Division of Archives and Records Service

Retention Talk – A Few Thoughts about Utah General Schedules.

Joseph Sharp
November 21, 2011

When it comes time to schedule records with the Utah State Archives and Records Service there may be some confusion about general retention schedules.

What are general schedules? What purpose do they serve? How do I use a general schedule?

ARMA International defines a retention schedule as: “A comprehensive list of records series, indicating for each the length of time it is to be maintained and its disposition.”[1] A simple explanation of a general retention schedule is that it provides a broad description of a group of records and then gives a time limit for how long these records ought to be maintained. Some records may have a retention period of only a few days or weeks, while others might require that records be kept permanently. It depends on the record. The Utah General Schedules are a tool designed to help governmental entities know how long they are responsible for the records that they create and their proper disposition.

Does this mean if a general schedule requires that a record be kept for four years it must be kept for only four years? No. In Utah, records are only required to be kept for as long as the general schedule demands. This means that an entity may keep a record longer than required by the general schedule. In Utah general schedules are a minimum requirement for records retention. However, if an entity is keeping records significantly longer than required by a general schedule, following best practice, the series ought to be scheduled individually to more accurately reflect the actual retention of the series.

It is worth briefly mentioning that, internationally, some records containing personal information do have a maximum legal retention. While, the federal government and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) mandate that records are destroyed once they meet their retention (CFR Sub-Chapter B, Section 1225.16 a).

How does the Utah State Archives decide on the length of time a record must be kept?

There are essentially four considerations that go into determining the length of time a record is maintained. First, are there any legal requirements that a record be kept for a certain amount of time? Second, how long does the entity that created the record need it? Third, what is best practice? How long are records of a certain type typically kept? Are there any industry standards? Finally, does the record have any long-term historical value? The Archives weighs the above considerations when developing its general retention schedules in order to ensure that records are kept for as long as they are administratively, fiscally, legally, or historically needed.

[1] ARMA International, “Glossary of Records and Information Management Terms”, December 2005,