Chapter 1 TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter 3
Electronic Records



WSA Has Not Developed an

Electronic Records Program





Governments are increasingly creating records electronically.

In the early 1990’s, nationwide information resource and records management professionals identified addressing electronic records as a top priority.  Nearly a decade later, however, WSA has only a nominal electronic records program and very limited input into state information technology decision-making.  This places state records at risk, since with the proliferation of technology, government agencies and employees are increasingly creating records electronically.  Without electronic records management guidance, the state lacks assurances that these records are adequately collected and organized to facilitate their preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition.




WSA Lacks Meaningful Input in

State Technology Decisions





WSA’s representation is on a third-level information technology panel.

WSA does not have significant influence in the state’s information resource policy arena.  It lacks representation on the statutorily created Information Technology Oversight Panel (W.S. 9-2-1018), which establishes the standards that guide state government computer purchases.  Nor does it have representation on the Information Technology Review Committee that reviews agency requests and makes recommendations to the Oversight Panel.  WSA’s representation is on a third-level committee of technology representatives from all agencies who share information.










Records retention requirements should be addressed in the planning phase of new information systems.






WSA is not necessarily involved in the planning of new systems.

The National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), a professional association that advocates sound practices and innovative programs for government records, stresses the importance of asserting archives and records management concerns in states’ information resource management policy arenas.  Decisions made at the state level have critical implications for the accessibility and management of government records.  Archivists and records managers need to participate in shaping state policies to ensure that records-related issues are addressed in the development and operation of new information systems.  The creation, management, and use of electronic information entail high levels of expenditures, and this information needs to be managed so that it can best serve both government and the public.


NAGARA states that to ensure the preservation of electronic records of long-term value, records retention requirements should be addressed in the planning and design stages of new information systems.  However, WSA officials told us that when state agencies institute information systems, they typically are not aware that there are records issues involved.  WSA does not believe it has the authority to demand involvement in planning discussions for these systems, and it participates only at the request of agencies.  In some cases, WSA learns about agency information management system plans and then attempts to “get their foot in the door.”


Without the archives and records management perspective in technology decisions, the state may expend funds on systems that do not address records needs.  Agencies may create records on electronic information systems that will most likely become obsolete, leaving the records stored in them inaccessible.   Records stored electronically and scheduled as permanent or for long periods must be periodically “migrated” to formats compatible with subsequent systems.  Migration strategies are expensive, and may only be cost-effective if the records will be heavily used.  Further, if agencies fail to routinely migrate the records they store electronically, the records could be lost.




WSA Progress in Establishing an Electronic Records Program Has Been Minimal





Adapting practices to accommodate electronic formats has been an issue since the 1990s.






WSA’s program consists of one electronics records analyst to serve both state and local government.









WSA has developed an electronic imaging policy for local governments.










WSA does not want state agencies to consider electronic records as different from paper records.


National and state records professionals have endorsed the need for archives and records management programs to adapt their practices to accommodate electronic formats.  The National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE) recognized the retention and disposition of government electronic records as one of the most important information policy issues of the 1990’s.  The 1995 Wyoming SHRAB Report stated that WSA should take the lead in addressing the long-term preservation and access of computerized records.


However, WSA acknowledges that it has not progressed far in developing an electronic records program.  Its program consists of one electronic records analyst hired in 1997 to assist both state and local government agencies with electronic records issues.  In addition, this staff member schedules paper records and develops WSA automation projects, such as data-based finding aides for permanent records.


WSA’s electronic records program is primarily one of offering consultation to state agencies on request.  WSA helps agencies identify and evaluate information stored electronically, and develop plans to protect these records.  However, the single electronic records analyst provides these services only when invited to do so, and acknowledges that if every agency called, “I would never get it all done.”


Two policies form the core of the existing WSA electronic records program.  The most recent is the State of Wyoming E-mail Policy, issued in December 1999 through Executive Order.  The policy’s purpose is to ensure professional use of e-mail and the preservation of public records created through e-mail.  WSA staff helped draft this policy and provide training on it. 


WSA has also developed an electronic imaging policy for political subdivisions.  With WSA approval, local governments may convert non-permanent paper records to digitized, electronic images, as long as they ensure their integrity for the duration of paper record retention period.  Electronic records appraised as permanent must be converted to paper or microfilmed.


No Overall State Guidance for Electronic Records.  While it has a policy instructing local governments on how to identify and control electronic records, WSA has not developed overall electronic records guidance for state government.  WSA allows state agencies to maintain non-permanent records in the electronic format, but it has not developed guidelines for this practice.  WSA does not want state government personnel to consider electronic records as different from paper records.  WSA staff view the electronic format as a processing medium only, with paper copies serving as the records. 


But, as the current Archivist of the United States acknowledges, the reality at the beginning of the 21st century is that most records are created electronically and may be maintained in a variety of media.  WSA cannot assume that agencies will always convert electronic records to paper, and therefore, needs to develop guidance to enable agencies to maintain records electronically until their legal disposition.




Many State Records Created Electronically Are Likely Unscheduled






Electronic information that has not been managed and filed will be lost to the state.








WSA’s limited electronic records assistance may translate into unnecessary paper storage.


Furthermore, WSA officials themselves acknowledge that state employees are creating records electronically, and that those records are going unscheduled and unpreserved.  With the increasing use of personal computers, individual staff members have greater control over the creation of records and may be the only ones ever to see them. 


Direct creation of records by executive, professional, and technical staff increases the likelihood that paper file copies will not be prepared.  As those staff members leave, electronic information that has not been managed and filed, either electronically or in paper files, will be lost to the state.  Agency efficiency may be impaired because information and records are not available.  Government accountability will suffer if agencies are less able to respond to legislative and public inquiries.


WSA’s limited program for assisting agencies in managing electronic records may translate into unnecessary reliance by state government on paper record retention.  For example, although the electronic format is not approved for long-term storage because there are no standards of permanency for electronic media, it is an alternative for short-term records (retentions of one to five years).  WSA estimates that more than 9,000 cubic feet of the records stored in the records center are short-term, using that definition.  If WSA had a viable approach to training agencies to manage electronic records, some of these could be maintained in that format.


Shifting storage from the paper to the electronic format could decrease the need for paper records storage.  Doing so might increase state costs for computer storage capacity, although the state may already be maintaining much of that capacity.  WSA staff believes that, lacking a system for managing electronic records, state employees are main- taining both the paper and electronic copies of the same information, even after the records are no longer needed for current business.




WSA Has Not Marshaled Existing Resources to Develop an Electronic Records Program








WSA struggles to maintain existing, paper-based programs.









Without a SHRAB, WSA has been unable to access federal grants for electronic records projects.

WSA officials cite a lack of resources as the reason it is not able to progress in developing an electronic records program.  The SHRAB report also noted that WSA lacked the resources to take the lead in electronic records.  The WSA position is that it struggles to maintain current programs with existing resources.  Developing an electronic records program, officials maintain, would require additional positions and funds for training. 


Although additional resources may be required, WSA has not made electronic records a priority and shifted existing resources to provide agencies with the training they need to begin managing some of their records electronically.  Instead, it struggles to maintain existing paper-based programs.  Furthermore, to meet other needs, it diverts its few electronic records resources from program development.  The single position allocated to electronic records has other program respon-sibilities related to scheduling paper records and to addressing internal automation issues.


Finally, because the state has not maintained a SHRAB, WSA has not been able to access grant opportunities used by other states to plan and develop an electronic records program.  Several states have received grants from the NHPRC to fund electronic records programs.  For example, Minnesota received a two-year, $90,000 grant to establish electronic records pilot programs with two agencies.  The Mississippi program received a $172,000 grant for a two-year project to establish an electronic records program in conjunction with the design and move to a new state archives building.  Alaska received a $10,000 grant for an electronic records consultancy.




WSA Organizational Location May Inhibit Its Ability to Affect Technology Decisions






Records management programs placed in historical agencies may have less influence.

The literature reviewed for this project suggests that the positioning of a program such as WSA may affect its ability to participate in or otherwise influence information technology decisions.  A report on programs nationwide notes that when they are independent agencies, or housed in the departments of administration (where information authority often resides), they are more likely to have influence in this arena.  The report notes that placing these programs in historical agencies runs the danger of marginalizing them as merely cultural niceties and not essential to the functioning of government.


The Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources is not solely an historical agency, but many of its programs have that or a cultural characteristic.  Furthermore, by calling itself the “Wyoming State Archives,” WSA assumes an historical focus to those unfamiliar with records management and potentially creates confusion about its role.  In practice, the department director notes that WSA has a general government function. 



Recommendation:  WSA should focus on developing its electronic records program.






WSA needs cooperation and support from government managers and information technology staff.






WSA must shift its focus from maintaining the traditional paper system.

The SHRAB report stated that WSA must take the lead in addressing long-term preservation and access of computerized records.  No program other than WSA will draw attention to the archival challenges posed by electronic records.  This is a complex issue, and a costly one because of the expense entailed in the migration of electronic records necessary to keep them accessible.  To address this issue, WSA must have the cooperation and support of government managers and information technology staff, as well as of staff that create and maintain records electronically.  Therefore, WSA and its parent department must be more assertive in expressing electronic records management needs and the consequences of not addressing them.  Requesting representation on higher-level state information technology panels would be a start.


At the same time, however, WSA should make developing a viable electronic records program for short-term records a priority, and shift its focus from maintaining the traditional paper system.  WSA has taken the first steps by applying for funding to re-establish the SHRAB.  This will open opportunities to obtain funding for a consultant to help WSA design its approach, and perhaps to implement some of the recommended steps.  If WSA ultimately needs more funding to develop and maintain an electronic records program, it will be a stronger position to make the request if it has already reallocated existing resources to the extent it can.



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