It is the beginning of a new year and time to clean out storage areas and filing cabinets to make room for 2011. Records management is the practice of identifying, classifying, archiving, preserving, and destroying the records of an organization. Although many states have guidelines regarding records retention schedules, having a detailed records management schedule is a must in order to have organized information that does not fill your entire administration building, regardless of the state in which you reside. Be sure to check with your state government agencies to identify if they have a template of retention and destruction guidelines that could be edited to fit your community or jurisdiction.
A records management plan is only useful if implemented and updated on a regular basis. Records destruction is a vital part of records management, but it cannot be done in an unorganized fashion. The beginning of the new fiscal year is generally the best time to undertake the process. There are generally three categories of documents:
- Non-confidential information, which can be disposed of by recycling, if possible, or at the landfill;
- Confidential documents, which must be shredded prior to disposal; and
- Documents in the “archive” category, which must be sent to the state archives.
Procedures for recording a list of all documents and files to be removed and destroyed or sent to the state archives should be created and followed to ensure that only necessary records are removed. This also allows active record lists on file to be kept current.
Before you make the final determinations on what should be destroyed and kept, please keep in mind that each state has requirements regarding records managment. For example, all offices of City, County, and Park Board in some states are required to have a uniform record retention and destruction policy with an appointed administrator. Usually, the Auditor is responsible for this duty.
Links to information regarding record retention for North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana are listed below: