I agree with Preston completely.  A lot of people, even some in our profession, do not understand that state requirements, like requirements from federal regulatory agencies, specify how long certain records must be retained.  That is NOT a retention schedule, it is merely published requirements.  Every organization should create their own retention policy schedules.  Have them reviewed and approved by the key stakeholders; record owners, internal audit, finance, legal, and archives.  That will cover bases for all the retention values of administrative, fiscal, regulatory, legal, and historic.  The retention should be the longest of those values.  State requirements will be one of the possible factors in the regulatory value.

Retention policies for one company are of no use for another company..., because the retention values will be different.

It is not complex.  Yet, every month there are a couple of postings on the listserv asking how long to keep some record or another.  I do not care how long Duke Energy must retain underground storage tank inventory system data, as an example.  It is not applicable to the City of Reno.  Any EPA regs specifying a certain length of time may also apply to the City of Reno.  That is a regulatory value, to be researched and applied just the same as the other retention values.

Our profession continues to have new folks coming in all the time.  I encourage information management-related professional associations such as ARMA, NIRMA, AIIM, PRISM, RMAA, FIRM, SNIPS, etc. to continue to offer basic "RIM 101" and "Basics Of Retention Policy Development" at its conferences and chapter meetings.

Best regards, Steve
Steven D. Whitaker, CRM
Records Systems Manager, City of Reno

>>> Preston Huff <[log in to unmask]> 03/14/02 07:43AM >>>
I just have to jump in on this one.

The brand of records management that I preach is to clearly identify on the
records retention and disposition schedule what actions should take place
with a given records series.  This includes the disposition of the record.
It should NOT be a minimum period to retain the records, otherwise agencies
and localities will virtually ignore the schedule and keep the records
however long they feel like it.  In fact they would often be inclined to
convert "expired" records to another format at great cost: seek offsite
storage solutions; give them to the local historical society (even if they
are not all that historical); build their own in-house mini-storage
facility; or seek grants to help them "manage" such records.  In my many
years ;-) in records management / archives, I've frequently visited with
agencies and localities that had "records problems" - only to find that they
had not been following the existing retention schedules (general or
agency-specific).  Often this was because of a local official who balked at
following such schedules because "you never know who is going to want

The key to having good schedules that you can get officials to follow is to:

1). First -  You MUST have clear authority such as a law, policy, letter of
support from the CEO, etc. to develop / maintain retention schedules.

2). Conduct good records surveys or inventories.  This is basic data
collection and is an opportunity to get good input from owners - including
their recommendations.  Then look at legal requirements, business processes,
etc. analyze and appraise the data.  Roll that information over into a
proposed retention schedule.

3). Negotiate the retention and disposition schedule.  Need input from the
owners (again) and a reviewing group, committee, etc.  "Cover all the bases
- audit, legal, history, etc.

4). Training - you must train the people in the offices as to the value of
the retention schedule and how to implement it.  This is critical.

5). Document the implementation of the schedule.  Show that you are
implementing the schedule in the normal course of business - not because the
newspaper is asking questions or because you are suddenly in a legal
dispute.  Some records programs also rely upon compliance reviews and audits
to determine compliance.  That, of course, is up to you / your parent agency
and the flavor of RM that you want.

Anyway, in summary, I strongly suggest that it is best to NOT advertise
retention schedules as only identifying a minimum retention period or you'll
continue to deal with the accumulation of those records for years to come!
We are, after all, records management and we are here to help them better
manage their information.

C. Preston Huff, CRM, CA,
State Records Administrator
The Library of Virginia
(804) 692-3607

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