Record retention schedules are a set of policies and procedures that identify and describe an organizations records and how they are handled.
Retention periods are determined by record value -- what function the records serve. In turn, records value is determined by the records content and use.
Refer to the section below on functional classification for details.
Record Series are document types that are kept together as a unit:
Record Series are also known as Records Disposition Authorizations or RDA’s.
In general, records series are arranged under a manual or automated filing system, or are kept together as a unit, because they relate to a particular subject, result from the same activity, or have a particular form.
Record Schedules need to be renewed, closed or superseded. The process for renewing Record Schedules is the same as for creating new record series.
The University Archivist will contact Departments with record schedules which have “sunset” to create, update, renew or close their schedules.
Classification of Records
Records value is determined by the records content and use. In general, records can have administrative/operational, financial/legal, or historical/archival value.
Administrative or operational value relates to the need to keep records to conduct the operations, programs or services of an organization.
You can best assess the administrative value of records from discussions with the staff who use them. Determine how long the records are kept currently, what the business rules of closure are, how active the records are after closure and for what purpose the records are being used when active and inactive.
Certain University records must be retained to protect the legal, property and other rights of the University or individuals. Records with legal value document business transactions, provide proof of regulatory compliance or provide evidence that may be necessary in the event of court action.
Examples of documents with legal value include contracts, agreements, land titles which convey property rights, fixed asset documentation, etc.
Consult with legal advisors as part of your assessment of the legal value of records. However, do not expect legal staff to be aware of all of the legislative requirements related to records. In order for the legal advisor to provide you with meaningful advice, you must have completed as much of the legislative research as possible yourself prior to discussions with legal staff.
Records having financial value relate to all financial transactions the department is involved with. These may include budget records, expenditure files, accounting records, etc. Financial records are retained to demonstrate how money was obtained, distributed, controlled and spent. Financial records provide evidence to support this accountability.
Most financial records are subject to an audit. Normally audits take place less than 18 months after the end of a fiscal year but they are sometimes delayed. Also, records are often subject to management audits resulting from directives or internal policies that require a review of how well certain activities are managed. For example, the licensing or monitoring of businesses is often subject to management audits. So, the financial value of records goes beyond documenting transactions. It also involves ensuring that all of the records that auditors require to complete financial and management audits are available when needed.
Assessing Financial Value
Review each of the records series you have identified and determine what financial implications the series has. Records with financial implications include: records which document the collection, distribution, control or expenditure of funds; and records subject to any form of financial or management audit.
Assessing Financial Value
Financial and legal values sometimes overlap. For example, the length of time financial records must be kept is often specified in legislation. Legislation also specifies the limitation period for many external audits.
Consultation and Review with Financial Officers
To properly assess the financial implications of records, you need to consult with financial officers. Financial officers will provide further insight into the need to retain various classes of financial records, the relationships between them and the audit value of various records series.
To identify archival records, the archivist looks at records to determine their evidential and informational value. To properly assess the value of records, you need to discuss it with the University Archivist. The archivist will provide further insight into the values discussed below and the relationships among various types of records. Preliminary contact will also give the archivist some understanding of the kinds of records series involved and the complexity of the schedule itself.
Records have evidential value when they document the evolution of the organizational structure, programs, policies, procedures, decisions and functions of the university.
Records with evidential value include those records of long term administrative, financial, or legal value for the department because these records serve as evidence of its organization, functions, and operations.
Records contain evidential values when they show what the department’s responsibilities were and how it carried them out. Records with evidential value show organizational structure, policies that were followed and the reason these policies were developed. Because these types of records are concerned with policies and procedures, usually records created by the senior management of the organization are of more value than those created by offices lower down in the organizational structure. However, this does depend on the department, delegation of authority, reporting and records systems. Records created at the operating level usually are not related to the development of policy, but are usually routine records, routine correspondence or case files. Case files can be archival records if they possess evidential or informational value.
Informational value relates to the information records may contain on persons, places, events, problems, subjects, and conditions that the department dealt with. This value is concerned solely with information contained in the records, not with the source (e.g. the department which created the information).
All records contain information, so the archivist looks at different criteria to establish the informational value of records.
Uniqueness of the record
Can the same information be found elsewhere in as useable a form?
This concerns the degree to which information is concentrated within the record and the use of and ease of access to the information.
Does the information cover a long enough time period so that future historical research could be undertaken on the records?
Sparseness of data/age of records
If a policy or regulation refers to retention requirements for records in this series or states specifically what records must be created and maintained then cite the relevant sections of the statute or regulation. Otherwise, the best rationale is typically “Good Practice”, “International Standard”, etc.
As an example, international personal information legislation typically stipulates a minimum period for retaining personal information (e.g., one year after decision or last date). The reason is so that individuals may have a standard period of time in which they may ask informed questions about how their personal information is used. Such retention periods set the minimum period but this is not the same as an organization retention period which must meet this but may exceed it to satisfy business requirements.
Disposition is what happens to the records after it has met its retention period. This is the event which triggers the disposition.
There should be a University commitment to the records scheduling process. Retaining everything is not good records management practice:
There should be good, well-considered reasons why your office would retain records past their final disposition date. Record destruction should be completed in a consistent manner in Normal Course of Business.
The Exception: Record Schedules are suspended and held for Litigation & Discovery and Audit until completed.
All University Employees are Records Managers:
A Department Destruction Log is highly Recommended as a best practice to be in compliance with destruction of records. It demonstrates that records were destroyed with in the normal course of business.
Employees, supervisors and managers have a responsibility to ensure that records are transferred before the employee leaves.