Electronic Records Guidance


Not all records are paper. COMAR 14.18.02 defines a record as any documentary material in any form created or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of public business. Today, an increasing percentage of records are in an electronic format. Some of these records are created in an electronic format ("born digital") while others are created by scanning records that are in paper or analog formats (such as microfilm). Electronic records provide an excellent opportunity for government agencies to improve the efficiency of their records creation, access, and storage procedures.

Retention Responsibilities

The records management responsibilities of public officials apply equally to paper and electronic records. As is the case with paper records, decisions about how long to retain electronic records are based on the record's content rather than its format. And, as with all government records, these retention decisions must be documented in a records retention and disposition schedule approved by the State Archives. Moreover, agencies must document record disposal by submitting disposal certificates to the State Archives.


When considering formats for your electronic records, remember that your records must remain accessible throughout the lifecycle of the record. If a format or system becomes obsolete, you must be able to migrate your records into new formats or systems so that the records are maintained through their retention period.

To ensure the long-term accessibility of permanent records, records transferred to the Archives must be in non-proprietary, open formats that do not require specialized software to access them. Here are the Archives' preferred file formats for permanent records:


  1. TIFF
  2. jpg
  3. PDF/A -Text-searchable, if possible
  4. PDF-Text-searchable, if possible


  1. rtf
  2. PDF/A -Text-searchable, if possible
  3. PDF-Text-searchable, if possible


Database transfers must include the data sets and data structure in a mutually agreeable format, such as XML or mdb Access.

For more on the sustainability of the various digital formats, we recommend the Library of Congress's Analysis of the Sustainability of Digital Formats

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.

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