FAQ: What does “obsolete” mean on the retention schedules?

When you read TSLAC’s local government retention schedules (“local schedules”), you may notice the word “obsolete” pops up in lots of different places. Some folks ask us what we mean when we say obsolete.

Obsolete generally refers to a record that is no longer active. How your records management program must treat an obsolete record varies widely depending on how obsolete is used. This article outlines three different uses of obsolete in local government records management. The first is as part of the rarely practiced process of listing obsolete records and the second and third are in columns on our local schedules.

List of Obsolete Records

Generally, local governments (“governments”) destroy records under the authority of Local Government Code, §202.001(a)(1). The government destroys a record when it appears on their approved retention schedule and the retention period for that record has expired. However, the section also permits governments to destroy records that appear on a list of obsolete records submitted by their RMO and approved by TSLAC (§202.001(a)(2)).

If the RMO opts to create a retention schedule rather than adopting TSLAC’s schedules, she can also prepare and submit a separate list of obsolete records (203.044). To be eligible for the list, the record must no longer be created or received by the government and the record must be listed on a TSLAC schedule as expired. In lieu of listing the record on the retention schedule, the RMO certifies to TSLAC that all such records in their possession are eligible for destruction and no new records of that type will be created or received. If TSLAC approves the list, then the records may be destroyed.

For many reasons, including widespread adoption of TSLAC schedules instead of creating schedules, governments no longer routinely submit lists of obsolete records.

Obsolete record in Remarks

Today, the most common use of obsolete is by TSLAC in the Remarks column on the local schedules. It often appears as part of the phrase obsolete record but sometimes you’ll find it as part of descriptive remarks. TSLAC designates a record as obsolete in this way when we can verify no new records of that type will be created or received. Typically, that’s because the program the records supported has been abolished or modified such that the records are no longer needed.

TSLAC designates the record as obsolete in this way as the first step in removing the series from a local schedule.

TSLAC often changes the retention period for a record designated as obsolete record to AV (as long as administratively valuable). While the series still appears on a local schedule and the retention period is AV, governments may destroy the records when they no longer have an administrative reason to keep them. However, when TSLAC finally removes the series, any remaining records become permanent records until the government files a form SLR 501.

Sometimes, TSLAC changes the retention period for a record designated obsolete in this way to permanent because the records have historical value.

Obsolete record in Record Title

A handful of series on local schedules EL and HR have obsolete record in the Record Title. Don’t fret. It’s there for the same reasons we put obsolete record in the Remarks. However, these series have subseries. Be sure to review the retention requirements for each subseries! Some obsolete records may be permanent records while others may only need to be retained AV.

That’s what obsolete commonly means when you see it in the Local Government Records Act or on one of our local schedules. If you have questions about anything in this article, please ask in the comments section below.