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Iowa Historical Records Advisory Board Strategic Plan

The Iowa Historical Records Advisory Board (IHRAB) plans and coordinates activities to promote sound records programs in public and private repositories statewide. It encourages cooperative planning efforts and approves grants to local agencies and organizations.

IHRAB has identified nine key issues, presented below, that face a wide variety of organizations throughout Iowa as they manage current records and archival collections: local historical societies, museums, and libraries, as well as state and local government agencies. IHRAB hopes to encourage dialogue about common solutions to common problems by emphasizing collaboration and cooperation.

This Strategic Plan was originally adopted by IHRAB in July 1996. Under each issue below is a description of the "Action Steps" that were part of the original plan along with notes on what has been accomplished for each step as of July 1998.

For additional information about IHRAB or its programs, contact Jeffrey Dawson, Archives Supervisor, State Historical Society of Iowa, 600 East Locust, Des Moines, IA 50319. Telephone: 515-281-7801.

Record Keeping Issues Facing Historical Societies, Museums, Public Libraries, and Other Cultural Agencies

Issue: New media, as well as traditional paper formats, present special challenges for long-term access to and preservation of historical records.

Deteriorating paper has long been a concern in historical records repositories. Now they are receiving documentation on computer diskettes, videotape, audiotape, and other electronic media, each with their own requirements for storage, access, and preservation. Repositories are confronted with a myriad of new media, which compete for their already strained financial, and personnel resources.

What must be done

Educational offerings must be made available to repository personnel so they can assess the threat to the materials in the repository, determine the alternatives available to them, and prioritize the needs of the collection. Additional resources need to be made available through grants programs, technical assistance programs, and development of "networks" which allow staff to call on colleagues throughout the state for advice and counsel regarding specific preservation challenges.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
IHRAB will present a basic workshop on collecting and preserving electronic media and other new record storage media at the State Historical Society of Iowa’s Iowa Heritage EXPO. (1998) Workshop on film and video held at 1997 Iowa Expo.
1998 Expo program included panels on successful grant applications and an organizing meeting for the Consortium of Iowa Archivists
IHRAB will encourage broad dissemination of "best practices" information on creation, collection, preservation, and access to information resources recorded in formats other than paper. (On-going) IHRAB is establishing Resource Library that will be available at six sites throughout Iowa. It has also developed brochures on basic practices that are adapted from other states.
IHRAB will encourage the State Historical Society of Iowa to include hyperlinks from its developing home page on the World Wide Web to information sources on new media in archives and manuscript repositories. (1998) State Historical Society of Iowa’s homepage is not well-enough developed as yet to accommodate IHRAB content. Have initiated discussions with Public Information Staff on enhancements to SHSI site.

Issue: Many people working with historical records need additional professional training.

Many local historical societies have only one or two professionally trained staff members; most rely heavily on volunteers who learn as they work. Public libraries often acquire substantial local history collections, but their professional staff members probably received little if any direct instruction in archival methods during their library school education. Museums often acquire archives and manuscripts along with their artifact collections, but are not familiar with methods for processing or preserving archival records. All of these individuals would benefit from workshops and other training opportunities, but have limited time and financial resources to pursue them.

What must be done

Additional regional workshops targeted to introduce new practitioners to basic methods and techniques for the proper management and preservation of historical records need to be developed. These workshops may be sponsored by the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium (ICPC), the Regents Universities, the State Historical Society of Iowa, and IHRAB, or individual records repositories. Utilization of the Iowa Communication Network (ICN) makes it possible to reach every part of the state with these workshops and training sessions at a reasonable cost. Repositories should be encouraged to use Historical Resources Development Program grants for support of workshop and training opportunities in Iowa.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
IHRAB will encourage cooperative efforts of local organizations to secure funding through the Historical Resources Development Program to conduct training workshops for local repositories in defined geographic areas. (On-going) Educational efforts were emphasized in training sessions held for potential grantees in the Historic Resources Developmental Program (HRDP). Results of this initiative are not yet in; grant process still underway.
IHRAB will work with professional organizations throughout the state, especially the Iowa State Association of Counties and the League of Iowa Municipalities and their affiliates to include records management workshops and training as part of their annual meetings and training programs. (On-going) State Coordinator spoke to Auditor’s Affiliate of the ISAC in Fall 1997. Also provided technical assistance to County Recorders for their Spring School in 1998. The Northwest Iowa Municipal Clerks held a two-day workshop using the NAGARA/IIMC Records Management for Local Governments curriculum. in May 1997.
IHRAB will utilize the Iowa Communications Network as a distribution vehicle for training workshops. (On-going) Not yet undertaken.
IHRAB will encourage the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium (ICPC) and other organizations to continue presenting preservation workshops and offering records keeping advice for constituents throughout Iowa. (On-going) ICPC offered a Disaster Recovery workshop in April 1998. IHRAB is encouraging an effort to form a Consortium of Iowa Archivists (CIA) to provide a mechanism for archivists throughout Iowa to connect with and assist one another. One of the IHRAB members served on the program committee for the 1998 Iowa Expo and ensured that a program slot was allotted for the first gathering of this group.

Issue: Cooperative ventures could improve the care and accessibility of historical records throughout the state.

The IHRAB has reviewed many planning documents developed by Iowa organizations and government agencies in developing this issues statement. In doing so, many common concerns emerge. Organizations such as the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium, the Iowa State Library, the State Records Commission, the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Iowa State Association of Counties (especially the Recorders Affiliate), and the Record Management Subcommittee of the Iowa Judicial Council all seek to identify permanent records, preserve them, and make them available to the public. These organizations independently are working to enhance records programs in the state. They have the potential to accomplish much more through cooperation than through independent action.

What must be done

IHRAB can develop a system to collect and disseminate standards, guidelines, and technical leaflets so that local repositories have a central source for the latest information and best practices for the care of their collections. It might also be possible to develop a mentoring program in which experienced practitioners could be on-call to assist smaller repositories (or those with less experience), evaluate their needs, and locate resources. The IHRAB is planning to compile a directory of historical records repositories in the state which will make it easier for them to communicate with each other. Use of on-line technology may make the dissemination of standards and other information much easier and more timely. An on-line directory of repositories and/or mentors might make access to information easier for repositories who have identified a particular need.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
In conjunction with the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, IHRAB will conduct a survey of non-government records repositories to determine the state of records collections and collections care in Iowa. (1997) Iowa participated in COSHRC’s Historical Records Repository Survey (HRRS) project. Received responses from 120 repositories statewide.
IHRAB will cooperate with the State Historical Society of Iowa to create a directory of historical repositories in Iowa which can be made available through and maintained on the World Wide Web by hyperlink from the State Historical Society of Iowa home page. IHRAB will make this directory available in print for those not yet connected to the Internet. (1998) Data from HRRS will be shared with new Consortium of Iowa Archivists (CIA). IHRAB encourages the CIA to use that data to compile a directory.
IHRAB will identify sources of technical information and standards and make them known to local repositories through the State Historical Society of Iowa home page and printed bibliographies and guides. IHRAB will encourage other Iowa organizations to include links from their home pages to the technical information and standards. (1998) IHRAB has produced a series of pamphlets to provide basic advice to historical societies and local governments. Distribution will be in paper form until SHSI web page develops more functionality It has also established six Resource Libraries distributed geographically throughout Iowa with a collection of technical leaflets and other materials. The SHSI is creating a Technical Advisory Network to provide assistance and advice to recordkeepers of all types.

Issue: Public awareness about the importance of history and historical materials should be raised.

The Iowa Sesquicentennial raised public awareness about the importance of preserving archival collections and using historical documents in schools and public life.

What must be done

The IHRAB needs to work with local historical organizations which received collections identified through the sesquicentennial celebration. They may need additional training on the care, preservation, and access for these collections. The importance of the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program and its sub-unit, the Historical Resources Development Program (HRDP), needs to be emphasized among local organizations so that funding for this program continues.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
IHRAB will develop a booth at the Iowa Heritage EXPO to increase public awareness of records issues and to help disseminate information about IHRAB, its mission, and activities. (1997) In 1997 and 1998, IHRAB was a planning partner in Expo and had a booth in 1997 (there were no booths at all in 1998). The nature of Expo is changing starting in 1999. Technical assistance will move to the SHSI Technical Advisory Network in which IHRAB will participate.
IHRAB will re-design and publish a brochure discussing its services and the grant programs it coordinates. The brochure will encourage the development of grant applicants in specific priority areas. IHRAB will work to develop additional informational packets to promote the care and preservation of historical records. (1998) Information about IHRAB and services it provides is included in new series of pamphlets that provide advice on basic records care.
IHRAB will encourage records repositories throughout the state to utilize Historical Resource Development Program grants to provide long-term storage and preservation of materials identified and collected as a result of the Iowa Sesquicentennial celebration. (On-going) IHRAB worked to raise awareness in communities during the Sesquicentennial year. Permanent records of the Sesquicentennial Commission have been transferred to the State Archives.

Record Keeping Issues Facing State and Local Government Records Programs

Issue: Electronic information systems are making radical changes in the ways records are created, maintained, and used.

Electronic technology has reached into every aspect of our lives, and record keeping is no exception. Many of the operations of governments and corporations are now conducted electronically. Many organizations provide electronic mail to conduct business. An increasing number are replacing paper purchase orders with systems that use electronic data interchange. Even that most fundamental government record, on which every citizen depends, the birth certificate, is being converted from paper to electronic form. Many government agencies utilize data compiled by other agencies to develop, support, and/or become part of massive electronic data sets maintained in different databases and used in multiple settings.

What must be done

Designers of electronic systems must incorporate safeguards that will ensure the creation of records that are comprehensive, authentic, and tamper-proof. They must also use standards that will provide the means to migrate information with long-term value onto new platforms so that today’s records are readable on tomorrow’s technology. Creators and custodians of electronic records systems must recognize that the data sets they develop serve the same purpose as records created in traditional paper formats.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
In conjunction with the Chief Information Officer, the Department of Technology and the Iowa Records Management office, IHRAB will review literature to determine best methods for ensuring the long-term (multi-generations) preservation of current government records. (On-going) Appropriate goals were added to the State Archives Strategic Plan. Discussions have been initiated at the State Records Commission.
IHRAB will work with the Chief Information Officer to incorporate into the design of electronic data systems requirements for the migration of permanently valuable data (even when those data have exceeded the period of administrative use) to new platforms as hardware and software are replaced. (On-going) No progress to date.
In coordination with the Iowa Records Management office, IHRAB will develop training opportunities for education agency records officers on the importance of record management concepts in the development and implementation of electronic records systems. (On-going) A training session was held January 1998. Responsibility for records management was transferred to State Archives on January 1, 1998.

Issue: Archives and records management programs in Iowa’s state government are fragmented and, therefore, less effective and efficient than they should be.

Currently, the Department of General Services administers records management while the State Archives is within the historical division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. It is important that records management and archives personnel work closely to promote proper handling of documentation throughout its active life and to ensure that records having long-term value are preserved. Most other states have found this cooperation is easiest to achieve when records management is assigned to the state archives so that a single agency can develop a cohesive program to oversee record keeping from creation to disposition.

What must be done
Establish a study task force to evaluate the records management and archives functions in state government to determine the best programmatic structure to create an efficient and effective records program for Iowa. The task force should consider consolidation of the records management and archives functions under the administration of the historical division of the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
In conjunction with the State Records Commission, the Department of General Services, and the Department of Management, IHRAB will evaluate the current administrative structure for records management and archives functions in Iowa. (1997) State Records Commission issued a report calling for the consolidation of Archives and Records Management functions in August 1997 followed by a second report in December 1997 at which time Archives and Records Management were combined and placed within the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Issue: Greater coordination is needed among the state government officials who have information- and records-related responsibilities.

Despite a wide range of common interests and overlapping responsibilities, there is little formal interaction among the many state agencies that are responsible for government information and records, including the Chief Information Officer, the Information Services Division of the Department of General Services, the State Library, the State Archives, and the State Records Management office.

What must be done

Review and revise the statutory and administrative codes for the State Records Commission, the State Archives, and other information-related agencies. Consider adding the Chief Information Officer to the State Records Commission. Clarify the responsibility of agency records officers for electronic records as well as paper records. Include the State Archives and the State Records Management office on appropriate technology issues task forces.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
Revise the Code of Iowa to combine the State Archives and the State Records Management Office under a single department of state government. (1999) The legislature unanimously passed the legislation necessary for executing the consolidation of Archives and Records Management within the Department of Cultural Affairs in January 1998. The statute formally took effect July 1, 1998.
Revise Code of Iowa Chapter 304 to include the Chief Information Officer as a voting member of the State Records Commission and to delineate the role of the State Records Commission in identifying and preserving electronic records in Iowa. (1999) Not yet accomplished. The State Records Commission is undertaking a review of the structure, duties, and responsibilities in 1998.
Encourage greater cooperation between the State Archives of Iowa and the Judicial Branch of state government so that court records can be preserved and made available in a central archival facility as envisioned in the Court’s recent report Charting the Future of Iowa’s Courts. (1998) The Judicial Branch has received funding for planning a building in Des Moines. The State Archives has initiated discussions regarding records preservation in the new building.

Issue: Local government officials with substantial record keeping responsibilities need guidance and training to fulfill their duties effectively.

County recorders and clerks, as well as municipal clerks, often take office with little background or training in their important record keeping responsibilities. Daily, they must make decisions about how records are used, stored, and preserved which broadly affects the rights of citizens and organizations in regard to property ownership, citizenship (vital records, voting registration), financial obligations, and more. New technologies such as optical imaging present special challenges as officials with little experience to guide their decisions must choose among competing vendors.

What must be done

Targeted training opportunities and technical leaflets could provide officials with introductions to the issues and criteria to choose among various technological and managerial solutions. It is essential that there be a systematic method for identifying nationally accepted standards and guidelines and distributing information to local government agencies. Archivists and records managers should work with state and national organizations representing local officials to develop these materials and determine how best to distribute them.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
Encourage the Iowa State Association of Counties and the Iowa League of Municipalities and their affiliates to provide training at regular meetings and through special course offerings to assist local officials in understanding the issues of records management for their offices. (On-going) A few workshops have occurred in the period, 1996-98. The State Archivist has also had several speaking opportunities to local government associations around the state.
IHRAB will work with the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Iowa State Association of Counties, and the Iowa League of Municipalities to secure the resources needed to revise, update, and re-issue the Iowa County Records Manual and the Iowa Municipal Records Manual. (1999) Revision of the County and Municipal Records Manuals are still needed. This activity is included in the State Archives strategic plan.
Collect or develop, if necessary, and distribute information on current best practices for the preservation of local government records. This information should include best practices regarding storage, retrieval, and long-term access to records maintained in paper, microform, and electronic formats. (On-going) IHRAB Resource Libraries have been developed to meet this need.

Issue: The State of Iowa should encourage and support the development of a Government Information Locator Service (GILS).

A GILS provides citizens with a means to locate information in government agencies using standardized methods of description and indexing. As of January 1996, all federal agencies have had the capability to provide basic access to their diverse information resources -- paper and electronic records, publications, data files, and more -- through a federal GILS. An increasing number of states are following suit, with the ultimate goal of full, integrated access to government information across jurisdictional lines

What must be done

The State Library of Iowa included a government information locator in its long-range plan. Since then, the State Library has made considerable progress in developing the Iowa Locator and the State of Iowa Libraries On-Line (SILO) project. These efforts have yet to develop into a full-blown GILS for Iowa, however. Participation in the development of a GILS for the State of Iowa should include State Archives and Records Management personnel so that the locator will point to paper and electronic records (historical and current) as well as to published information.

Action steps recommended July 1996 Accomplishments as of July 1998
IHRAB will work with state government as a statewide government information locator system is developed. (On-going) IowaAccess received funding in the 1998 General Assembly. The State Records Commission heard a presentation on this resource at their July 1998 meeting.
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