SPR Bulletin 03-92

TO: Public Records Custodians
SUBJECT: Maintenance of Records Storage Areas
EXPIRATION DATE: Until superseded
PURPOSE: This bulletin provides guidance and requirements for records handling practices and maintenance of dedicated records storage areas.

Paper, magnetic media, photographic film, and other records are subject to continual change and decay. The rate of change is determined by the environment in which they are housed. Environmental characteristics such as light, temperature, humidity and air quality influence the condition and overall longevity of records and the information they contain. Handling, the human aspect of the environment, has a powerful impact on the longevity of records. When careless retrieval or refiling practices result in torn, crumpled or folded pages, paper fibers are broken, making tears more likely in the future. Magnetic media requires thoughtful handling or data loss will result. Smoking, eating, and drinking are equally as hazardous to records.

Dedicated records storage fulfills a unique function in office areas; the purpose of such storage is the protection and preservation of public records. By its nature, this function is compromised by eating, drinking, smoking, and related activities which expose records to fire, smoke, grease, oil, dirt, and other hazards.

The Supervisor of Public Records oversees the preservation of public records. See G.L. c. 66, §1 (the Supervisorís responsibility to secure the preservation of the records of the commonwealth, counties, cities or towns). Public officials are responsible for the safekeeping of the records in their custody. See G.L. c.66, §11. Therefore, the supervisor charges public officials to provide proper handling and care of public records.

1. The use of smoking materials and the consumption of foods and beverages in dedicated records storage areas is prohibited.

2. Dedicated records storage areas should be kept clean and free of environmental hazards to records. In the case of storage areas shared by multiple offices, the executive officer should appoint an individual to monitor conditions, report and correct violations.

3. All persons should refrain from smoking and consumption of foodstuffs when handling records.

4. Officials should take reasonable care in referencing, retrieving, and refiling records so that the physical composition of the record, and the information it contains, is not damaged.

5. When planning the construction or refurbishment of a dedicated records storage area, officials should consult Specifications for Safes and Vaults, available from this office. Specifications describe requirements for the construction of vaults; temperature and humidity levels to be maintained in them; sprinkler, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to be used; appropriate storage equipment; and related matters.

6. For more information about control of the environment, and its affect on record materials, officials can refer to the Municipal Records Retention Manual issued for their jurisdiction, also available from this office.

Questions regarding access to public records should be directed to:

Public Records Division
1 Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
Phone 617-727-2832
Fax 617-727-5914
Email pre@sec.state.ma.us

Questions regarding this bulletin should be directed to:

Records Management Unit
Massachusetts State Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Phone 617-727-2816
Fax 617-288-8429
Email recman@sec.state.ma.us