Collections and Resources, Special Collections, UNC History, University Archives

Keep or Toss? Updated Guidelines Help Staff with Records Retention Decisions

Faculty and staff cleaning out offices at the end of the year can turn to new instructions that indicate which documents to keep and those that they can safely discard.

By North Carolina statute, University records are public. Even confidential records belong to the citizens of North Carolina and can only be destroyed by consent of the state Department of Cultural Resources. However, not all documents must be kept in perpetuity.

The University Archives and Records Management Services (UARMS) recently developed new records retention instructions, called a schedule, for the entire University and the UNC General Administration.

“Dealing with papers, emails, and electronic files is a headache for most people,” said Lawrence Giffin, records services archivist in UARMS. “We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for them to know what the right thing is to do with these public documents.”

The schedule gives precise guidelines for 18 categories such as administrative, personnel, student, and financial records. While some types of records need only be held for a year, others must remain on file for several years. Still others must go to the University Archives in Wilson Library as part of the permanent historical record of the University and the state.

To make decisions easier, UARMS has created a FAQ and several quick reference guidelines for common topics such as managing faculty records and managing email.

Discarding personal, junk, and general emails is usually fine, said Giffin. Beyond that? “Each employee has a responsibility to determine whether the email has enduring value according to the guidelines.”

The schedule update also accounts for new types of communications, such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts.

Finally, Giffin said that he and his colleagues are available to assist, and they will even make house calls. “We can help most departments set up a process that will make records archiving just a routine part of University work.”

Contact Giffin at or (919) 962-6402.

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