Options for Records Duplicated in Multiple Formats

In many cases, particularly when electronic records are created by scanning paper records, agencies have the same records duplicated in both paper and digital formats. Agencies should carefully consider the proper retention for each version of the record in order to ensure that the agency's and the public's needs are met in an efficient manner. There are four main retention approaches when you have the same records duplicated in multiple formats:

Create records digitally
If an agency creates a record in a paper version and then digitizes it, the agency should consider whether the record can be more efficiently created in a digital format.

Example: At http://disposal.mdsa.net, agencies are able to create disposal certificates in an electronic format rather then creating them as paper records.

Scan and return paper
Records can be created digitally through the "scan and return" method. In this process, paper is submitted to the creating agency, who then scans the paper and returns it to the submitter. The record is therefore the scanned image.

Example: Patrons file land records by bringing paper documents to the Circuit Courts. The Circuit Courts scan the paper documents and return the paper documents to the submitter. The official land record is the scanned image created by the Circuit Court.

Scan and destroy paper
In some cases an agency may wish to keep the electronic version of a record for a longer retention than the original paper version of the record. This may be true for both non-permanent and permanent records. For instance, an agency may wish to destroy paper records after they have been scanned but keep the scanned images of the records for a number of years. In another case, the electronic images of a record may be sent to the Archives for permanent retention while the paper records are destroyed. However, keep in mind that decisions about the retention of paper and digital records should be made based upon the value of the records, rather than considerations such as storage concerns.

Example: Patrons file claims against decedents with no estate of record by filing them with a Register of Wills. The Register of Wills scans the records and transfers the images to the Archives for permanent retention and destroys the paper unless the submitter wants the record returned.

Retaining multiple formats
For some record series, there is justification for keeping records in multiple formats. For instance, a record series may be digitized to make the records more accessible. Meanwhile, there may be inherent historic value in the paper version of the records that is not captured in the electronic version that warrants the retention of the paper records.

Example: The Maryland State Archives has the original speech with which George Washington resigned his commission as the Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army. Even though this document has been digitized, the historic value of the original paper document warrants its permanent retention.

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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