FAQ: What is Routine or Transitory Email?

Out_of_date_clock_iconIn our last blog post about managing email, we looked at some examples and discussed the differences between Administrative and General Correspondence. Hopefully our brief examples helped you match your own correspondence to each of those series.

The main thing about managing email that we want you to take away is that it’s always about identifying the content. We don’t have a retention series for paper, because paper is one of several mediums in which information can be recorded. We have to focus on what’s printed on pieces of paper to figure out the appropriate records series. Similarly, we don’t have a series for email, so you’ll need to focus on the content of an email. When you’re trying to decide how to categorize an email, think of how you’d file it if it was printed on paper instead of on your computer.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to illustrate routine and transitory emails.

Routine Correspondence – GR1000-26c (Local Governments)

Correspondence and internal memoranda such as letters of transmittal, requests for publications, internal meeting notices, and similar routine matters. May also include subject files, which are collections of correspondence, memos and printed materials on various individuals, activities, and topics.

From: City Manager
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2016
To: Department Managers
Subject: Wellness Challenge: Grant Records Retention
Attachment: Flyer.pdf
Please distribute the attached advertisement for the city wellness challenge sponsored by the city council and several local businesses. There will be a informational meeting scheduled for April 1 for all staff to attend and sign up for the challenge.
City Manager
Regular City, TX

In this email, the city manager is letting department managers know that a wellness challenge is coming up and the attached flyer is for managers to disseminate to their respective staff members. This is considered a ‘letter of transmittal’, or correspondence that simply describes the attached file that’s being mailed. It also mentions that a meeting will be held on April 1, but it’s probably safe to assume that the meeting date is also contained in the attached flyer as well as recorded in a staff calendar. After the meeting is over and the flyers are distributed, there’s no need to retain this email.

Transitory Information – 1.1.057 (State Agencies)

Records of temporary usefulness that are not an integral part of a records series of an agency, that are not regularly filed within an agency’s recordkeeping system, and that are required only for a limited period of time for the completion of an action by an official or employee of the agency or in the preparation of an on-going records series.
Transitory records are not essential to the fulfillment of statutory obligations or to the documentation of agency functions. Some examples of transitory information, which can be in any medium (voice mail, fax, email, hard copy, etc.) are routine messages; telephone message notifications; internal meeting notices; routing slips; incoming letters or memoranda of transmittal that add nothing of substance to enclosures; and similar routine information used for communication, but not for the documentation, of a specific agency transaction.

From: Sarah Jacobson
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2016
To: RMA Staff
Subject: Treats!
Chocolate covered strawberries and cookies can be found in the common cubicle. Happy Valentine’s!
Sarah Jacobson
Manager, Records Management Assistance

Our department manager Sarah is very generous and sometimes spoils us with baked goods (lucky us!!). She sent this email to inform us that treats are available for a limited time, but obviously there’s no compelling reason for her or anyone else to retain this email after the treats have been consumed.

Is it really that simple?

Generally, yes! It can be easy to over-think the types of records that fall into these series, but like anything that requires exercise, once you get used to identifying routine or transitory correspondence, you’ll have an easier time sorting them out from more important emails that fall into record series which have longer retention periods.

In our next article about email, we’ll look at some examples that fall outside the scope of correspondence. Just keep in mind that email is just one of several formats that a record can be produced, so we need to be concerned with what each email is about when deciding how long to keep them.

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