FAQ Redux: Can a state agency destroy a paper original after scanning?

We originally published an article addressing this question back in 2013, but some state agencies have wondered if the answer has changed since the administrative rules were updated this year. So, let’s take a look at what the new edition of Bulletin 1 says.

While there is not an explicit paragraph in the rules stating that any record can be store electronically, in Section 6.92(4), the definition of an electronic state record references Government Code, Section 441.189(a), which states:

Any state record may be created or stored electronically in accordance with standards and procedures adopted as administrative rules of the commission.

And what are the requirements for keeping a record electronically now?  Section 6.94 lays out the minimum requirements, including requirements to:

  • Manage electronic state records according to the state agency’s records management program and certified records retention schedule regardless of format, system, or storage location
  • Maintain state agency ownership and responsibility for state records regardless of where the record originates or resides, including but not limited to cloud computing services and social media sites
  • Develop and maintain up-to-date documentation about electronic records systems  adequate to identify, retain, read, process, or migrate the records and ensure the timely, authorized final disposition of electronic state records
  • Ensure that electronic state records remain readily retrievable and readable for as long as they are maintained by the state agency by migration or by maintaining any software, hardware, and documentation required to retrieve and read the electronic state records
  • Maintain descriptive and technical metadata required for electronic state records to be fully understandable by the appropriate designated community, including metadata necessary to adequately support the authenticity, integrity, reliability, and usability as well as the preservation of a record
  • Preserve the authenticity, integrity, reliability, and usability of the records
  • Ensure that electronic state records are readily retrievable and readable independently of other records in the information or storage system
  • Ensure that system backups that are required for disaster recovery are not used to satisfy records retention requirements unless indexed for ready retrievability and tested on a regular basis
  • Require all third-party custodians of records to provide the state agency with descriptions of their business continuity and/or disaster recovery plans as regards to the protection of the state agency’s vital state records.

As well, Section 6.95 in Bulletin 1 provides additional requirements for archival, permanent, and vital state agency records.

From here, we can look at the rules around convenience copies to see how to treat those paper source documents.  By law, a convenience copy is not considered a record and does not have retention tied to it, so it can be gotten rid of whenever it ceases to have a business use.  Before disposing of the paper source document, you’ll want to ensure that what you’ve scanned is readable and accessible, labeled well, etc.  And of course, you may consider keeping the source document as a backup in cases of permanent or very long term retention periods, vital records, etc.

You may notice in our first version of this article that at that time, TSLAC could not accept electronic archival records from state agencies, but that is no longer accurate.  Electronic state records can now be transferred to the Texas Digital Archives, more information about which can be found on the TDA website and in our recent interview with TSLAC’s Electronic Records Specialist.

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