Provided by Tim Gavin, Policy Database Manager

Q: How long should board meeting minutes be retained?

A: Permanently.

If you were unsure of this answer, you are not alone. Not surprisingly, with the large amount and wide variety of records that a library is responsible for maintaining, it can become very confusing and complicated to keep track of which records are supposed to be kept and for how long.

This is why it is increasingly important that in this age of information explosion, where often copies upon copies of the same record exist (often in multiple formats), and where there is a manual or digital footprint of virtually everything that happens at a library, that libraries have a clear and well-followed records retention and disposition policy.

Once a policy is created (often as a chart or table) and a records manager (often the library manager or director) is put in place, the guess-work is largely taken out of the picture and the matter becomes one of just maintaining the records according to the policy.

After a policy/records schedule is adopted, it is equally important that the correct records be retained as it is that that they be destroyed after their required retention period. The legal destruction of unnecessary records:

  1. ensures that records are retained as long as they are actually needed for administrative, fiscal, legal, or research purposes;
  2. ensures that records are promptly disposed of after they are no longer needed;
  3. frees storage space and equipment for important records and for new records as they are created;
  4. eliminates time and effort required to service and sort through superfluous records to find needed information;
  5. eliminates the potential fire hazard from storage of large quantities of valueless records; and
  6. facilitates the identification and preservation of archival records.

Reference: Suggestions for Records Disposition

http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_co2_part1.shtml#info

Accessed: January 21, 2013

So, which records schedule should your library follow? That largely depends on which type of library you have and how it is governed. However, New York State Archives has already outlined a recommended records schedule for your library to follow. As a local government entity, your library cannot destroy records until the appropriate State Archives schedule is formally adopted by resolution of its governing body. (“Adoption and Use of the Schedule” http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_mi1_part1.shtml#introduction).

While association “public” libraries are not government entities, they, as many other non-profits often use these schedules when establishing policy. Also, even public libraries will often find that they have records which call for a deeper understanding of the law. Therefore, all libraries are encouraged to look not only at the recommended schedules, but also to take a close inventory of their own records, partner with their library system, NYS Archives, Committee on Open Government and legal counsel before enacting a records retention and disposition policy.

Another great resource is LTA’s policy database. Learn from your peers. Do a category search on “records retention” and find out what the policies of other libraries look like.

To get you started, a list of schedules is outlined below, along with a hyperlink to each. This list was excerpted from Retention and Disposition of Library and Library System Records (which can be found on the NYS Archives website at: http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub6.pdf/). This resource also goes into further detail concerning: local government records law, what defines a “public record,” type of libraries and library systems, electronic records and confidentiality.

Records Retention and Disposition Schedules

The following schedules are now available from the State Archives for use by the libraries and library systems listed below. 

  • Schedule CO-2: libraries and library systems which are part of county government. (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_co2_part1.shtml)
  • Schedule MU-1: libraries which are part of a city, town, or village government. (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_mu1.shtml)
  • Schedule MI-1: special district libraries, public school district libraries, joint municipal libraries, city and county public libraries, miscellaneous autonomous public libraries, and the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System . (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_mi1_part1.shtml)
  • Schedule ED-1: the Chatham and Newburgh Public Libraries; school libraries, BOCES libraries, and school library systems. (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_ed1.shtml)

Note: Each schedule contains many different categories, including a “General” section and a section that addresses libraries. When using these schedules, first attempt to use the “Library” section. If the record you are locating cannot be found under this heading, then proceed to this “General” section to search for a less specific item covering the record. (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_co2_part2.shtml#general)