The Texas Record: COVID-19 Health Screening Records. “Since the start of the 2020 pandemic, many organizations have started collecting information on the people visiting their facilities: temperature checks, symptom reporting, test results, etc. If your local government or state agency has been screening people for COVID-19 symptoms, you’re probably wondering what to do with all those records. There is no one perfect record series for COVID-19 screening records, as the administrative and legal value will vary depending on who is conducting the screening, whether information is being collected on citizens or employees, and what specific questions are being asked.”
Law & Crime: House Judiciary Committee Will Vote on Bill to Make All Federal Court Records Free for Public to Access. “A committee in the U.S. House of Representatives is set to discuss whether publicly-funded information should be made available to the public for free. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up a bill aimed at revamping the decades-old Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system which charges user fees for access to the 500 million-plus documents currently under its administration.”
CREW: EPA Destroys Water Quality Records, Deceives Archivist. “The Environmental Protection Agency illegally destroyed records, deceived the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) about that destruction, and falsely blamed the coronavirus pandemic to escape accountability, according to internal documents uncovered by CREW.”
State Archives of North Carolina: The Reemergence of Colonial Court Records. “‘Accessing North Carolina’s Early Court Records’ is a special project funded by the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Begun in 2019, this effort will reintroduce some of North Carolina’s oldest and forgotten historical records to the public. Colonial Court Records, SR.401, and District Superior Court Records, SR.398, span the years ca. 1665–1823. We’re happy to announce that in mid-2020, the project archivist for the project, Marie Stark, completed work on the Colonial Court Records, providing more detailed description to increase their visibility and, in the process, stabilizing their storage to facilitate preservation for years to come.”
The Texas Record: COVID-19 Records and How Long to Keep Them. “The analysts here at TSLAC have been getting tons of questions about how governments should be handling their COVID-19 records. The influx of these questions is understandable – we are working during extraordinary times. In fact, these may be historic times; COVID-19 records may potentially be used as documentary evidence by future researchers, historians, and citizens. However, we’re here to tell you: don’t panic! Well, at least don’t panic about the records. If you know anything about basic records management, then you already have all the tools you need to manage COVID-19 records.”
Law .com: Public Records Requests During the COVID-19 Pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused nations and organizations across the world to take emergency action to safeguard public health. Courts, public schools and colleges, municipalities, and other agencies throughout Florida, and across the nation, have temporarily closed office buildings, suspended or reduced operations, and instituted work from home policies. Federal, state, and local governments have requested that residents practice social distancing, and some states have even implemented ‘stay-at-home’ orders. Notwithstanding these unprecedented times, agencies continue to have an obligation to acknowledge and respond to public records requests. ”
New Haven Register: Veterans group continues legal battle over discharge records. “A veterans group is continuing to sue the Pentagon over access to military discharge records despite a federal judge’s recent dismissal of the case. The National Veterans Legal Services Program said Tuesday that it filed its intent to bring the case to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The group represents former service members who want to upgrade a less-than-honorable discharge. Such a status can sometimes result in a loss of veterans benefits.”
The Washington Post: Should the public pay a dime for access to court records?. “The federal judiciary charges 10 cents per page to pull up court files from its online record repository. The fees can add up quickly, and users must consider whether each click to view a public record is worth the cost. But a lawsuit in court Monday in Washington challenges the government’s paywall to search online for case documents through the service known as PACER, an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records.”
California Genealogical Society: Update: USCIS comment period extended to February 10. “You may have heard that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing to exponentially increase fees for retrieval of their genealogy records. In some cases this would mean raising costs as much as 500 percent. We wrote about this previously in our blog. USCIS is the repository for most immigration and naturalization records from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. The proposal has drawn protests from historians and genealogists and even from some Congressional members, most notably Senator Mitt Romney.”
The Trace: What I Learned From Making Dozens of Public Records Requests for Police Data. “To tailor an effective request, first consult the database’s user manual. Here are 21 examples that might help.”
Government Publishing Office: GPO Digitizes Historical Editions of U.S. Government Manual. “The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) has digitized historical editions of the U.S. Government Manual (the Manual), the Government’s official handbook of agency organization for all three branches of Government. Years 1935–1994 of the Manual are now freely accessible and available on govinfo, the one-stop site for authentic, published Government information.”
Texas State Library and Archives Commission: From “Unplayable” to Searchable Online: the House Recordings Recovery Project. “In 2007, Texas House of Representatives’ Media Services transferred to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) about 350 reels of audiotape. Most of the recordings dated between 1975 and 1984 and covered the House floor debates from the entire 63rd through 68th Legislative sessions. Many House committee recordings were included as well. At the time the tapes were transferred to TSLAC, the majority of the reels were described by House media staff as ‘unplayable.’ Having been marked as damaged and unplayable, the audiotapes were stored in TSLAC’s climate-controlled stacks awaiting deaccessioning.” A new resource and a discussion about restoring endangered media!
Washington Post: The genealogy boom has hit a roadblock. The Trump administration plans huge fee hikes for immigration records.. “The fees would nearly triple, and in many cases, they would rise nearly 500 percent, from $130 to $625 to obtain a single paper file. The little-known Genealogy Program administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows genealogists, family historians and other researchers to obtain citizenship and alien registration files, visa applications and other records documenting the lives of deceased immigrants who arrived in the United States between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries.” I know I have mentioned this before but this is the first time I’ve seen mention of this in a mainstream publication.
Irish Examiner: State archives system creaking under pressure of staff and skills shortages – report. “Just four of the 61 State departments and agencies are up to date with their legal obligation to transfer their records to the National Archives (NAI) under the ’30-year-rule’. That’s according to a report of Ireland’s national archives system found that the annual transfer of records under the 30-year rule has been scaled back this year because of a lack of storage space.”
GPO: GPO Completes Digitization of 1,300 Congressional Hearings. “The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) has digitized more than 1,300 historical Congressional Hearings dating back to 1958 and made them available on govinfo, GPO’s one-stop site to authentic, published Government information. Through these digitization efforts, the public can access records of Congressional Hearings for free. These include the transcripts from meetings or sessions of a Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress, in which elected officials obtained information and opinions on proposed legislation, conducted an investigation, or evaluated the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law.”