VMI Records Management FAQ
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Please contact the VMI Archives for assistance with records management.
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General Records Management
- What Are Public Records?
A public record is 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. 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.
- Employee Responsibility for 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 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.
- What are "non-records"?
Public records shall not include materials made or acquired and kept solely for reference or exhibition purposes, copies of records kept only for convenience or reference, and stocks of publications. These are considered “non-records.” (Code of Virginia § 42.1-77)
- 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. GS 111 is the General Schedule for college and university records.
- 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.
- My office is running out of filing space. Can I temporarily store material in Archives?
Our space is designed to hold permanent, archival records. In your situation, you should evaluate the records using the retention schedules and complete a certificate of records destruction for the material that has met retention requirements. Some offices have a backlog of non-current/inactive files whose retention requirements have expired. When these records are properly destroyed using the records management procedures, a significant amount of file space can be gained. However, inactive records that are of permanent value should be transferred to the Archives.
- 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. If in doubt, please send us the 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 Long Should I 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.
- How Do I Get Permission To Destroy Records Once They Have Met the Required Retention Period?
Please follow these instructions.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.
- I Need to Shred Records - Can You Help?
The Archives provides secure, bulk on-site shredding through a commercial service. If you have records that require shredding and they are ready for destruction, please follow these instructions for transferring the material to the Archives. There is no need to devote valuable staff time to shredding.
Email and Electronic Records Management
- How Long Should I Keep Email and Other Electronic Records?
Retention requirements are based on the content of the record, not the format. Email is just as much a record as any traditional paper record and must be treated in the same way. It is the content of each message that is important. If a particular message 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. See also this additional information from the Library of Virginia and these Email Retention Tips
- Do I have to print an email to file it for the specified retention period?
No, 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 plan to 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?
All records are listed on the same 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.