Now that we all know most emails are government records – we do all know this, right?! – sometimes it can be confusing to figure out how to categorize our emails. First and foremost, always remember that email is a format, like paper or microfilm, and we decide which record series to use based on the content of each email. We don’t have a record series for all pieces of paper, so we don’t have a series for all email, either.
Many specific records series can be applicable to email – like leave requests, complaints, agendas – because these days we use email to convey messages as much or more than with paper copies. This article will focus on two record series – Administrative and General Correspondence – which are most frequently used to categorize email not related to a more specific series. In a future article, we’ll explore other types of common email records.
To keep this short, let’s look at an example of each to illustrate the differences.
Administrative Correspondence – GR1000-26a (Local), 1.1.007 (State)
This record series is mainly for top-level staff, such as supervisors and directors, who send policy and procedure implementation or directives. The series description includes: “correspondence pertaining to the formulation, planning, implementation, modification, or redefinition of the programs, services, or projects of a local government and the administrative regulations, policies, and procedures that govern them.” The retention period for Administrative Correspondence is 4 years.
Here’s an example:
From: Sarah Jacobson
Sent: Thursday, June 20, 2013
To: RMA Staff
Subject: Dress Code
Effective this Friday, June 21, “Jeans Friday” is back. On Fridays, you can wear jeans if there
are no training sessions, meetings, presentations or events.
Manager, Records Management Assistance
So in this case, our department manager Sarah is the custodian of this correspondence record – which is announcing a change in agency/departmental policy – and she will need to retain it until June 20, 2017.
General Correspondence – GR1000-26b (Local), 1.1.008 (State)
This series will probably encompass most emails between you and your colleagues which document the regular course of business at your government entity. The series description includes: “correspondence pertaining to the regular operation of the policies, programs, services, or projects of a local government.” The retention period for General Correspondence is 2 years.
Here’s an example:
From: Bonnie Zuber
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2015
To: RMA staff
Subject: Blog updates
Good afternoon team,
Our new blog theme is live! We have added a few new instructions to the procedures document, so please check that out before creating your next new article. As always, if you notice anything wonky or have suggestions for improvement, just say so!
Government Information Analyst
As the custodian of this email – a correspondence record which documents the normal course of business between colleagues – I will need to retain it until October 26, 2017.
Other staff members can save a copy of Administrative or General Correspondence for their reference, but in most cases, only one custodian (usually the sender) is required to maintain the email. It’s important for everyone who uses email to manage their own correspondence and sort out emails that may fall into other record series such as internal staff meeting minutes or public information act requests/responses. If in doubt about how to classify email correspondence, think of how you would file it if it was a paper memo. We will revisit the topic of managing email in a future article, and give some more specific record series under which emails can be categorized.