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Developing Records Retention and Disposition Schedules

Records Management Terminology

A record is typically defined as "any information contained in any physical medium which is capable of preserving such" but this is not the same thing as an official business record. Official records are more typically defined by how they relate to the core activities of a business.
At KAUST, a University record is recorded information created or received by University employees undertaking University business and maintained as evidence of that activity. These official records exist in different formats (such as paper, digital, or audiovisual form) and provide proof of what happened, when it happened, or who made decisions. In other words, a University record may certify a transaction, become a receipt, set policy, or establish guidelines or procedure. Such records need to be maintained according to the University’s records retention and disposition schedules.
In contrast, a non-record is recorded information that is incidental to operations and of temporary value (e.g., duplicate copies of correspondence, duplicate copies of records used for short term reference purposes, blank forms, and transitory messages used primarily for the informal communication of information, etc.). Non-records should only be retained for as long as they are needed operationally.
If you answer “YES” to any of these questions, you have a university record*:

  • Was the record created in the course of University business?
  • Was the record received for action?
  • Does the record document University activity?
  • Is the record mandated by statute or regulation?
  • Does the record support financial obligations or legal claims?
  • Does the record communicate organizational requirements?

*Applies to all formats and media 

A records series is a grouping of records that all serve the same function and are all kept the same length of time. Normally used and filed as a unit and that can be evaluated as a unit for scheduling purposes.

Case records are records that contain information relating to a specific action, event, person, place or project, with a specific beginning and ending date. The documentation in each file in a case records series is usually similar. The title of each file will vary. Some examples of case records series are:
  • employee files;
  • contract files; and
  • expense claim files.
There are many others. Each individual case records series you identify should be listed as a distinct records series.

Subject or function records are records that contain information relating to specific or general topics and that are arranged according to their informational content or by the function/activity/transaction to which they pertain. The purpose of these records is to bring together records and information on the same topic or function in order to facilitate information retrieval.

In order to assign a retention period to a records series, you must know whether the records series is the official version or a copy. Both official and copies are records and must be designated on the schedule. The records values assigned to the official version of a records series are usually much greater than those assigned to copies. The term "duplicate", by contrast, refers to individual documents which are usually transitory records.
The official version of a records series is the main or most complete version and is held by the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR). The official version will be retained for the longest retention period. The term official does not mean the same thing as original. Whether or not a document is the original version is often not relevant in a modern office setting. An exception would be situations where original signatures are important.
A copy is a secondary version of a records series that is kept by a different program or service or within the same program or service for a different purpose than the official. Copies will often be organized differently and kept in a different format than the official. You will treat copies as records but you will usually assign shorter retention periods to them. The final disposition of copies will usually be destroy.
A duplicate of a document is a version created from the original or official that has no substantive additions, changes or deletions and that has not been stored in a filing system or a directory structure. Duplicates usually are transitory records.

Any University record necessary to the resumption or continuation of its operations in an emergency or disaster, to the re-creation of the legal and financial status of the university, or the protection and fulfillment of obligations to its members.

The minimum time that must pass after the creation, recording or receipt of a record, or the fulfillment of certain actions associated with a record, before it is eligible for disposition (whether destruction or permanent archiving).

The records lifecycle consists of three stages:

  • creation or receipt of the record;
  • maintenance and use of the record; and
  • and disposition of the record.

See this summary for further details.