Records Management Essentials

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3.4. Distribute applicable retention schedules to staff; garner and document staff feedback

One effective strategy for inventorying records and reviewing schedules is to distribute the schedules for feedback to those who create or maintain the applicable records, such as program managers or administrative assistants. Ask questions about the business processes and functions that they carry out and gather their feedback about the scheduled retention, organization, reformatting, storage, and disposition of the records that they generate or manage. If records are created in, or converted into, multiple media formats, then all formats need to be accounted for. If members of your agency’s staff believe that a record should be kept for a shorter or longer period of time than it is scheduled for, find out why. Has there been a change to a law affecting that record? Has the agency’s administrative need for the record changed because of an update to policies or procedures? Is there more or less research value to the records than previously thought?

Document the feedback that you receive and compare it to the information contained in the retention schedules. Using the inventory and feedback, note any discrepancies between the actual records and their current maintenance processes versus the records and processes described in the retention schedules. When you identify differences, try to find the causes—whether it is the result of outdated schedules or of changes to your agency’s business functions—and look for records that have not yet been scheduled. Decide what changes need to be made to your agency’s series-specific retention schedules, which schedules apply to records that are no longer created (and can therefore be closed), and what new series-specific retention schedules are needed. When you have this information, you are ready to make plans and to update your agency’s retention schedules.