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Enterprise Records Service



1. What is records management?

Records management is the planning, controlling, directing, organizing, training, promoting, and other managerial activities involved with respect to records creation, maintenance, use, and disposition in order to achieve adequate and proper documentation of the policies and transactions of the Federal Government and effective and economical management of agency operations. (44 U.S.C. 2901)

Records management addresses the life cycle of records, i.e., the period of time that records are in the custody of Federal agencies. The life cycle usually consists of three stages:

  • Creation of the records necessary to document the activities,
  • Filing those records in a manner that allows for them to be safely stored and efficiently retrieved when necessary, and
  • Disposal of records in accordance with Agency and Federal regulations.

Tools for maintaining and using records include file plans, indexes, controlled vocabularies, taxonomies, data dictionaries, access and security procedures. The main tool used to manage the disposition of records is the records control schedule.

2. What is considered a recordkeeping requirement?

"Recordkeeping requirements" are defined as all statements in statutes, regulations, and agency directives or authoritative issuances, that provide general and specific requirements for Federal agency personnel on particular records to be created and maintained by the agency (36 CFR 1220.14). Recordkeeping requirements should be outlined in procedural manuals and other issuances that specify which records need to be included in agency files or other recordkeeping systems.

3. What is a record?

Records include all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of the data in them. Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of processed documents are not included. (44 U.S.C. 3301).

4. What is a record series?

A series is the basic unit for organizing and controlling files. It is a group of files or documents kept together (either physically or intellectually) because they relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, document a specific type of transaction, take a particular physical form, or have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, maintenance, or use (36 CFR 1220.14).

Each record series must be scheduled for appropriate disposition. The series concept is a flexible one, and programs should create series by organizing documents in ways that facilitate management of the records throughout their life cycle. For example, each record series in hard copy should be physically separated from all other record series. Electronic records should be managed in ways that link records to their disposition authority, within the context of a recordkeeping system.

5. How long should records be retained?

The retention period for records depends upon their legal, fiscal, administrative, and/or historical value. There is no single retention period for all records. Some may be destroyed after a short period, others must be retained for many years, and still others will be transferred to the National Archives because they possess sufficient historical value to warrant permanent retention. The determination of the appropriate retention period is the result of the appraisal process that takes place during the development and approval of the records schedule.