April 2003



Providing adequate storage conditions for permanent or long-term records is a problem every local government must face. Counties and municipalities create or maintain many records (such as council or commission minutes, property and taxation records, audit reports, newspapers, wills, marriages, and other probate records) that document the history and genealogy of their locality from the time of its foundation. The Local Government Records Commission (LGRC) has scheduled any record created prior to 1900 for permanent retention.

Unfortunately, Alabama counties and municipalities are often not equipped to provide optimum storage conditions for old and fragile records. Even if such records are well-kept and accessible, environmental conditions in courthouses and city halls may not be conducive to their preservation. A local government may lack the financial resources to renovate unsuitable records storage areas or build new ones. In such cases, the local government may select a staffed, off-site repository with a better environment for records preservation. In compliance with Attorney General's Opinion 91-00249, such an arrangement must be codified in the form of a Local Government Records Deposit Agreement (sample attached; see pp. 7-8) before the records are transferred.

The deposit agreement establishes a contract between a local government agency and its chosen repository, with oversight provided by the Government Records Division of the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH), which serves as the staff of the LGRC.

1. When Not to Use the Records Deposit Agreement

1.1. Storing Records in Off-site Space Owned or Leased by the Local Government. County or municipal agencies frequently move surplus records into abandoned jails, schools, or other unstaffed buildings owned by the local government. Use of a Local Government Records Deposit Agreement is not required on such occasions. If records are stored in an unstaffed, non-archival facility leased from a private owner, a deposit agreement is likewise unnecessary, because the lessor has no contractual responsibility to provide optimum storage conditions or public access to the records. It should be noted, however, that security, environmental, and access conditions for records "warehoused" in this way are often far worse than in the originating office. Local governments should avoid consigning permanent or historically valuable records to this kind of storage, and-if it is necessary to do so temporarily-should continue efforts to find a suitable repository.

1.2. Storing Short-Term Records in an Archival Repository. If records have a retention period of less than 20 years, transferring them to an archival repository is an ineffective use of the optimum storage space that it provides. Such records will normally survive under "warehouse" conditions for as long as their retention periods legally require. Therefore, they should not be included in a records deposit agreement unless the chosen repository is able to offer records disposition services.

2. Evaluating and Selecting Repositories for Permanent Records

2.1. Finding Suitable Repositories. Any repository chosen to store historical records should offer significantly better conditions for records preservation (security, environmental control) and public access than the local government has available in its own storage space. To the highest degree possible, the repository should satisfy the records storage guidelines endorsed by the Local Government Records Commission and contained in the checklist attached to this leaflet (pp. 9-12). Several kinds of institutions may be considered as repositories:

2.2. Evaluating Candidate Repositories. ADAH publications, and other available resources, list a number of desirable features for historical records repositories: location near the seat of government; fire-resistant construction and fire suppression systems; secure and monitored access; and controlled humidity and temperature. (For more information, see the procedural leaflet "Guidelines for Storing Inactive Paper Records," available on the ADAH website: www. To assist agencies in evaluating candidate repositories, this leaflet includes a sample evaluation form (pp. 9-12). Local governments should recognize, however, that no readily available repository may meet optimum standards for historical records preservation. The Local Government Records Deposit Agreement does not demand perfection. All that is required is that the repository should attempt to satisfy LGRC guidelines "to the highest possible degree."

3. Authorizing and Preparing the Agreement

Normally, a local government documents its decision to negotiate a records deposit agreement through council or commission action. This leaflet includes a model resolution (pp. 5-6) for use by local governments. A sample agreement is found on pp. 7-8. Any deposit agreement concluded between a county or municipality and an off-site repository should cover several basic issues:

3.1. Custody of Records. Generally, only physical custody of historical public records is transferred to the repository, as local government officials must retain legal custody of records they create. An exception may be made (as noted on p. 2) for records transferred to an officially designated local government archives that formally accessions them.

3.2. Responsibilities of the Local Government. The local government agency provides the repository with an itemized list of all the records transferred, keeping a copy for its own information and sending another copy to ADAH. Agency staff should inspect the repository at least annually, checking its itemized list against the records actually on the repository's shelves. More frequent inspections are strongly recommended. The agency should be fully satisfied that the repository is properly observing the agreement's terms and complying with LGRC records storage guidelines. Results of agency or LGRC inspections should be documented and reviewed before the deposit agreement is renewed (see item 4 below).

3.3. Responsibilities of the Repository. The repository must allow public access to the records as specified by the transferring agency, usually during the same hours that government offices are open. It may not charge the public for simply viewing records, but may impose a reasonable fee for duplication services. The repository may take no other action affecting the records (such as altering or removing them) without written permission from the head of the transferring agency. Besides adhering to the LGRC's basic storage guidelines, the repository must furnish fire protection, insurance, and surety bonds to protect the records against loss or damage. It must also cooperate in all inspections of its premises by agency or ADAH staff.

3.4. Responsibilities of the LGRC and ADAH Government Records Division. On behalf of the LGRC, Government Records Division staff members review draft deposit agreements and may inspect proposed repositories before any records are transferred. Thereafter, the division maintains copies of all agreements currently in force.

4. Renewing the Agreement

Should the local government wish to renew its agreement beyond the initial two-year period, ADAH staff and agency staff may again inspect the repository and the agency's records stored there. If the results are satisfactory, the local government and repository may renew their contract by filing a new deposit agreement with the LGRC. Whenever possible, however, the local government should invest the financial and staff resources necessary for an adequate records storage facility under its own jurisdiction.

Government Records Division archivists can assist county and municipal officials in evaluating candidate repositories, review draft agreements, or supply copies of relevant ADAH publications. For assistance, please contact:

Alabama Department of Archives and History
Government Records Division
P.O. Box 300100, Montgomery, AL 36130-0100
Telephone: (334)242-4452; FAX: (334)353-4321

ADAH web site:

Draft Resolution by a County or Municipal Governing Body to Authorize a Local Government Records Deposit Agreement

WHEREAS, the Local Government Records Commission and the Alabama Department of Archives and History have a legal responsibility to oversee the condition and disposition of local government records, as outlined in sections 41-13-4, 41-13-5, and 41-13-23, Code of Alabama 1975; and

WHEREAS, the Commission has approved the Local Government Records Deposit Agreement as a means by which local government agencies may enter into agreements with other governmental or non-governmental agencies (such as local libraries, archives, historical societies, or commercial vendors) to provide improved storage, preservation, and access to their historical records; and

WHEREAS, the Attorney General's Office of the State of Alabama has authorized the use of such agreements in Attorney General's Opinion 91-00249; and

WHEREAS, the Commission recognizes that a local government has the option of contracting with another corporate entity in accordance with state laws respecting contracts between agencies of the government and private suppliers, including, but not limited to, the provisions of the bid law (41-16-50, et. seq., Code of Alabama 1975); and

WHEREAS, the (county/municipal agency) recognizes that the establishment of a Local Government Records Deposit Agreement with a qualified repository would be expedient to improved storage, preservation, and access to its historical records, until such time as records storage conditions in the agency may be improved; now

BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE (GOVERNING BODY OF THE COUNTY/MUNICIPALITY) approves the establishment of a Local Government Records Deposit Agreement with (name of records repository) for improved storage, preservation, and access to its historical records. Terms and conditions of the records' transfer and storage will be set forth separately in the agreement and will satisfy the records storage guidelines of the Local Government Records Commission and Alabama Department of Archives and History to the highest possible degree.

______________________________________     ________________________

Chairman Date

(County/Municipal Governing Body)



WHEREAS, the ________________________ of _____________________________________

(official's title) (locality)

has the responsibility of creating and/or maintaining certain governmental records to document the conduct of official business; and

WHEREAS, government records accumulate over time and pose storage, preservation, and access problems because of their quantity and fragility; and

WHEREAS, the records repository named below has the facilities and professional staff to provide proper care for and access to this valuable public resource; and

WHEREAS, in accordance with (city council/county commission resolution #) , the Local Government Records Commission may authorize the deposit of certain government records in an off-site storage facility; now, therefore,

The ________________________________________ agrees to transfer and deposit

(official's title)

certain public records from the ____________________________________________

(local government office)

to _______________________________________ for the purpose of storing the

(records repository)

records and providing proper maintenance and access to them.

The ________________________________________ further agrees to:

(official's title)

  1. Provide an itemized list of records to the repository that includes the records title, records disposition authority (RDA) item number, date span, volume, and a box container listing, if appropriate.
  2. Conduct periodic inspections of the records repository to ensure that the records are secured, maintained, and accessible in accordance with the deposit agreement and the guidelines issued by the Local Government Records Commission and the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
  3. Record the results of the periodic repository inspections and make them available to Local Government Records Commission representatives upon request.

The _________________________________________ agrees to provide:

(records repository)

  1. Access to stored records to the general public. Patrons may view the records during normal hours of operation. The records repository will not charge for the viewing of the records, but may charge for records duplication services.
  2. Proper administrative control of the records. The records will remain in the records repository for the duration of the agreement. They cannot be removed except by the transferring official or his/her designee. They cannot be clipped, unbound, mutilated, or altered for any purpose.
  3. Adequate fire protection, physical security, and environmental controls appropriate for records of long-term value.

This agreement recognizes that legal title to the records remains with the transferring government office; only physical custody will be transferred to the records repository.

This agreement authorizes staff of the Alabama Department of Archives and History to inspect the records and the records repository on behalf of the Local Government Records Commission.

The agreement will extend for a period of two (2) years from the date of signatures. It may be renewed upon the mutual consent of the parties for the same period of time thereafter by filing another deposit agreement with the Local Government Records Commission. It may also be terminated by the public official if the records repository or its services are unsatisfactory or below accepted standards of the Local Government Records Commission. Upon termination of this agreement by either party, the repository agrees to return all records, in an orderly and proper manner, to the responsible public official.

Financial or other remuneration relating to the storage of said public records shall be arranged separately from this agreement and upon the mutual consent of the parties.

_______________________________ _______________________________

(signature of transferring public official) (signature of records repository representative)

_________________________________________ __________________________________________

(title) (title)

_________________________________________ __________________________________________

(date) (date)

_________________________________________ __________________________________________

(signature of chairman, Local Government Records (date)




Procedures for implementing a Local Government Records Deposit Agreement require records custodians to evaluate candidate repositories, and conduct subsequent inspections of chosen repositories, to ensure that deposited records are secured, maintained, and accessible in accordance with the deposit agreement. Issues of concern include physical security of the building and the records, fire safety, collection management, an appropriate environment, and disaster preparedness. The following checklist is provided to assist agency staff and Local Government Records Commission representatives in the inspection of repositories.

Storage Facility:

Institution/Building Name ________________________________________________________

Address ______________________________________________________________________


Contact Person/Telephone Number _______________________________________________

Inspected by (Name) ________________________Job Title ____________________________

Institution ____________________________________Date of Inspection ________________

Storage Building:

yes no If no, what is the live load?

If no, what is the weight load?

If wood, have they been coated with three layers of polyurethane to prevent the migration of acids to the records? yes no

Building Security:

If no, how is the building secured?

If yes, is the system inspected annually? yes no

Is the system in working order? yes no If no, explain:

Locked after hours? yes no If no, explain:

Can visitors enter and use the records storage area without being observed by staff?

yes no

Will visitors be required to "sign in" to use the records room? yes no Will they be allowed to take personal possessions (coats, bags, briefcases) or food into records storage or research areas? yes no

Will staff restrict or supervise copying of fragile records? yes no

If no, how will public access be provided?

Will these items be removed from the records storage area? yes no


Fire Safety:

If no, explain:

Required corrective action:

Action taken & date:

yes no If not, explain:

If there is a sprinkler system, is it inspected annually? yes no

Date of last inspection:

Is the sprinkler system in working order? yes no

If no, explain:

Date of last inspection:

Are there smoke detectors in adjacent areas? yes no

Date of last inspection:

Date of last inspection:

yes no

Environmental Systems (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning):

Note: For more information, see the procedural leaflet "Guidelines for Storing Inactive Paper Records," available on the ADAH website (

Temperatures between 65 - 75 degrees, with a variation of no more than two degrees?

yes no If no, explain:

Relative humidity between 45 - 55%, with a variation of no more than 5%? yes no

If no, explain:

Corrective actions taken: Date:

If no, are humidifiers/dehumidifiers available for use? yes no

Collections Management:

Note: Some of these questions apply only to facilities in which agency records are already stored.

Corrective actions taken: Date:

yes no

Practice halted (date):

yes no

Practice halted (date):

(If yes, indicate damage on the itemized list of agency records stored in the facility.)

If yes, are guidelines in place to help prevent damage to records/volumes? yes no

Are these guidelines posted in public research areas? yes no

Disaster Planning/Records Salvage:

If yes, does it include plans for salvaging records following water damage? yes no


For further assistance in evaluating records repositories, or other records preservation concerns, contact Linda Overman, ADAH conservation officer, at (334)353-4726 or linda.overman@