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What does a Public Records Clerk do?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Images By: Dmitry Vereshchagin, .shock, Frédéric Bisson, Pressmaster
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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A public records clerk maintains the files and records of government or public agencies. She may be in charge of documents for a small local community or for a larger region or vicinity. In some positions, the clerk may also be responsible for recording new information that becomes part of the bureau’s database.

The responsibilities of this job vary depending upon the geographic location of the public records office. Public records are defined and organized differently in each country and jurisdiction. Some public organizations record and archive only personal information, such as birth and death certificates, marriage and civil union licenses and divorce decrees. Others concentrate on collecting information on the sales or transfer of land and real estate, zoning districts, public land usage and general demographics. In some cases, one agency may handle all public records.

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For many years, a public records clerk was generally required to collect and maintain hard copy files of all records and documents. In the 1980s, many records were transferred to microfiche to facilitate storage and access. About a decade later, computer hard disk storage replaced microfiche as the preferred system for storing and safeguarding public records. Based on these advances, the job of a public records clerk evolved. She is now commonly expected to have computer skills to record, access and disseminate information. In some cases, files on microfiche and paper are still in the process of being transferred to a computer database. This is ordinarily part of her job as well.

Since many public records are available online, a public records clerk is frequently required to assist people in accessing them. This often requires her to provide phone or e-mail support. In some cases, she is expected to collect fees for copies of documents requested online or by mail.

Although the term public records implies the information contained in them is readily available to the general public, that is not commonly the case. Rules governing which records are available to the general public vary by region. A public records clerk is typically expected to be knowledgeable of which records are available for public scrutiny and which ones can only be viewed by those with subpoenas or judgments permitting their release.

A position as a public records clerk normally requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Knowledge or experience in computer technology is frequently preferred. Good public relations skills are generally required, as well as a strong background in file and record maintenance. Job experience in customer relations or administrative support is required by some employers.

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