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> And isn't "permanent" really the most nebulous timeframe of them all?

Absolutely not!  It has become associated with nebulous because RIM has not
continued to enforce its meaning and has allowed it to be misapplied as a
retention value. (Yes folks, it is OUR fault.) The IT world uses "permanent"
to mean a more stable or static location and not as a retention value.
"Permanent" in records management means forever.  I have been taught and
have taught that definition for 37 years.  Forever retention means the
organization is responsible for preserving the record/information in a
legally accepted format to the best of available knowledge.  For example -
when microfilm was finally accepted as a legal replacement for paper,
permanent records had to be filmed on "archival" (now LE 500) film, stored
in the appropriate environment and monitored for deterioration.  The
introduction of CDs and DVDs as record keeping (or so-called "archiving)
media for permanent records has been controversial because the best of our
knowledge says the permanence or longevity of the media is in doubt or not
proven.

Organizations too often use the term "permanent" to mean long term.  If the
retention is "100 years," say 100 years.  If the retention is "until Charlie
retires or dies" use a generic 75 or 80 years.  Use "permanent" for
historical value records or for records that truly must be maintained
forever like land deeds or birth and death records.  As Peter said, in most
cases no more than 5% of an organization's records would have "permanent"
value.

Ginny Jones
(Virginia A. Jones, CRM)
Records Manager
Information Technology Division
Newport News Dept. of Public Utilities
Newport News, VA
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