Filing Less Paper: Publications in State Agencies

In our “Organizing Your Digital and Paper Files” workshop for state government agencies, you learn that good file management begins with making sure some things that could be destroyed immediately — unnecessary copies, junk mail, etc. — never find their way into the filing cabinet. “File less paper” is a mantra we repeat often in our workshop.

Government Technology MagazinePublications may fall into this category. The General Schedule for State Agency Records lists 2 types of publications. Item G35 is the “Publications Received File,” which are “Records concerning external publications received by the agency.” These can be general purpose publications or trade journals necessary for staff to get their work done. These publications can be destroyed in office when reference value ends. You can discard them upon completion of circulation in your office or arrival of the next issue.

If you keep an internal library of these publications, consider their usage. If you keep issues from the last 10 years but only issues from the last 2 years are consulted, throw away the other 8 years. If the publication is not indexed, 10 years of a magazine with no index may not be used at all. If the publication has a website with free content, direct colleagues to the website instead.

Item G34 is the “Publications File” and governs publications produced by state agencies. Disposition instructions for these publications are very different. The State Library of North Carolina collects both printed and digital state publications in order to preserve these important records. The State Library also distributes copies to depository libraries, mostly at universities, in different regions of the state, so that our citizens have ready access. Digital state publications are made accessible in the online North Carolina State Government Publications Collection.

ImageThe disposition instructions for state agency publications direct that 10 copies of paper publications and 1 copy of digital publications be sent to the NC State Government Publications Clearinghouse, the section of the State Library that processes and distributes state agency publications. Librarian Denise Jones works with state agencies to collect their state publications.

After you distribute your publications to their intended audience and distribute the 10 copies with the Clearinghouse, you can destroy in office remaining copies and related records when their reference value ends.

In our state agency workshops, we emphasize the necessity of watching the “open road” to the file cabinets. There are many pieces of paper that clutter file cabinets that should not end up there in the first place. By managing both received and created publications, you can keep your files manageable and find what you need, when you need it.