COVID-19 and Local Government Agency Records 

From:
Rebecca McGee-Lankford
Assistant State Records Administrator
Government Records Section

The COVID-19 State of Emergency in North Carolina represents an unprecedented event in North Carolina history, and we at the State Archives’ Government Records Section are working to ensure that the public records that will help future North Carolinians understand this difficult and uncertain time are captured and retained. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us—essential and nonessential employees alike—to make changes to the way we work, the way we interact with our coworkers and the public, and the records we produce during the course of business. It’s important to take time to manage the records you create during this crisis, despite the extraordinary pressures on time and resources we are all encountering. The nature of the COVID-19 State of Emergency imbues the records we’re creating right now with “historical value,” defined by the General Records Schedule for Local Government Agencies (2019) as records that “document significant events, actions, decisions, conditions, relationships, and similar developments.” These records have administrative, legal, fiscal, or evidential importance for the government or its citizens. Researchers and the public routinely reference local government agency records to learn about how local government responded to societal upheaval, such as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and the Government Records Section wants to make sure your efforts surrounding COVID-19 are fully documented for future generations. 

In addition to engaging in your normal records management activities and adhering to the General Records Schedule for Local Government Agencies (2019) and applicable Program Schedules, there are some concrete steps you can take to preserve these historically valuable records:  

  • Identify new record types, websites, and social media accounts that have been developed specifically for COVID-19 State of Emergency functions. Use programs such as Archive-It and ArchiveSocial to capture your websites and social media accounts. 
  • Identify your Correspondence (Standard 1, Item 22)* related to the COVID-19 State of Emergency, and add it to your History Records (Standard 1, Item 32).*  There may be essential or nonessential employees whose email or correspondence rises to the level of historic because of the work they are doing to manage the local government agency’s COVID-19 response.  
  • Consider the other record types you have created in response to COVID-19. In this time of historical upheaval, counties should seek to broaden their collecting scope because some of the records we would normally label “routine” will be History Records (Agency and Employees) (Standard 1, Item 32).* Our appraisal team will be happy to assist in reviewing your COVID-related records to determine their historical value. Wsuggest paying particular attention to your record types related to the following functions: 
    • Agency Management: What memoranda, procedures, and other workaday records have you created specific to the COVID-19 State of Emergency? How has your office or agency coped internally with the unique problems COVID-19 has created? 
    • Asset Management: How has the COVID-19 State of Emergency affected facilities and inventory management? 
    • Education: Are there courses, assessments, or lesson plans that have changed, expanded, or been repurposed during the pandemic? 
    • Governance: Are you capturing the minutes of special sessions of advisory boards, commissions, or task forces? Has your local government agency made COVID-19-related appointments or created new internal governing or advisory bodies? 
    • Healthcare: Are you doing research or producing data on communicable disease treatment, outcomes, or management in light of COVID-19? 
    • Human Resources: What correspondence, memos, or training materials have you produced to keep your employees and the public safe? 
    • Legal: Are there COVID-19-related contracts, correspondence, legal opinions, or settlements that shed light on your local government agency’s response? 
    • Monitoring and Compliance: Have you provided assistance to other agencies or outside entities or individuals related to the COVID-19 pandemic? Have you created any special registries or permits? 
    • Public Relations: What brochures or pamphlets, educational or training materials, and external surveys have you created to communicate with the public? Are you receiving any Citizen Comments, Complaints, and Petitions (Standard 1, Item 17)* that seem worthy of archival preservation? 
    • Risk Management: Have you issued new alerts or created health and safety records as a result of the COVID-19 State of Emergency? 
  • Volunteer yourself or nominate a colleague for participation in our COVID-19 State of Emergency oral history program. In collaboration with the State Archives’ oral historian, we will be conducting oral history interviews with local government agency employees to document the personal experiences of workers dealing with the COVID-19 State of Emergency. Contact your Records Management Analyst for more information.   

Please contact your Records Management Analyst if you have questions. Please note that email is the best contact method during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. 

Records Management Analysts  https://archives.ncdcr.gov/government/records-management-services-and-training/local-records-services-and-training#directory 
All Staff  https://archives.ncdcr.gov/contact/staff-list 

* General Records Schedule for Local Government Agencies (2019) 

One thought on “COVID-19 and Local Government Agency Records 

  1. Pingback: COVID-19 archival collecting efforts, part 2 | Society of North Carolina Archivists

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