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
General Records Management
- What are public records?
The Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia §42.1-77.) defines public records: " "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." § 42.1-78. Confidentiality safeguarded. "Any records made confidential by law shall be so treated. Records which by law are required to be closed to the public shall not be deemed to be made open to the public under the provisions of this chapter."
- VMI is a state agency, and its offices and departments are obligated to follow the requirements of the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia, Chapter 7) for retention and disposition of records. See this Records Decision Tree from the Library of Virginia
- Employee responsibility for records
Every VMI office generates, receives, or uses records. Although you may not have records that are of long-term archival value, they all must be managed according to the state's Records Retention and Disposition Schedules approved by the Library of Virginia. Most records will be destroyed at the end of a specific retention period. However, some offices create records that will be retained permanently in the VMI Archives. VMI's official policy concerning records management is stated in General Order 21.
- Do you offer training?
We provide in-person consultation and individual training upon request. The Library of Virginia has issued a number of useful training videos. See our training page for further information and links.
Retention of Records/Records Schedules
- How long do I have to keep records?
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. Records are destroyed at the end of their required retention period, or lifecycle. 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. Once your records are eligible for disposal, you must follow the procedures for records destruction.
- What is a Retention Schedule?
Records retention schedules list record series (types of records) held by many or most offices instructing the office how long to keep the records in accordance with the Virginia Public Records Act. These schedules are maintained by the Library of Virginia and are known as General Schedules. They are divided into broad categories including administrative records, college and university records, fiscal records, personnel records, and others.
- What is a Records Series?
A records series is a group of related records (in any format) held by an organization. A records series usually includes multiple documents or forms that have a relationship and should be retained for a similar length of time.
- What if I have records not listed on a schedule?
The approved retention schedules contain both broad and specific categories and cover all commonly created records. If you cannot locate a records series (type of records) in the Library of Virginia approved Records Retention and Disposition Schedules, please contact the VMI Archives for assistance. We will either direct you to the correct records series, or consult with the state records management office on your behalf.
- Can I temporarily store material in Archives until it is ready for disposal?
We are not able to provide storage for records that will be destroyed at the end of their required retention period. Our space is designed to hold and preserve records that are designated as permanent/archival. If you do have inactive records that are of permanent historical value, these may be transferred to the Archives.
- What is a "reference copy"?
A reference copy is usually a record that your office has for its own use and is not the original or official copy for the Institute. As an example, many academic departments maintain copies of student records (transcripts, etc.); however, the official record keeper for these records is the Registrar. Since the academic department needs these records for their own use - or reference use - they are called "reference copies." Reference copies have different retention periods based upon their designation as a reference copy and may not require the completion of an RM3 form requesting approval for destruction.
- What about historically significant and other permanent records?
Some offices create records of permanent historical, legal, or administrative value. They should be transferred to the VMI Archives for preservation 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 verify their retention status. Consult with the Archives staff if you believe you have historically significant or other permanent records. Please do not place retired permanent records in off-site storage, closets etc., as they may be damaged or lost. Note: Some retention schedules refer to transferring records to the Library of Virginia Archives. This is not done at VMI and most other state colleges/universities with institutional Archives on-site. Such records should be sent to the VMI Archives for preservation.
Destruction of Records
- How do I get approval for destroying records once they have met the required retention period?
Please follow these instructions. You must complete a Certificate of Records Destruction (RM3) form and have it signed by an administrator in your office, and by the Head of Archives and Records Management. Destruction of records must be documented on a properly completed RM3.
- I need to shred confidential records- can you help?
Yes. The Archives provides secure, bulk on-site shredding through a commercial service. This service is only for records that require confidential destruction. If you have records that require shredding and they are ready for destruction (the retention period has been met), please follow these instructions for transferring the material to the Archives for confidential shredding.
Email and Electronic Records Management
See also these Email Management Tips from the Library of Virginia.
- How long should I keep email and other electronic records?
Retention requirements are based on the content of the record, not the format. Electronic records use the same retention schedules as paper records. If a particular electronic document would have been filed as a paper memo, it should still be filed (either in your email program or in your directory structure), and it should be retained the same length of time as its paper counterpart. It is inappropriate to destroy email simply because storage limits have been reached. Review the Records Retention and Disposition Schedules for the records series that applies to the content of the email and follow the retention instructions. Email is most often classified as correspondence, which is covered in the Records Retention Schedule GS-101.
- Email Retention Quick Reference (courtesy UVA Records Management)
Evaluate your e-mail(s) and determine whether they meet the legal definition of a record. If so, retain it in accordance with the type of record (the content of the e-mail) as listed in the Library of Virginia Records Retention and Disposition Schedules.
FILE IT - Issues policy - states decisions - outlines procedures - shows action - gives guidance - you're not sure
TOSS IT - Junk mail - Confirms appointments -Personal messages -Reference copies - Broadcast messages -Transmits documents without comment
- Do I have to print an email to file it for the specified retention period?
Email can be retained in electronic format for the entire length of its retention; however, you must be able to access the email during that entire retention period.
- Do I have to keep the electronic version of a record and a paper version?
You may destroy one format of the records (either paper or electronic) if you retain the other for the retention periods listed in the schedule. You must be able to access the electronic record for the entire retention period. Records that your office holds in both electronic and paper formats, which are exact duplicates, should both be destroyed once they have met the retention periods in the Records Retention Schedules.
- Computer storage is cheap. I’ll just keep my computer records.
Electronic records should not be held beyond their approved retention periods. The best practice is to destroy all records that have met their retention requirements at the same time, regardless of format. Maintaining electronic records beyond their approved retention periods can be used to show lack of compliance with state laws and regulations in a legal or an audit proceeding.
- Is there a special form for documenting the destruction of electronic records?
No. All records are listed on the same certificate of records destruction form, regardless of format. This example shows both paper and electronic records. Review the Records Retention Schedules and follow the usual instructions for destroying records.
- We have an imaging system. Do we have to keep the paper?
No, however, records with retention of more than 5 years from creation and records which document financial, contractual or legal actions should be maintained in a "trustworthy” digital system. A "trustworthy" system is one that can prove that the digital copy is an exact duplicate of the original paper throughout its lifecycle. A digital copy (scanned image) can replace the original if held in a "trustworthy" digital system. Paper records with a retention of permanent or with instructions to transfer to the Archives should not be destroyed after imaging before consulting with the VMI Archives