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Developing Records Retention and Disposition Schedules

There are two basic groups of information required for a records retention and disposition schedule: (1) Program or Service information; and (2) Records Series Documentation.

Program or Service Information includes such things as:

  • Purpose or functions of department;
  • Brief history; and
  • Mandate or legal authority (where applicable).

 Records Series Documentation includes such things as:

  • Records series/titles/descriptions;
  • Date ranges of records series;
  • Media types;
  • Legal references (regulatory, statutory, etc., as applicable);
  • Closure criteria (dates that start or end retention periods);
  • Retention periods;
  • Concurrence conditions (conditions to check before disposal such as no outstanding litigation; once digitized scans have been verified, etc.); and
  • Final disposition (what to do once the records have outlived their usefulness).

Additionally, you cannot properly schedule the records of a program or service without understanding the business it is in. You should also research:

  • why the program or service was set up;
  • who are its primary users (clients or customers);
  • under what authority it was established;
  • who delivers the program or service (if not the department itself);
  • what it does;
  • how the service is delivered (on-line, counter, etc.);
  • what its goals and plans are;
  • what its interrelationships and partnerships are with other departments, 
  • organizations, etc.; and
  • in general terms initially, the types of records and information it creates, receives
  • and uses.

 Without this kind of research, the schedules you produce may not be accurate and effective.

In order to develop a functional records schedule one must analyze the departmental workflows. There are two ways to conduct this preliminary analysis: (1) records surveys; or (2) in-person interviews (or a combination of both approaches).

Records surveys may be used to gather initial information about the department’s records holdings. However, due to different terminologies and uneven records understandings the survey results will usually need to be greatly refined. The University Archivist and Records Manager can provide you with a sample survey, upon request.

Alternatively, one may conduct in-person interviews with staff to find out more about their workflows, functions, and records processes. These interviews need not be long and often can provide all the data needed for a first draft records schedule. Needless to say, subsequent vetting, fact-checking, and follow-ups must be undertaken to develop additional drafts.

The type of questions to ask in such interviews 

  • What are the functions of your office?
  • How is your office different from similar functions on campus?
  • What system(s) of record do you use?
  • How do you organize your email folders or other important records (e.g. categories, essential folder names, etc.)

Ensure that all staff needed to answer questions about the records are present with you during the interview.