The Local Government Records Office will guide your local government towards a successful records management program through consultations and hands-on assistance. For questions, contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 1996, the Mississippi Legislature created the Local Government Records Office, funded by a one-dollar fee added to any document filed in a county or municipal office for which a document fee is already charged. The local government keeps half of the fee collected, with the remaining portion transferred to the Local Government Records Fund. Each local government must use their portion to properly manage their records, including personnel services, contractual services, commodities, or equipment. While counties have the option to collect the fee, all municipalities are required to collect the fee per MS Code §25-60-5.
Tim Barnard, Director
Becca Mee, LGR Specialist
Lauren Harmon, LGR Specialist
Day at Your Disposal
This service is available to counties and municipalities participating in the records management program under MS Code §25-60-5. We will help identify records that can be destroyed, provide technical assistance to improve storage conditions, assist in preserving your historical documents, and help develop a better plan to manage the records lifecycle.
We offer two annual workshops on records management:
- Maintaining a Healthy Records Program (Fall)
- Emergency Preparedness for Records (Spring)
If you cannot attend our workshops, we can provide on-site training for your staff. We also give informative presentations at local government associations’ conferences.
News on the Record
A quarterly newsletter that discusses the program. Read the latest issue.
Before disposal of eligible records, an inventory of said records should be performed. The Board of Supervisors, Board of Aldermen, City Council, or other governing body, must authorize the disposal by recording the inventory, or a summary thereof, in its minutes. Consult the cover page of each set of records retention schedules for restrictions on disposal of records involved in litigation, investigations, or audit, or records created prior to 1940.
- Local Government Records Retention Schedules
- Records Retention Schedule for Counties
Records Retention Schedule for Municipalities
Records Retention Schedule for Airports
Records Retention Schedule for Libraries
Records Retention Schedule for Schools
Records Retention Schedule for Community and Junior Colleges
According to Mississippi law, records may not be disposed of except in accordance with an approved retention schedule. Therefore, records series not listed in schedules are not eligible for disposal until an appropriate records retention schedule has been approved by the Local Government Records Committee. Unique, entity-specific, or inactive record series may be disposed of utilizing a records disposal authorization as with court records.
For Court Records
Authorization to dispose of certain records of chancery, circuit, county, youth, or justice courts in Mississippi must be obtained from the Department of Archives and History (MS Code §25-59-17). Because the Local Government Records Committee does not have the authority to issue records retention guidelines for court records, disposal authorization is based on several statutes in the Mississippi Code. The attached chart lists several common court record series; see the referenced citations for details. In addition, requests for court records disposal will be reviewed to determine the records’ potential archival value.
The Disposal Authorization form is available here. Include in your request the type(s) of record you wish to destroy (e.g. “Circuit Court Civil Case Files”), the date span of the records, the volume of records, and your postal mail address. Upon approval, a disposal authorization will be mailed to the address included in your request. Approval from either your county’s Board of Supervisors or the appropriate court should also be obtained.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History may award annual grants to counties that fully participate in the records management program under MCA §25-60-5. This competitive application process will provide an opportunity for a county to make improvements to its records management program within the scope of the grant specifications. The application period lasts from July 1 to October 3.
The Local Government Records Office provides current information on standards and guidance to help local government officials manage their records.
The quarterly meetings of the Local Government Records Committee are held the third Tuesday of January, April, July, and October at 10:30 a.m. at the William F. Winter Archives & History Building in Jackson, MS. The meetings are open to the public.
Records Management Frequently Asked Questions
- 1. What is records management?
Records management is the systematic approach to the creation, use, maintenance, storage and ultimate disposition of records throughout the information life cycle. For the definition of records management from the Mississippi Code, see §25-59-3(i).
- 2. What constitutes as public record?
The Mississippi Code, §25-59-3(b), defines public records as “all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings or other materials regardless of physical form or characteristics made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency or by any appointed or elected official.” Basically, if it’s received by or generated in your office and has to do official business, then it is a public record.
- 3. Why is records management important?
Managing your records well is vital to your agency’s ability to fulfill its mission. It contributes to your office’s efficiency in its operations and assists in providing information to the proper decision-makers in your agency to help them make informed decisions. Records management also ensures that the rights of the agency and its constituents are preserved and that important historical or legal records are protected. In times of disaster, it ensures business continuity. Finally, proper records management allows local government entities to meet all legal and financial obligations by ensuring compliance with auditory requirements and potential litigation.
- 4. Do I have to keep all my records forever?
That depends on the record, but for the most part, no. Some records are permanent, but most are temporary. Retention periods for records are determined by records retention schedules (or records control schedules) created by the Local Government Records Office and approved by the Local Government Records Committee. Records retention schedules describe a series (or group) of records and how long each must be kept. Once approved by the Committee, records retention schedules have the full force and effect of law. Consult the schedules to determine which of your records you can dispose of and which records you need to keep. Retention schedules can be found on our website.
- 5. What is the Local Government Records Committee?
The Local Government Records Committee is composed of seventeen members representing various state agencies, local government officials’ associations, historical and genealogical research associations, and an at-large member appointed by the governor (MCA 1972, §25-60-1). The committee has the duty to review, approve, disapprove, amend, or modify records retention schedules submitted by the Local Government Records Office, municipalities, and counties for the disposition of records based on administrative, legal, fiscal, or historical value. The director of MDAH serves as chairman of the committee, which meets the third Tuesday of each quarter. Schedules amended by the committee are held over for public comment until the next meeting.
- 6. What if I have records I want to dispose of that aren’t listed on the retention schedules?
You cannot throw away any records that aren’t covered in a records retention schedule according to state law. Additionally, there are some records, such as Court records, for which MDAH does not have the authority to create schedules. You do have some options, however. Call or email the Local Government Records Office using the contact information on our website. Existing schedules can often be made to fit the particular function of a record in question. If that isn’t possible, new schedules can be created. In some cases, such as with certain court records, a one-time disposal authorization may be granted for a unique set of records using the “Records Disposal Authorization” form on our website.
- 7. How should I go about disposing of my records?
First, you should consult the records retention schedules to make sure that they are eligible to be disposed. When eligibility has been determined, make a list of the records you are wanting to destroy. Then, get permission from your governing board through board order in the minutes. That way, if someone comes looking for certain records later, you can show proof that you had permission to dispose of them.
If a record is older than 1940, you must obtain written approval from MDAH before you dispose of them. Records dated from 1920-1940 may be disposed of with permission of the MDAH Director, but records older than 1920 must be approved by the LGR Committee. Permission for these records can be requested using the disposal authorization form on our website. Records dated 1940 and later that have already been scheduled do not need to be submitted to MDAH via the disposal authorization form. The records retention schedules serve as your authority to dispose of those.
Once you’ve obtained all necessary permissions, the manner of disposal is up to you. Just be sure to securely dispose of any records with personally identifiable information or current financial information. For paper records, utilize shredders that meet DIN 66399 standards. You cannot put confidential information in the dumpster because the records could sit there for several days before pickup. For electronic records, they also need to be disposed of in a manner that ensures protection of any confidential information. You should note that any storage media used for electronic records containing confidential information cannot be reused if the previously recorded information can be compromised in any way through reuse.
- 8. Do I have to keep all of my records in my office?
No. The retention schedules determine how long you have to keep your records, but where you keep your records is entirely up to you. You’ll want to keep active records close at hand, but if you don’t use a set of records very often, you can move those out of the office and into a secure storage area either somewhere else in your building or at an off-site storage space (see “ideal storage environment” below). You could also partner with a historical society or local library to hold your older, historical records, as long as those facilities have regular business hours and follow the Standards for Local Government Archives, available on our website.
- 9. What is the ideal storage environment for my records?
Off-Site Storage Standards on our website contain specific requirements for storage areas where permanent and/or long-term paper records are stored. The most important thing you can do for your records storage areas is make sure that there is a stable environment, utilizing measures such as central HVAC systems, portable air-conditioners, and humidifiers/dehumidifiers. You should also have all your records placed on shelving, where they can be more easily accessed. The records can be quite heavy in concentrated areas, so it’s best to have a stable floor.
- 10. What kind of shelving should I use?
The best kind of shelving you can use for records storage is made of heavy-gauge steel with a baked enamel finish that inhibits rust. The worst kind of shelving is bare wood, which off-gases with age, which can damage records. Avoid particleboard and plywood, which are held together with glues that can cause further damage. If you have no other option than to use wooden shelving, cover it with two coats of clear non-VOC polyurethane to seal those acids in. Whatever kind of shelving you use, keep the lowest shelf at least four to six inches off the floor in case of water leaks.
- 11. Can I digitize my paper records? If a record is available in a digital format, can I get rid of the paper copy?
The Mississippi Code authorizes local government entities to digitize their paper records according to the standards set by MDAH. These standards, along with best practices for scanning long-term or permanent records, can be found on our website. Once the document has been scanned and verified to be accurate, the digital image can be considered the “official” copy of the record and the paper can just be considered a convenience copy. These kinds of copies can be disposed of at your convenience.
- 12. Can MDAH recommend vendors for products and services such as shelving and digitization?
No, as a state agency, MDAH/LGR staff are unable to recommend specific vendors.
- 13. Can I donate my historical records to MDAH?
MDAH believes that local records should be kept available in the local community. Under special circumstances the department will accept certain local records, but our storage space is limited, too. A local public library or historical society’s facility may be a better choice.
- 14. Are there documents my office generates that AREN’T records?
A record is a record based on the information it contains. There are a few specific kinds of documents that your office may have that are not record-worthy. Documents such as Public Notices that you do not generate in your office, emails that don’t deal with official business, convenience copies, bulk email, printed books, and older versions of the Mississippi Code are all not considered your records.
- 15. Do I have to fulfill every Open Records Request?
Mississippi Code §25-61-1 and §25-61-2 expressly state that if you are a public official or employee, it is your duty to provide access to records when they are requested. We highly recommend that your office establish a policy that spells out the procedure for dealing with these requests. With such a policy in place, you have seven (7) working days to respond to a request; without a policy you have only one (1) working day to respond (§25-61-5). The response does not have to be the actual production of the record(s) requested, but whether you have the record in the first place, whether you can produce it (e.g., if it’s not confidential), along with how much it will cost and how long it will take to make copies. Any fees (see §25-61-7) should be collected before making the copies. Actual production of the records should take no longer than fourteen (14) working days, unless agreed upon by the requester.