by statute to keep in perpetuity.  Some of these records are frequently consulted, but many are never used after their active period.

 

In order to confront the space crisis in the courthouses, West Virginia needs to develop a four-pronged approach to the records in its custody:

·        Records that are no longer required by statute to be kept should be destroyed. 

·        Vacated storage areas should be rearranged and improved to house those records that are retained and that require regular access. 

·        Infrequently used permanent and long-term inactive material should be sent to appropriate off-site storage.

·        Reformatting of selected record sets should commence to ensure both improved access to records and preservation of data from rapidly deteriorating and/or historically significant records

 

The most appropriate reformatting technique should be selected based on the characteristics of the record set. Conversion to both microfilm and digital formats addresses the unique requirements of archivists while providing a means for increased access in the digital format.

·        Physical Records – converted to both digital and microfilm formats

·        Microfilm – digitized based on access requirements

 

Electronic records should be backed-up and stored offsite in a storage media meeting the state requirements for non-alterable files.  This could include compact disks, magnetic optical platters or other media that meet state requirements.

 

In order to confront the space crisis in the courthouses, West Virginia needs to develop a three-pronged approach to the records in its custody.  Those records that are no longer required by statute to be kept should be destroyed.  Vacated storage areas can then be rearranged and improved to house those records that are retained and that require regular access.  Infrequently used permanent and long-term inactive material should be sent to appropriate off-site storage.  Reformatting of selected record sets should commence to ensure both improved access to records and preservation of data from rapidly deteriorating and/or historically significant records.

 

There are several options for off-site storage of physical records.  One solution might be to transfer material from the counties to other organizations with related interests, such as West Virginia University's West Virginia and Regional History Collection or to the state archives.  Mr. Fred Armstrong, State Archivist, stated that WVU no longer has authority to accept records and the state archives in Charleston does not have original records, only microfilm copies of what courthouses still have. 

 

Another option is to develop a system of distributed storage.  At least three states, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, already use this approach.  Through networks of archival depositories that serve the regions in which they are located, these programs ensure that permanent county records are maintained, but not left to crowd the courthouses.  Illinois and Wisconsin created their networks by using archival facilities at their state universities.  Michigan's network is a combination of academic institutions and large public libraries.  The RMPB should investigate whether there are academic institutions or historical societies throughout the state capable of storing historical county records that could become part of a similar network.

 

Distributed storage can also be created through state or county owned archival storage facilities.   These storage facilities could be built from the ground up, or there may be buildings that can be retrofitted to meet the security and climate conditions required for storing records.  Because of the significant decrease in population in most counties, nearly all county school boards have buildings no longer used for educational purposes, but which require the expenditure of resources to simply maintain them.  It would seem a viable option in many instances to utilize these existing buildings, after suitable renovation, to house these records within the counties.

 

Recommendations   

 

  1. A uniform records management plan should be developed and implemented.

 

  1. A program should be established immediately to rescue those records that are most seriously jeopardized by the elements.  Monies available through the County Records Management and Preservation Grant Program should be used to assist counties with this effort.  The RMPB should consider joining the efforts of the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority Board to pass legislation that would create a user fee to be collected and then allocated for courthouse and records management improvements.

 

  1. A Local County Government Records Office should be established.

 

  1. The RMPB should pursue investment in both facilities and systems to provide secure storage and access to physical and electronic records. 

 

  1. A plan should be implemented to destroy records no longer required; improve and rearrange vacated storage areas to house retained records requiring regular access; send infrequently used permanent and long-term inactive material to appropriate off-site storage; commence reformatting of selected records.

 

  1. The RMPB should develop funding alternatives for ongoing record management requirements.

 

  1. Rationalization of existing storage should be encouraged through strategic use of monies available through the County Records Management and Preservation Grant Program and other future funding opportunities from the state or counties..

 

  1. Updating the Retention and Disposition Schedules should begin immediately.

 

  1. A plan should be developed to implement a system of distributed storage.

 

  1. The RMPB should investigate the feasibility of using courthouse administrators as courthouse records managers.  After proper training, these administrators would work with the Local Government Records Archivist in implementing records schedules, ensure records transfer or destruction, and oversee space use in his or her facility.

 

  1. Written job descriptions should be developed at all county offices that designate which positions have which duties and responsibilities for records management and with each duty and responsibility there should be clearly identified minimum qualifications listed.  Training should be tied to the needs identified in these minimum qualifications and annual performance appraisals should include training and skill development issues.

 

  1. A training program for records management should be developed with the participation of the West Virginia Association of Counties and others (see list above).

 

13.Annual review of the records management progress should be conducted by an entity                 external to the individual counties, such as the West Virginia Association of Counties.                     An annual report of progress with recommendations by county for the ensuing year’s               progress should be a part of the report.

 

Summary

 

A survey of the county records and their storage conditions was made and findings and recommendations were issued with the purpose of creating efficient and safe storage.  At least 420 storage sites were included in the survey of sites found in the fifty-five counties.  The recommendations made were based on the situations found in the survey, information gained from county personnel, and best practices.  Thirteen recommendations were made addressing various components of records management, on and off-site storage, personnel training, and possible funding sources.  Further related recommendations dealing with new and renovated storage options; fire, flood and other safety issues for both personnel and records; and courthouse security are included in the facilities study included on the companion CD.



[1] Detailed Specifications for archival storage areas and for storage facilities are attached as Appendix 3.