State Agencies – Which schedule should I use?

When I receive a call from a state agency asking when (and if) records can be destroyed or transferred to the State Records Center, the first question I typically ask is, “what sort of records are they?”  For state agencies, this information is not only useful to find the record on a records retention schedule–it’s also useful to figure out which records retention schedule to use.

(If you work for a local government agency and want to know more about locating your records retention schedule, watch this space!  I’ll have a companion piece out in about a week.)

Under our current system, state agencies have two records retention schedules to reference when determining retention periods within an office: the General Schedule, and program records schedules.  Splitting the schedules up this way has allowed us to establish consistent retention periods for certain records across State government, and update them when statutes and regulations governing the records series change.

The General Schedule for State Agency Records covers records that are created, not as part of a particular office’s duties or powers, but simply by virtue of the fact that the office is conducting public business as an arm of State government.  Personnel records, financial records, information technology records, and office administrative records all exist, in some form, in each state agency, regardless of what that agency’s purpose is.  Consequently, the Government Records Section can set general retention periods for these records across State government, with feedback from other key stakeholders such as the Department of Information Technology and the Office of State Budget and Management.  If the record you’re looking for support the general operations of your office, check the General Schedule first.

By contrast, program records retention schedules cover records that are specifically related to an agency’s or office’s role.  Currently, program records schedules are set up by agency organizational structure, with each department, division, section, or sometimes unit having its own schedule.  You can navigate this website to find a program records schedule based on this structure.  However, government agencies are reorganized frequently, and functions that were once carried out by one office can be moved to another.  Other times agencies and their subdivisions are simply renamed.  Consequently, it is often easier to obtain a copy of your program records schedule by contacting the records management analyst for your agency.  We can research all our retention schedules for you and make sure you have the most complete set of information.

Over the course of the next year and a half, the Government Records Section will be working with key stakeholders from each state agency to convert our scheduling process to a functional approach.  Functional schedules move away from a focus on agency organizational structure, and instead, schedule records based on what roles they perform within your agency.  Records created in the course of carrying out one of an agency’s statutorily mandated duties, or core functions, will be scheduled together, regardless of which office or offices are carrying out that duty.  This approach will streamline records retention for the agency, and give records custodians more time and resources to focus on records with long-term value.  During the last phases of the 18-month process, the Government Records Section will work with agencies to manage the transition to functional schedules, including meetings where we will discuss crosswalks between the current records retention schedules and the new, functional schedules.

For additional information on the functional schedule initiative, see our new introductory video.

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