One of the most critical decisions you must make as a records management officer at a local government is deciding on a schedule for records retention. This schedule gives you the authority to destroy records. In developing your records retention plan, you must choose from the following three options:
- Forego a records retention schedule and permanently retain all records
- Adopt one or more local retention schedules created by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC)
- Create your own records control schedule
Retaining Records Permanently
Although this is an option, there are many risks associated with retaining all records permanently. Permanent retention means you keep everything forever – even transitory records. Permanent retention of all records leads to higher storage costs and increased legal risks. TSLAC strongly recommends you either choose to adopt TSLAC Local Retention Schedules or create your own records control schedule. This article addresses the pros and cons of these two options. In addition, this article addresses the feasibility of creating a combination schedule (adopting some TSLAC Local Retention Schedules, then customizing your Records Control Schedule to retain some record series longer than recommended by TSLAC) to fulfill your office needs.
Adopting TSLAC Local Retention Schedules
When you choose to adopt TSLAC Local Retention Schedules, you choose to adopt these schedules to find an appropriate record series. TSLAC periodically revises these local schedules to reflect new minimum requirements for records. This option alleviates the need for you to create a new records retention schedule each time there is an update to statutes, regulations, or laws.
Creating Your Own Records Control Schedule
Due to the dynamics of your office, you may prefer to create a records control schedule. Creating your own schedule may appear to be more useful, however, it may prove to be a harder effort in the long run. For instance, you may feel that you need to create a records control schedule to include specific instructions for disposition (what gets shredded, what needs to be microfilmed, etc.). In addition, you may want to structure your schedule by department or section, depending on how your office is setup. If you adopt TSLAC’s local schedules, you can do all these things without creating your own schedule or approval from TSLAC. Internally, you can modify TSLAC’s schedules with your own columns to add information beyond the minimum requirements. Currently, the only legitimate reason to create your own schedule is so records that you don’t create or receive don’t appear on your schedule. However, if you adopt, you can cut out series that your government or even just a department doesn’t use when you distribute the retention schedule. If you choose to create a records control schedule, you must periodically submit amendments to keep up with changes to the required minimums.
Creating a Combination Schedule
Since your internal operations constantly change, you may decide to create a combination schedule (adopt TSLAC schedules and submit your own records control schedule) for your office. This is a complex alternative to fulfill compliance within your office. You can and should create a combination schedule if you have unique program records or you make major modifications to a records series. Consult your analyst to find out what counts as a major modification. When using a combination schedule to manage your records, one rule still applies – you must follow the mandatory minimum retention periods prescribed in the TSLAC Local Retention Schedules.
If you have any questions or need further assistance, then make sure to contact your analyst.