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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Records Management
Public Records and the General Records Schedule
1) What is the State University Model Records Retention Schedule?
2) Why do I need this schedule?
3) What are public records?
4) Are the documents and other records on my computer also "public records"?
5) How can I be sure if I have any "public records"?
6) Do I have to have all the records listed on the General Records Schedule?
7) What if I can't find some of my records on the General Records Schedule?
Maintaining Public Records
8) If we can scan and image our records, do we need to keep the paper version?
9) Should I print my email out and file it?
10) Why don't we just keep all of our computer records since computer storage is so cheap?
Accessing Public Records
11) Can anyone see my records?
12) What about my confidential records?
13) Why don't I just use my personal email account for work since it is more private?
Destruction of Public Records
14) What is a "legal hold" or "litigation hold" on records and when does it apply?
15) When can I destroy records?
16) How do I destroy records?
17) When can I delete my email?
18) How do we destroy records that are not listed on the General Records Schedule?
19) Should I keep track of or inform anyone about the records being destroyed?
20) What do I do with permanent records?
21) What does it mean for records to have historical value?
22) What should I do with the really old records I just found?
23) Can I give my old records to the historical society or public library?
Contact WKU Archives if you have further questions: 745-4793 or 745-5830
According to KRS 61.870 you may only destroy public records in accordance with a General Records Schedule created by the Kentucky Division of Library & Archives. This schedule is the primary way KDLA gives its consent. Records, regardless of medium or format, not listed on this schedule may not be destroyed without consent of KDLA and the WKU Records Officer.
"Public records" are defined in KRS 61.870 as all books, papers, tapes, disks, software or other documentation regardless of physical form, which are "prepared, owned, used, in the possession of or retained by a public agency."
Yes. KRS 61.870 (above) points out that any record prepared, owned, used, in the possession of or retained by a public agency “regardless of physical form" is a public record.
Nearly every position in a University or in state government generates, receives, or uses records. Computer files of any kind, including drafts and email, are public records. Even if your records aren’t the official or final version, your records are public records. Not all records have high historical, legal, or fiscal value, but they all must be destroyed in accordance with the provisions of the General Records Schedule.
No. This is not a list of records you must have in your office.
Call the WKU Records Officer at 745-4793. He or she will work with you interpret or amend the General Records Schedule.
You may scan any record, including permanent records. Your office should follow the instructions in the KDLA Policy Memorandum on Optical Storage of Public Records. You should consult the WKU Records Officer before destroying any permanent records on paper that have been digitized. He or she will discuss with you the appropriate medium or format for the permanent preservation of the records concerned. Computer systems do not have long life cycles. Each time you change computer systems, you will have to convert all records to the new system so that you can assure their preservation and provide access. In many cases, in view of technological obsolescence, especially of software, only paper or microfilm is suitable for permanent preservation. The essential task is to assure that records with historical value remain accessible indefinitely into the future. Non-permanent records may be retained in any format. You will have to take precautions with records that you must keep longer than about 10 years for the same reasons addressed above regarding the short life cycle of computer systems.
As long as the email is not a permanent record, as defined by the schedule, you may elect to keep it in electronic format. Official correspondence, along with any attachments, should be printed out and filed.
The best practice is to destroy all records that have met their retention requirements at the same time, regardless of format or medium.
Yes, except as restricted by specific provisions in state or federal law. KRS 61.872 instructs: "(1) All public records shall be open for inspection by any person, except as otherwise provided by KRS 61.870 to 61.884, and suitable facilities shall be made available by each public agency for the exercise of this right . . . (2) Any person shall have the right to inspect public records. The official custodian may require written application, signed by the applicant and with his name printed legibly on the application, describing the records to be inspected. . . . (3) A person may inspect public records: (a) during the regular office hours of the public agency; or (b) by receiving copies of the public records from the public agency through the mail. . . . (5) If the public record is in active use, in storage or not otherwise available, the official custodian shall immediately notify the applicant and shall designate a place, time, and date for inspection of the public records, not to exceed three days from receipt of the application, unless a detailed explanation of the cause is given for further delay and the place, time and earliest date on which the public record will be available for inspection." Check It's the Law for more information regarding restrictions on records.
Not all records meeting the statutory definition of a public record under KRS 61.870 are open to public inspection. Exceptions to the access requirements and the definition of public records are found throughout the Revised Statutes and in federal law (particularly student records, most personnel records, and medical records of students or staff). You must be able to cite a specific provision in the Revised Statutes or federal law when you restrict or deny access to a particular record. Check It's the Law for more information regarding restrictions on records.
The best practice is to avoid using personal resources, including private email accounts, for public business. The fact that public records reside in a personal email account is irrelevant. Likewise, use of a state-owned computer for personal email does not mean that personal email is not subject to inspection by third parties. Western Kentucky University may choose to prohibit use of a personal email account for official business.
A legal hold or litigation hold means that records that are the subject of the legal hold or litigation hold must be preserved and thus must not be destroyed until officially released from the hold. A legal hold or litigation hold is placed when either an official discovery order is served on the University requesting the production of the records in question (for a litigation, regulatory investigation, audit, open records request, etc.) or litigation is pending and the University is thus on notice to preserve all potentially relevant records. You must also ensure that for a claim or litigation that appears to be reasonably foreseeable or anticipated but not yet initiated, any records (in paper or electronic formats) relevant to such a claim or litigation are preserved and not destroyed until released by your University Counsel. The records in question must not be destroyed until the completion of the action and the resolution of all issues that arise from it regardless of the retention period set forth in this schedule. If you have any questions contact your University Counsel.
Each records series listed on the General Records Schedule has specific disposition instructions that will indicate how long that series must be kept in your office. In some cases, the disposition instructions will call for permanent retention in your office, WKU Archives, or transfer to another office. (See also the question below, “What do I do with permanent records?”) A good practice is to consult the General Records Schedule at either the end of the calendar year or the fiscal year depending on how your records are created and used.
Once contact has been made with the University Records Officer and approval to destroy records has been obtained, records can be destroyed. Confidential records should be destroyed in a secure manner so that the information contained in them cannot be used; shredded, or torn up so as to destroy the record content of the documents or material concerned.
Non-confidential records may be recycled or thrown out.
Electronic records should be erased or deleted permanently and may require the use of an electronic shredding or drive-wiping software application and may therefore require the assistance of the appropriate University Information Technology office.
Electronic mail is just as much a record as any traditional paper record, and must be treated in the same ways. It is the content of each message that is important. If a particular message would have been filed as a paper memo, it should still be filed (either in your email program or in your regular directory structure), and it should be retained the same length of time as its paper counterparts. It is inappropriate to destroy email simply because storage limits have been reached. Official correspondence should be printed out, along with any attachments and filed. Once printed, the email may be deleted.
Contact the WKU Records Officer to discuss the nature of the records to determine if the records have historical value. If the records do have historical value, he or she will discuss the possibility of transferring the records to the Archives.
If the records are an active records series, the University Records Officer will help you interpret the General Records Schedule or amend it so that you can destroy the records appropriately.
Yes. Please report records retention and destruction activities to the WKU Records Officer on a regular annual basis using the Request to Destroy Records Form. This provides you with documentation in the event of an audit regarding your records.
Permanent records (records with permanent historical value) should be transferred in accordance with the disposition requirements of the General Records Schedule, to the WKU Archives. While records are in your custody, your office must ensure that records are well protected from natural and man-made problems, while remaining readily available to your staff and the public. Public records are public property. See also: Permanent Records as Identified in the General Records Schedule. Transfer instructions are available for records that are to be sent to WKU Archives.
Records with historical value document significant events, actions, decisions, conditions, relationships, and similar developments. These records have administrative, legal, fiscal, or evidential importance for the University, for state government, or for its citizens. Call the WKU Records Officer at 745-4793 for further assistance. See also: Historic Records not listed on the General Records Schedule
Call the WKU University Records at 745-4793. He or she will help you examine the records and assess their historical value.
Before you offer any record to a historical society, public library, or any other entity, you must contact the WKU Records Officer at 745-4793. Permanent records must be kept either in your office, in the WKU Archives, or in an authorized space designated for the storage of permanently valuable records.
Suellyn Lathrop, WKU Records Officer
3rd floor Kentucky Building
Hours: Monday - Friday 8 am - 4:30 pm
Summer Hours: Mon-Fri 7:30 am - 3:30 pm