Records Management Essentials

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3.2. Understand the general retention schedules and your agency's series-specific retention schedules

Records officers sometimes wonder who has the authority to decide how long government agencies must keep their records. The Records Management Committee (RMC) has the responsibility to “review and determine whether to approve each schedule for the retention and disposal of records” generated by state and local governmental entities (Utah Code 63A-12-113). RIM specialists at the State Archives work with agency records officers to develop and update retention schedules. RIM specialists solicit feedback from the agencies involved and present the schedules to the Records Management Committee (RMC) for approval. Once a schedule has been approved, it is considered active, and supersedes all previous versions of that schedule. Records being managed according to these schedules must align with the current general schedule description, regardless of their creation date.

RIM specialists at the State Archives are currently updating the general retention schedules and as part of the process are moving county, municipal, and school district schedules to a unified general retention schedule aligned by function, thereby expanding the audience that can use them. All proposed general retention schedule changes are emailed to those most affected by the change and are posted on the State Archives’ website ( and blog ( prior to being submitted to the RMC. The State Archives requests input from records officers and other stakeholders. Stakeholders are those who hold a vested interest in the outcome, and include agencies that create and maintain the records, state legal counsel, the State Archives, and members of the general public. One of the goals of retention schedules is to make it easier for agencies to establish and sustain a records management program, to protect their agency, and to provide transparency. For this reason, feedback from records officers is invaluable.

As discussed in Section 3.1, it is important to read the general retention schedule description and verify that it accurately describes the records that you are managing. It is a common mistake to only read the titles or to think too narrowly when trying to ascertain if there is an applicable general schedule. Thinking of a broader categorization for the record needing to be scheduled can garner better results. Descriptions can also clarify what record types are not included in a general schedule. Returning to the example used in Section 3.1, open meetings have two general retention schedules: one for meeting minutes and one for meeting recordings.

Open Meetings

A study of these general retention schedules indicates that agendas and any public materials handed out at the meeting should be kept permanently with the meeting minutes; however, the audio or video recording of the public meeting should not be. The recordings are scheduled differently and can be destroyed after three years, provided that the official written minutes derived from the recordings have been approved by the public body and are being kept permanently.

Open Meeting retention

Government records that are not depicted on any general schedule, or for which an agency needs to have a retention period approved that is different than that provided in the general schedule, must have series-specific retention schedules. Once series-specific retention schedules are approved by the Records Management Committee, they carry the same mandate for compliance that the general retention schedules do. Records that are stored at the State Records Center, reformatted via the micrographics department, or that have a preservation copy stored at the State Archives need a record series number in order to be tracked during those processes. In those cases, series-specific retention schedules are created in order to provide a record series number for records that will interact in some way with the Division of Archives and Records Service. Series-specific schedules can also be created for an agency’s own records management purposes, such as to report a classification designation or to identify associated management plans. If the series-specific schedule follows the retention of a general retention schedule, then it does not need to be approved by the Records Management Committee; instead it is associated with (or ‘linked to’) the already-approved general schedule.

Series-specific retention schedules can be viewed as an HTML file or as a PDF file, which have a slightly different look to them. Let’s look closely at an HTML file of a series-specific schedule that is linked to a general retention schedule, and at a PDF report of a series-specific schedule that is unique and was therefore approved by the Records Management Committee.

HTML (webpage) format. Hover over each element to view the description.

Below is a PDF report for series 7192. It contains the same elements, but is not associated with a general schedule; therefore, the retention and disposition were specifically approved by the Records Management Committee.

Let’s review the important components.

AGENCY: Series-specific retention schedules belong to a single agency and apply only to the records generated or retained by that agency. Notice that the agency’s hierarchy is included. This series belongs to the Division of Administrative Rules, which is managed underneath the Department of Administrative Services.

SERIES: Each series-specific schedule is assigned a series number by the State Archives. The series number is a unique identifier for a record series.

TITLE: The series title should be meaningful and precise, and should not include jargon or unexplained acronyms. It should provide a basic understanding of the record type and should be as clear to a member of the general public as it is to those who work with the records.

DATES: The dates reflect the years in which the records were created by the agency. Usually the beginning date is the year in which the agency was created, but it may be later if the records relate to a new program or initiative. If the agency no longer creates the record, the series has an end date and a period.

DESCRIPTION: The description should identify the records in a summary that is understandable to someone who is unfamiliar with the records and their function. The description should answer such questions as: a) What government functions do the records document? b) How are the records used? c) What information is contained in them?

RETENTION: Retention refers to the amount of time that records must be maintained in the custody of a governmental entity, whether in their actual office or at an off-site location such as the State Records Center. Retention for this series is 2 years.

DISPOSITION: Disposition is what happens to a record after the retention is met and may be one of two options: destroy or never destroy. If the record is never to be destroyed, it is usually transferred to the State Archives to be retained permanently. Disposition for this series is never destroy: transfer to the State Archives.

RETENTION AND DISPOSITION AUTHORIZATION: Retention and disposition authorization explains whether the series is using a general retention schedule or whether its retention and disposition were approved by the Records Management Committee (RMC). This series-specific schedule was approved by the RMC in September of 1989.

FORMAT MANAGEMENT: Format management details a plan for how to manage the various media formats in which the record may be created or maintained, particularly those that are being stored at the Records Center or sent to the State Archives. This series has many media formats, stored both in office and at the State Archives.

APPRAISAL: Appraisal of records refers to assigning value to records and is used when determining the appropriate retention and disposition for the records. The four appraisal values are: administrative, fiscal, legal, and historical. Records may have more than one value; this series has three. Records that only have value that is administrative, fiscal, or legal will be destroyed once that function has been satisfied, but records which also have historical value are kept permanently.

CLASSIFICATION: GRAMA requires a governmental entity to evaluate all of its records, designate classifications for each record series, and report these designations to the State Archives (Utah Code 63G-2-307(1)). The State Archives interprets this to mean that a designation must be included for each record series that is reported to the Archives, or, in other words, for every series that has been identified with a series number. Primary classification indicates how most of the records would be classified; secondary classification indicates possible classifications for the exceptions. Legal citations, usually referencing GRAMA law, should be included for any classification other than public.