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State archives still important in digital age

Despite ease of storing records on agency computers, some historical records — and records that must be maintained permanently — are still housed at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Staff Writer Modified: February 9, 2013 at 1:14 am •  Published: February 11, 2013

The digitization of state government records and communications makes it easier for them to be retained, archived and retrieved, but not necessarily cheaper.

Books and boxes of permanent and historic records fill shelves and drawers at the state's library department, but more often today state agencies are managing records themselves, said Jan Davis, the department's administrative archivist.

“We're looking at a small microcosm of the total number of records,” she said during a tour of the storage cages on the third floor of the state library building. “The majority of the records are actually maintained by the agencies themselves, particularly the active records.”

Paper records on file at the library department cover about 26,000 feet and date back to statehood days.

These records are accessed sometimes by historians, researchers and state agencies. Typical record requests filed with state today are managed by the individual agencies.

For example, hard copies of inspection reports for each of the state's county jails are kept in files at the state health department. If a reporter or member of the public wants to review them, they can either arrange to physically go through each of the files or pay to have the department make copies and put them on a disk.

But if you want to read the papers of the state's former governors or any other correspondence or meeting minutes beyond three years old, this is the place. Here they also keep confidential files state agencies are required to keep forever, like personnel records and financial transaction reports.

A records disposition schedule dictates what must be kept and for how long, Davis said.

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