Retention Schedule Preparation

Records Inventory

A records inventory is an actual physical analysis of all records series (in any form or format) maintained by an agency. It is the first step in preparing a records retention and disposition schedule. A records inventory should be submitted for each record series using DGS 550-4, Agency Records Inventory Form. This form is available from the Records Management Division of the Department of General Services.The following information is required for each record series described in the inventory:

  • A record series title
  • The year of the earliest and latest records in the record series
  • Physical form or forms of the record series, such as letter size paper, legal size paper, bound book, audio tape, video tape, film, or other medium
  • The total quantity of materials contained in the record series, stated in terms of the number of units, such as cubic feet, number of reels of film, or number of tapes, etc.
  • Estimated annual growth of the record series
  • Frequency of reference to the record series, stated in terms of daily, weekly, or monthly usage
  • Current location or locations of the record series
  • A record series description, which includes the following:
    • Brief description of the types of documents found in the record series
    • Activity or function documented by the record series
    • Forms, if any, included in the record series
    • Organizational structure, or type of filing system, such as alphabetical, chronological, numerical, geographical, or other
    • Type and explanation of indexing system, if any, including a brief description of any hardware or software, or both, used to provide index access
    • If the record series or index is duplicated in whole or in part elsewhere, and the name of the agency or office having a copy
    • Access restrictions, if any, based on laws or regulations, with the citations
    • Audit requirements, if any.

 Electronic records must be inventoried to document each record series in digital format, regardless of whether they exist elsewhere in some other form or format. The electronic records inventory should be submitted for each electronic record series using DGS 550-6, Electronic Records Inventory Form. These forms are available from the Records Management Division.

The following information is required for each electronic record series described in the inventory:

  • The source and use of the record
  • A record series description which includes the following:
    • Data definitions and structure of information contained in the system, and any other metadata available
    • Policies on access and use
    • Purpose and function of the system
    • Updating cycles or conditions and rules for revising information in the system
    • Location and media in which electronic records are maintained through the electronic records life cycle
    • Character and content of each electronic record
  • Disposition plan for the electronic records, including transfer of permanent electronic records to the Archives
  • The means for transferring permanent electronic records to the Archives in a format that meets the criteria for electronic records retention and transfer, as set forth in COMAR 14.18.02.

 Records Appraisal

Records appraisal is an analysis of all records within an agency to determine their administrative, fiscal, historical, legal, or other archival value. The purpose of this process is to determine for how long, in what format, and under what conditions a record series ought to be preserved. Records appraisal is based upon the information contained in the records inventory. Records series shall be either preserved permanently or disposed of when no longer required for the current operations of an agency or office, depending upon:

  • Historical value or the usefulness of the records for historical research, including records which show an agency origin, administrative development, and present organizational structure
  • Administrative value or the usefulness of the records for carrying on an agency's current and future work, and to document the development and operation of that agency over time
  • Regulatory and statutory requirements
  • Legal value or the usefulness of the records to document and define legally enforceable rights or obligations of government and/or citizens
  • Fiscal value or the usefulness of the records to the administration of an agency's current financial obligations, and to document the development and operation of that agency over time
  • Other archival value as determined by the State Archivist.

Records which are often permanent

  • Agency procedures and policies
  • Agendas and meeting minutes (record copies)
  • Annual reports (record copies)
  • Original acquisitions, deeds, conveyances, notices of sale, and easements
  • Records related to exposure to materials with long-term health effects, such as lead and asbestos
  • Bonds, books of final entry, general ledgers, and independent/external audits
  • Site plans, building permits, and building drawings
  • Charter records
  • Legal opinions of government law offices and original signed legislation
  • Licenses (record copies)

Records which are often non-permanent

  • Agenda drafts and unofficial minutes
  • Monthly or quarterly reports
  • Personnel records
  • Contracts, grants, payroll records, and purchase orders
  • Legislative audits (except for the record copies held by the Department of Legislative Audits)
  • Reference copies of State laws and publications

Correspondence (including email) - It is recommended that correspondence and email be screened so that items with lasting value are retained permanently.

 Retention Schedule Preparation

The records retention and disposition schedule is an official document that lists and describes all records of an agency or office; authorizes the permanent retention by the Archives of those records considered by statute or by the Archives to be of permanent value; and authorizes the destruction of those records not essential to operations after the lapse of a stated period of time. The schedule should be prepared by completing DGS 550-1, Records Retention and Disposition Schedule Form and DGS 550-1A, Records Retention and Disposition Schedule Continuation Form. These forms are available from the Records Management Division.

The records retention and disposition schedule form should include the following information:

  • Name of the agency and, if applicable, division, office or unit
  • Description of each record series, including the record series title and the record series description, as specified on the records inventory.

The following retention periods apply for record series:

  • For paper records to be preserved permanently, the schedule should provide for periodic transfers to the Archives or to a depository designated by the Archives, in accordance with, COMAR 14.18.03
  • For permanent records that are microfilmed, the schedule should state that the master camera negative shall be transferred to the Archives within 30 days of its creation, in accordance with, COMAR 14.18.05
  • For permanent electronic records, including email, the schedule should provide for their transfer to the Archives, in a format that meets the criteria for permanent electronic records retention set forth in COMAR 14.18.02
  • For non-permanent records, the schedule should state the length of time the records will be kept in the agency or office and, if applicable, the length of time the records will be stored in a records center
  • For records with audit requirements, the schedule should state the length of time the records should be kept after the audit.

Retention Schedule Tips:
Descriptions should be detailed enough so that someone outside of the agency would understand the record series' purpose. For clarity, acronyms should be spelled out the first time they are used. For all permanent records, the retention schedule must specify that the records will be transferred to the Maryland State Archives after a defined period. For all non-permanent records, the retention schedule must clearly state when the record will be destroyed. Permanent record retention statement examples

  • Permanent. Retain [x years], then transfer to the Maryland State Archives for permanent retention.
  • Permanent. Retain until [specified criteria is met], then transfer to the Maryland State Archives for permanent retention.
  • Permanent. Retain for [x years] after [specified criteria is met], then transfer to the Maryland State Archives for permanent retention.

Non-permanent record retention statement examples

  • Retain for [x years], then destroy.
  • Retain for [x years] and until all audit requirements are met, then destroy.
  • Retain for [x years] or until [specified criteria is met], whichever is later, then destroy.
  • Retain until [specified criteria is met], then destroy.
  • Retain for [x years] after [specified criteria is met], then destroy.
  • Retain at agency for [x years], then transfer to [Records Management or off-site storage] and retain an additional [x years], then destroy.

Screening retention statement example

  • Screen annually and transfer to the Maryland State Archives for permanent retention any materials having any administrative, legal, or historical value that serves to document the origin, development, functions, and accomplishments of the agency. Destroy any remaining material.

  Retention Schedule Submission & Approval
  • Proposed schedules must be approved in writing by a legally designated official of the agency or office before they are submitted to the Records Management Division.
  • Three signed copies of any proposed schedule and one copy of the records inventory accompanying each proposed schedule must be submitted to the Division for review.
  • Proposed revisions made by the Division and approved by the agency or office must be incorporated into the proposed schedule and signed by a legally designated official of the agency or office.
  • The Division reviews the schedule, assigns a schedule number and forwards to the Archives all three copies of the proposed schedule, as amended or revised and along with the records inventory.
  • The Archives reviews the proposed schedule and responds within 45 days of receiving the proposed schedule.
  • If the State Archivist approves the schedule as submitted, two copies signed by the State Archivist are returned to the Division. The Division retains one copy for its files and forwards a copy to the agency or office.
  • If the State Archivist disapproves the proposed schedule in whole or in part, the Archives returns all copies to the Division with a statement of the reasons for disapproval and recommendations for revision. The Division returns all copies of the schedule with a request to the agency or office to modify the schedule and resubmit it to the State Archivist for approval.

Approved retention schedules are on file at the Records Management Division and the State Archives. The Archives maintains approved schedules online as well:

 Retention Schedule Revision

A schedule may be amended or revised at any time by an agency or office, or at the request of the Division or the Archives. Reasons for amendments or revisions include the creation of new record series, changes in record-keeping practices, changes in formats, and reorganization of an agency or office. To amend or revise a schedule the steps outlined in COMAR 14.18.02(F-I) should be followed.

At least once every 5 years an agency or office must review its retentions schedule or schedules to determine if they encompass all current record series. Based upon the review, an agency or office may be required to amend or revise its schedule or schedules by following the steps outlined in COMAR 14.18.02(A-E).

An agency submitting legislation that will change the manner or nature of record-keeping within that agency shall submit in advance a copy of the proposed legislation to the State Archives for review. This legislation shall be accompanied by any relevant Attorney General opinions.

 Records Disposal

A schedule does not constitute legal authorization for the disposal of records until it has been approved in writing by the State Archivist.

When records are destroyed in accordance with the terms of an approved schedule, the agency, office, or records center shall submit a proposal and certificate of records disposition (also known as a disposal certificate) to the Maryland State Archives. For all offices of the Maryland Judiciary, these certificates must be submitted and the State Archivist must approve them before any destruction takes place.

The disposal certificates of all agencies, including those of the Judiciary, can be submitted online at http://disposal.msa.md.gov. To create an account for the system, agency records managers should send an email to msa.helpdesk@maryland.gov or call 410-260-6467. Agencies can designate more than one individual to perform this function. The certificate shall contain the following information:

  • Title of each record series
  • Schedule number or numbers, as assigned by the Division
  • Inclusive dates for each record series
  • Quantity of material for each record series
  • Date of destruction
  • Method of destruction
  • Signature of a legally designated official of the agency, office, or records center
 Records Transfer

Non-permanent State agency records may be transferred to the State Records Center. Contact Records Management Division (410-799-1930 or 410-799-4640) to obtain information about records transfers. Agencies must complete and submit a Records Transmittal and Receipt Form (DGS 550-5) prior to transfer.

Permanent records must be transferred to the Maryland State Archives. A public record may not be disposed of without authorization from the State Archivist. The authorization shall be obtained by means of filing the schedules and obtaining approval of the State Archivist.

Information about transferring records to the State Archives is available online:
Records Transfer Procedures
Preliminary Inventory Worksheet Instructions
Preliminary Inventory Worksheet Form
Records Condition Assessment Form
Acquiring and Assembling Records Center Boxes
Interfile Transfers


This web site is provided as a courtesy of the Maryland State Archives. As you develop your records management program, you should consult with the Records Management Division of the Department of General Services and your staff counsel.


This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.


Tell Us What You Think About the Maryland State Archives Website!


[ Archives' Home Page  ||  All About Maryland  ||  Maryland Manual On-Line  ||  Reference & Research
||  Search the Archives   ||  Education & Outreach  ||  Archives of Maryland Online ]

Governor     General Assembly    Judiciary     Maryland.Gov

© Copyright February 19, 2015 Maryland State Archives