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Records Retention Management

Why is records management important?

Good records management increases efficiency, protects confidential records, and helps preserve institutional history.

We understand that questions often arise over the course of working to manage your departmental records.  We hope that our Frequently Asked Questions will help you find the answers you need. 

For more information from the Texas State Library and Archives visit their "Just the FAQs" page. 

Record Management FAQ

Who has to follow the records retention policy? 

The policy applies to all university employees.


What does records management have to do with my department?

TWU departments have a responsibility to preserve and protect all the different kinds of records that they create, use during daily operations or are stored within the offices of the department.  Every department at TWU has the responsibility to establish and maintain procedures of good records management and disposal practices.


How does one keep records safe? 

The safe-keeping and proper stewardship of university records is of the utmost importance for state compliance and best business practices. Records should be stored in secure settings with a minimal exposure to risks.


What is my role in records management?

Since most state employees create or receive records during the course of normal business, it is every employee's responsibility to take an active role in records management. We as individuals must follow good practices for filing, storing and retrieving these records (regardless of the format) until final disposition in accordance with the TWU Records Retention Schedule.


Who is responsible for keeping the official record?

Say, for example, a committee meets to conduct business.  All committee members receive reports and meeting minutes, which are convenience copies and can be disposed of once they are no longer serving on the committee.  It is the chair of the committee, or other designated employee that maintains the official record of the documents that the group creates.  

*Basic rule of thumb, if you, your office/department, or working group is the creator of the record in question, you are responsible for its maintenance, safekeeping, and destruction according to the TWU Records Retention Schedule.


I have a bunch of records that were created by somebody who does not even work here anymore? What should I do?

This is a very familiar scenario and it happens a lot. Just remember, these records will remain the responsibility of the office that created them. Since you've inherited a lot of old records, talk with your supervisor about who serves as the Records Liaison in your office.  The Records Liaison should serve as a resource to review the records to determine:

  • If any documents are convenience copies and may be destroyed.
  • If any documents are working records/convenience copies and are no longer needed and may be destroyed.
  • If any documents have completed their retention period they may be destroyed.  
  • If any documents must be kept to complete their retention period.
  • If any documents need to be kept and transferred to the University Archives.

I have some documents in my office that contain Social Security Numbers.  What do I do to keep them safe?

The University Regulation and Procedure 01.275 Protecting Confidentiality of Social Security Numbers, speaks to this very question.  Here is the short answer:

  • Paper records containing a Social Security number must be stored in locked drawers, filing cabinets, or storage rooms and may not be left unattended while in use.
  • Paper records containing a Social Security number may not be removed from the University offices where they are used, unless University business requires that they be transferred to another secure office.
  • Social security numbers may not be shared with third parties except as required by law.
  • Employees may not send social security numbers or other confidential information over a fax, the internet or by e-mail unless the connection is secure or the confidential information is encrypted or otherwise secured.
  • Records containing social security numbers or other confidential information should not be stored on University or personal computers or other electronic devices that are not secured against unauthorized access.

What is NOT a University Record? 

The item may share some characteristics with university records but they are distinguished from university records by their transitory usefulness or immediate value.

Some examples of items that are NOT records are: 

  • Blank forms
  • Data entry-and work-sheets
  • Electronic mail of temporary value
  • Envelopes
  • Library books
  • Materials that need to be preserved or appropriate for preservation because of the historical value of the materials, these items need to be sent to the University Archives for review.
  • Multiple copies of publications
  • Notes and audio recordings that have been transcribed
  • Pictures 
  • Private or personal papers
  • Rough drafts
  • Routing Slips
  • Unofficial (informational, courtesy, or convenience) copies of records

What about personal documents and correspondence?

Personal documents and correspondence are not university records. If they are stored electronically on University servers and/or computers then they should be labeled as personal. If they belong to a former employee, they should be shredded or returned to the owner.


Somebody told me I wasn't supposed to get rid of any of the records in my office. Is that right?

Well, that isn’t really true. The law does allow many records to be discarded. The TWU Records Retention Schedule is the official document that describes the records that need to be retained, which records can be discarded and when they can be discarded. 


What is the difference between a permanent record and an archival record?

Archival records have enduring historical relevance.  After these records have reached their retention period they are transferred to the University Archives for preservation.

Permanent records have reached their retention period but possess enduring legal, fiscal or administrative value and must be preserved permanently. 


Can I just send all of the records to the Record Retention Specialist, since I have too many records and not enough time to look at and organize all of the records in my office?

No, the Record Retention Specialist is just one person and they are charged with supporting the entire university. Every department on campus is responsible for managing the records in their office according to university and state guidelines. However, the Record Retention Specialist is happy to consult with you about strategies for getting organized and managing the records in your office.


What about faculty research? Is that included in the records management process?

Not usually, unpublished research data isn’t considered a public record but check the current University Records Retention Schedule or ask the Record Retention Specialist. 


It seems that my department routinely keeps copies of records that originate from other departments, and are actually maintained elsewhere as the official record. Should my department still follow the records retention schedule? 

These are convenience copies of the original record.  Since they are not considered original source documents they may be deleted at any time when the document no longer serves a business purpose.


I have more records than storage space.  Can the records retention manager provide storage space for records that we need to keep?

‚ÄčUnfortunately not.  Texas Woman’s University has not designated any space on campus for records storage.  The Blagg-Huey Library can only accept records identified as records to be reviewed by the Records Retention Specialist and the University Archivist once the record’s retention period has passed.

 

I have a record in question in my office.  How do I know if I am responsible for the retention of the record?

Records remain the responsibility of the office that created them. If you didn’t create the document, but were provided with a copy for your records, then you are working with a convenience copy of a record.  The office that sent you the convenience copy is responsible for the retention of the record.


I have official records that are not listed on the Records Retention Schedule. What do I need to do?

Official records that are not listed on the Record Retention Schedule should not be destroyed without first speaking with the Records Management Specialist. Contact the Records Management Specialist and they will help you determine if your records are covered under another records group or if they need to be added to the schedule.


Help! I can't find what I am looking for on the retention schedule!

Contact the Record Retention Specialist and they can help you find the proper document title for your records.  In some cases a record might need to be added to or changed on the retention schedule and the Record Retention Specialist will help with this process.


How long should I keep records?

The approved Records Retention Schedule is the established document to help you determine how long to keep records.  All University employees should be aware of their responsibility to keep university records according to the records retention schedule.  University employees should be aware of their responsibility to keep documents throughout their established retention period, in accordance with the approved records retention schedule.


Do all documents and records have the same retention period?

No, different kinds of records have different kinds of retention periods.  You should look at the type of record, and the content of the records to determine the retention period of the document in question.  It is the responsibility of University employees to evaluate the value of their files on an on-going basis, and retain files only for their established retention periods.


Can my department decide to increase or decrease the length of time records are retained?

Departments may never destroy any university records ahead of the destruction dates listed on the records retention schedule.  Department may chose to keep records longer if there is a business need.

Why can’t I send all my records to the University Archives in the Blagg-Huey Library?

The University Archives in the Blagg-Huey Library specializes in the retention of historical records.  If you believe that your department holds University Records that hold historical value, do not destroy them until you have consulted University Archives in the Blagg-Huey Library.


When can original records be destroyed? 

Original records can be destroyed:

  • Once the retention period on the TWU Records Retention Schedule has passed.
  • If there are no legal, administrative, audit or historical holds on the material. 

I have records that have met their retention period, but have a public records request or legal hold, when will those records be eligible to be discarded?

If there is a public records request for records in your office, or if a legal or audit hold is placed on the records, keep the records until all holds are cleared.  Once you receive clearance that the holds have been removed, you can go ahead and follow the disposition instructions in the records schedule.


Help! What happens if I know records were destroyed or will be destroyed and they might have been related to an actual or potential lawsuit or some other government action?

If the records have not been destroyed, make every effort to retain and protect the records, then notify the Office of the General Counsel immediately. If the records have already been destroyed, notify the Office of the General Counsel immediately.


How do I know if my records should be destroyed or transferred to University Archives for permanent retention?

Some records are designated in the Records Retention Schedule as "A/I or R/O transfer to university archives or review by university archives" and need to be transferred to University Archives. Please contact the University Archivist to discuss these records.


What is the process for records destruction? 

First, complete the TWU Record Disposition Log.  After the TWU Record Disposition Log is completed, submit a copy to the Record Retention Specialist and keep the original one in the department.  The most common means of records destruction at TWU is to shred paper records.


What is the proper way to destroy hardcopy records?

Non-confidential records should be recycled. Confidential records should be shredded in a manner that renders them unreadable and that would prevent them from being reconstructed. Security should be maintained until proper destruction is performed.


When should unofficial records be destroyed?

Unofficial records may be destroyed once your office no longer needs them to do business. You should never keep unofficial records longer than the official records.


There isn’t any problem keeping duplicate records until I get around to cleaning up the office.

No, duplicate records should not be kept any longer than originals. It is important to monitor the retention periods of duplicate records like you would for original records.  ALL University records are meant to be properly disposed of when the prescribed retention period for the record has passed. If there is no prescribed retention period, seek the guidance of your records retention specialist.  


At what point do I contact the University Archives?

The short answer is that any time you are about to destroy a University Record, ask yourself whether the record has historic value. If it holds historic value, contact University Archives. According to the Record Management policy, University Records are usually destroyed under one of the following circumstances:

  • The University Record is no longer needed for business purposes and it is not required to be further retained since it is not listed under a Record Retention Schedule.
  • The University Record is required to be retained permanently under a Record Retention Schedule because it has historic value. (these records are designated in the Records Retention Schedule as "A/I or R/O transfer to university archives or review by university archives" and need to be transferred to University Archives).
  • The University Record has been retained in accordance with a Record Retention Schedule and now the retention period has expired and the record is not required to be retained by any other University policies (e.g. Litigation Discovery policy).

 

Why do I need to complete a Disposition Log?

Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §6.8 requires the documentation of final disposition of designated TWU records.

FAQ: Why Use a Disposition Log?  (Answers from "The Texas Record")


What do I do with the Records Disposition Log?

Each department will need to fill out a Records Disposition Log which can be found on this website, which must describe the information being shredded and must be signed by the approved departmental supervisor. The original must be sent to the Office of Records Retention Manager. The department should keep a copy of of the Records Disposition Log for their records as well.


When will I need to complete a Record Inventory Worksheet?

This is completed by departments in preparation for the re-certification of the Record Retention Schedule. A Record Inventory Worksheet can also be completed anytime records are relocated or there are any major changes to the records in the department/office (ex: change in the custodianship or format).  

I've never heard of a file naming convention.  What is it, and why should I use one?

A file naming convention is a framework for naming your files in a way that describes what they contain and how they relate to one another.


How should I organize the files that I need to keep?

Select a good file folder structure that helps you keep, find, and understand the records in the file.  Organizing files makes it easy for us to determine if we have transitory or convenience copies of records that need to be destroyed.  You can use TWU Records Retention Schedule to organize your files and it will help with very specific organization.  You can also organize your records based on subject or big bucket term.

Beyond A to Z: Filing Tips to Organize Better