VMI Records Management FAQ
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Please contact the VMI Archives for assistance with records management.
We provide secure, on-site bulk shredding services for VMI offices
- What Are Public Records?
Virginia’s Public Records Act states that "Public record" or "record" means recorded information that documents a transaction or activity by or with any public officer, agency or employee of an agency. Regardless of physical form or characteristic, the recorded information is a public record if it is produced, collected, received or retained in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business. The medium upon which such information is recorded has no bearing on the determination of whether the recording is a public record.
- What are "Non-Records"?
Certain items are not considered records and may be disposed of without consulting the retention schedules. These include reference materials, routine informational mailings and announcements, and personal materials.
- But, I Don't Have Any Records!?
Every VMI office generates, receives, or uses records. Although you may not have records that are of long-term historical, legal, or fiscal value, they all must be managed according to Records Retention and Disposition Schedules approved by the Library of Virginia. Many records will be destroyed at the end of a specific retention period. Some offices create records that will be retained permanently in the VMI Archives.
- How Long Should I Keep Records?
It depends upon the content of the record. Required retention times for state agency records are specified in the Library of Virginia's Records Retention Schedules . Retention schedules are simply documents that list types of records (called series) and the length of time they must be retained. Many records have only short-term value and are destroyed at the end of their required retention period, or lifecycle. Identify the series of the records you wish to destroy and calculate if the records have met their retention period. Electronic records and other computer files are simply a physical format, not a "type" of record. Content, not format, determines retention. (See Email Question below). If you have questions about retention times, please contact the VMI Archives.
- How Do I Get Permission To Destroy Records Once They Have Met the Required Retention Period?
You must complete a Certificate of Records Destruction and have it signed by an administrator in your office, AND by the Head of Archives and Records Management. This form must be completed by you - and approval must be given by the VMI Archives and Records Management - before the records are destroyed. If you prefer, you may transfer records ready for disposal to the Archives and we will complete the form for your signature and handle the destruction process. Please call us or follow these instructions.
- What About Email and Other Electronic Records?
Email is only a format, and format does not determine retention requirements. It is the content of a record - not the physical format - that determines how long it must be retained. Email, pdfs, and other electronic files are no different than paper documents, and must be retained for the same length of time as is required for their paper counterparts. For example, if a particular category of correspondence must be retained for 5 years, the same retention period applies whether it is an email, a paper document, or a pdf. On the other hand, routine informational announcements and other "non-record" material can be discarded right away. Just as with paper documents that reside in office file cabinets, individuals are responsible for managing their electronic records according to the provisions in the Public Records Act and state retention schedules. The most useful retention schedule for many electronic records is GS101, Administrative Records. See also this additional information from the Library of Virginia.
- I Need to Shred Records - Can You Help?
Yes! The Archives provides secure, bulk on-site shredding through a commercial service. If you have records ready for shredding, please contact us and we will give you instructions for transferring the material to the Archives. There is no need to devote valuable staff time to shredding.
- Does the Archives Provide Storage for Non-Permanent Records?
If your records are inactive (i.e., not required for office operations), but awaiting the end of the required retention period, we can hold them in the secure Archives stacks until the disposal date has been reached. Do not transfer records that require access for the ongoing operation of your office. Please contact us if you have records in this category.
- What About Historically Significant and Other Permanent Records?
Records of permanent historical, legal, or administrative value should be transferred to the VMI Archives for permanent retention and cataloging after they become "inactive" (i.e., are no longer needed in your office during the course of business). The Archives staff will review all records transfers to determine their retention status. If in doubt, please send us the records. Please Note: Although some of the state's Records Retention Schedules mention transferring files to the Library of Virginia, this does NOT apply to institutions with on-site Archives as is the case at VMI and most other Virginia colleges and universities. VMI's permanent records are housed in the VMI Archives, and records questions should be directed to the Archives staff.