Archival Records: A Compromise

As a state agency records analyst, I will oftentimes meet with representatives of other agencies to assist them in updating or amending their records retention schedules.  Last summer, I had one of these meetings with an individual who expressed a desire to mark as “archival” several of the records series generated by his office.  “Archival” records are classified as those records whose importance or usefulness justifies permanent preservation because of enduring administrative, legal, fiscal, or evidential information they contain.  Typically, only about 3 to 5% of an agency’s records will be classified as archival.  In this particular case, myself and others involved in the schedule review process did not believe that some of these records were archival in nature.

Another meeting was scheduled with this individual where we gleaned more information concerning some of the records series in question.  After this was accomplished, we proposed a solution:  The office will hold the records in question “in office” for ten years and then transfer them to the State Records Center, where we will then hold them for an additional twenty years before destroying them.  Therefore, the records series’ long term value is “tested”, so to speak, by keeping it in the State Records Center for an extended period of time.  If these records are still periodically accessed or needed by the office at the end of their retention period we can then opt to change the disposition to reflect them as archival records.  If not, we will follow through with destruction as indicated in the disposition instructions.  Thirty years is a good guideline to use when determining future value of records; reason being that in thirty years most, if not all, of the current employees of the office will have left, leaving a new staff with possibly new opinions or thoughts on the value of the records in question.  This allows all of the interested parties time to determine whether these records continue to retain their evidentiary value over time.

The purpose of my sharing this with you is that we are not “records police”; we do not lay down laws for records retention and force you to follow it without hearing your say on the matter.  We are more than willing and able to come to agreements and compromises that will be beneficial to both parties and lead to expedient and painless updates to your records retention schedules.