The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC General Administration have a new records retention schedule!
For those of you who don’t know, a records retention schedule is a document that lists all of the possible record types (we call them “series”) generated or received by an organization in the pursuit of its business goals, and it specifies how long those records need to be managed and what to do with those records when that period lapses—destroy or store permanently.
Records retention schedules are useful for making sure that a business retains all the records it needs in order to perform its administrative functions; to comply with state, federal, and international laws and statutes; to provide evidence for decisions made by organizational units; and to preserve documentation of the organization’s history.
Schedules are also useful in determining when records can be destroyed or transferred to the archive. Without a schedule, an office might keep records forever, which can be a costly records-management and retrieval nightmare. Also, an organization without a clear records retention and disposition program might start purging records willy-nilly, destroying records that it might later need to fulfill important business functions or to comply with regulations. So a records retention schedule protects the university by allowing it to purge records on a regular basis in accordance with long-term business goals and with an eye toward regulatory compliance. In this way, records management programs save the organization money, time, and other resources, as well as protect the university from accidentally destroying records necessary for legal and fiscal compliance.
The General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule of UNC-CH and the General Administration (which you can find here) has been in the works since October of 2009, when Erin O’Meara, our former Electronic Records Archivist, was brought on board in part to begin drafting the schedule.
The university first began scheduling records back in 1985, creating department-specific schedules whenever a campus unit decided that it was time to clear out some of their old records. Over the years, Records Management Services created nearly a thousand schedules, which in itself became a records-management nightmare. With so many schedules, it was becoming difficult and time consuming to ensure consistency across all of them, and we knew that there were still thousands more campus units that had never contacted us and so still did not have schedules. With one all-purpose schedule, we knew we would be able to ensure consistent records management across the campus and that we would be able to keep everyone up to date with changes to legislation affecting record keeping and compliance.
The new records retention schedule supplants the old schedules, rendering them historical records themselves destined for the archive. The new schedule will be more sustainable, better able to adapt to changes in the university, and better suited to the complex legal and financial landscape of university records.
Besides Erin O’Meara and I, many other folks have worked on this schedule, including Meg Tuomala, currently the Digital Archivist for Washington University Archives, Matthew Farrell, our current TRA and SILS class of 2012, Lori Neumeier, our ’11-’12 ESOPI fellow, Alexandra Krensky, and Janelle Beverly. It was a massive undertaking, but we had good leadership in Erin and Meg and some really amazing grad students.
But none of it would have been possible without all the feedback we received from our Records Management Liaisons, those employees scattered throughout the campus who coordinate records management for their offices. Those people are the front lines of records management here at UNC, so we hope this new schedule will be a useful tool in their fight against office clutter.