Records Officer Guidance
Records officers are appointed by the head of each government unit to develop and oversee that unit's records management program.
In addition to the guidance on this page, the text slides on the homepage of this website provide an introductory overview, and IPER resources can be found in the 'For Additional Guidance' section below.
What are Your Responsibilities as Agency Records Officer?
Annotated Code of Maryland State Government 10-610 specifies the duties of a records officer as:
- Serve as liaison to the Records Management Division of the Department of General Services and the State Archives; and
- Develop and oversee the records management program of your agency
Serve as a Liaison
As records officer for your agency, you will be the point of contact for the Records Management Division of the Department of General Services and the State Archives for any records management issues. In order to effectively serve as a point of contact, you must keep these these agencies informed on your up-to-date contact information, including your:
- Email Address
- Mailing Address
- Phone Number
Updates to your contact information should be emailed to the State Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Records Officer Assignment”.
Develop and Oversee Your Agency’s Records Management Program
Annotated Code of Maryland State Government Article 10-610 specifies that each unit of the State government have a program for the continual, economical, and efficient management of the records of the unit. The purpose of this program is to:
- Protect records considered essential to the continuing operation of government;
- Guarantee the integrity and preservation of permanent records;
- Ensure the legal admissibility of the permanent record;
- Secure the rights and privileges of citizens;
- Assure public access to the records of government;
- Promote agency legal and fiscal accountability; and
- Provide a means to document agency administrative history.
There are many benefits to your agency in having an effective records management program:
- Provide easy access to records which are frequently necessary for financial operations
- In the event of disaster, provide for preservation and access to essential records needed to maintain continuity of government
- Safeguard critical institutional memory in the case of staff turnover
- Provide evidence for litigation
- Significantly improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of internal operations
- Lower storage costs by transferring permanent records to the Archives and destroying non-permanent records in a timely manner
The law requires that your records management program have procedures for:
- Safeguarding the security and integrity of records;
- Establishing and revising agency records retention and disposition schedules;
- Maintaining inventories of agency records series that are accurate and complete;
- Disposing of non-permanent agency records that have met retention requirements in a prompt, orderly, and documented manner; and
- Transferring permanent agency records to the custody of the Archives.
Establishing and maintaining a good records management program may seem daunting, but your responsibilities are manageable. A little effort in the short term will save you trouble in the long term. As you are now responsible for developing and overseeing these procedures, let’s look at each one individually.
A record is any documentary material created or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of public business. A common misconception is that all records are on paper. In actuality, electronic documentation is as much a record as paper documentation and should be treated as such. Similarly, creating a digital copy does not in itself absolve an agency of the responsibility to maintain the original paper or film record. Less typical media, like photographs or audio tapes, can also be public records.
All public officials are responsible for retaining and protecting all records in their custody. All records must be kept in facilities maintained by the agency responsible for the creation and maintenance of the records unless the Records Management Division consents to their storage elsewhere. Your program must establish safeguards against damage, removal, or loss of records. Agencies are also responsible for initiating appropriate action to recover records removed unlawfully or without authorization.
Records should NOT be stored in offices for long periods of time. Without proper humidity and temperature conditions records can rapidly age and deteriorate. Further, records are much more likely to be damaged by fire, flood, or neglect in an office environment. Therefore, records that are no longer needed for current agency operations should either be destroyed or transferred to the Archives in accordance with their retention requirements as defined in your agency’s records retention and disposition schedule.
The key component of any records management program is to know what records you have, where they are located, and how long they are needed for agency business. Maintaining an inventory allows you to do all these things. A record inventory is a survey of all records series maintained by an agency. Such an inventory should answer basic questions about your records:
- What is this record? What is in it? How much of it is there? Is it maintained on paper, or microfilm, or digitally?
- Why was it created or received? What is it used for?
- When was it created?
- Who uses it and how? Does it relate to other records in your agency, or even in another agency?
- Where is it currently housed?
A records retention and disposition schedule (or retention schedule, for short) is an official document created by a government agency and approved by the State Archivist. A retention schedule lists every type of record that the agency generates and gives the agency authority to transfer permanent records and destroy non-permanent records at specified times. You are responsible for ensuring that all agency records, including electronic records, are covered by a schedule which ensures their retention and usability throughout the authorized lifecycle of the records. As agency records officer you or your agency head must sign all retention schedule drafts.
Specific procedures for creating retention schedules are available in COMAR 14.18.02.07. Guidance is also available online: View Retention Schedule Creation Guidance
You should review and revise your schedule every two years to ensure that it continues to accurately reflect the functions, records, and organization of your agency.
Most government records have no value or use beyond current agency operations. When no longer of use to the creating agency, such “non-permanent” records are destroyed in accordance with the agency retention schedule. The small percentage of records created or received by your agency deemed to have permanent legal, fiscal, administrative, historical, or other archival value are to be offered to the Archives for permanent retention. Only records identified as having permanent value on an approved retention schedule should be offered to the Archives, and only when such records are no longer needed for current agency business. Non-paper records must be transferred in a non-proprietary form and format that the Archives is able to make accessible to government and the public. All records transfers must include any accompanying information (such as indexes) necessary to provide easy government and public access to the records transferred. The agency head or agency records officer will also have to approve of each transfer.
Detailed procedures for offering records for transfer to the State Archives are available online: How to Transfer Records
In order to lawfully alienate or destroy a public record, an agency must have an approved retention schedule. When records are to be destroyed in accordance with the terms of an approved schedule, it will be your responsibility to submit a certificate of records disposal (also known as a disposal certificate) to the Maryland State Archives. Offices of the Maryland Judiciary must submit a proposal and certificate of records destruction, which the State Archivist must approve before any actual destruction of records takes place. All other agencies submit disposal certificates after disposal takes place. This certificate documents what was destroyed, how and when it was destroyed, and the citation for the retention schedule that authorized the destruction. The agency records officer or agency head must sign all disposal certificates.
Disposal certificates can be submitted by paper or online. View Disposal Certificate Guidance
We have an online list of records officers on file with the Archives. View Record Officers
The Archives and the Records Management Division provide guidance regarding records management online. View Guidance
The Maryland State Archives YouTube page has a playlist for records management guidance videos.
We are also available for questions or to meet with you. You can contact us at email@example.com
This web site is provided as a courtesy of the Maryland State Archives. As you develop your records management program, you should consult with your agency’s Records Officer.
© Copyright December 15, 2023 Maryland State Archives