A retention schedule is a key document for your agency's records management program. It documents what records your agency creates and defines how long you need to retain them before you destroy them or transfer them to the State Archives.
What is a Retention Schedule?
- 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
- For each record type (also known as a record series) on a retention schedule, the retention schedule also specifies how long the agency will retain the record before it is destroyed (in the case of non-permanent records) or transferred to the Archives (in the case of permanent records).
- More Information: What is a Record?
Why do I need a retention schedule?
- State Government Article 10, sections 608-611 and COMAR 14.18.02 require retention schedules for the economical and efficient management of records.
- Retention schedules let you know what records you have and where they are, which is vital information whenever you need to access information in your records.
- Retention schedules also ensure that you are retaining records for as long as you need them to do your job, but not expending resources holding on to records that have no further value.
- A retention schedule gives you authority to destroy records that have no further use.
- A retention schedule allows you to transfer to the State Archives records that have permanent value but that are no longer needed for your daily work.
Questions regarding current schedules should be directed to the agency that creates the record. Inquiries about extant schedules can also be directed to the Records Management Division of the Department of General Services.
We provide online reference access to all state, county, and municipal retention schedules that are known by the Archives to have received approval from the State Archivist. These series include schedules that have been amended or superseded by later schedules and, therefore, may no longer be in effect. The schedules are provided on this web site as a courtesy for reference purposes only.
You can view the recent schedules of other agencies to find out about how they are managing their records. (Note: The following links will take you to a new website)
- Before you create a retention schedule for your agency, you should check to see if the agency ever previously had a schedule that can provide you useful information in creating your new schedule.
- To create a retention schedule, you must (1) inventory and (2) appraise your records. We provide retention schedule forms that will guide you in this process and allow you to document your records inventory and appraisal decisions.
- We provide different versions of the form, so you can use the one that best serves you.
- Instructions for the retention schedule forms
- For access, email Michael Swygert of the Records Management Division at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Word Doc
- Creating a retention schedule involves doing an inventory of all your records. The inventory process helps you discover:
- What records you create and why you create them
- Where the records are and how they are organized
- The format and volume of the records
- How the records are accessed
- How long the records are actively used by your agency
- Inventorying your records will give you a complete picture of what records you create, why you create them, how they are used, and where they are.
- Information from the inventory will let you make informed records management decisions, such as:
- Whether records have permanent or non-permanent value
- How long records are needed for agency functions
- How much storage space your agency will need over time
- Where records should be stored relative to their activity levels
- How different types of records relate to each other (such as whether an index is necessary to access a certain type of record)
- Which records are most vital to resuming an agency’s key functions after a disaster
- Where the most vital records are located
- Whether records are duplicated in another location
- Once you have gathered inventory information on your records, you can make the appraisal decisions of how long your records should be retained. You need to decide:
- Will the value of this record never cease (in which case it is a permanent record) or at some point does it have no further value (in which case it is a non-permanent record).
- In the case of permanent records, you have to decide how long your agency needs to retain the records to do its work before. Once they are no longer needed to do agency work, they should be scheduled for transfer to the Archives for permanent retention.
- In the case of non-permanent records, you have to decide how long your agency needs to retain the record before it has no further value and can be destroyed.
- When determining how long to retain records, keep the following aspects in mind:
- Historical value, or the usefulness of the records for historical research, such as records that show an agency’s origin, purpose, administrative development, accomplishments, and organizational structure;
- Administrative value or the usefulness of the records for carrying on an agency's current and future work;
- Regulatory and statutory requirements, whether the requirements are Federal, State, or local;
- 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;
- Form completion - Be certain to complete all fields on the retention schedule form.
- Descriptive information - Keep in mind that retention schedules are a key part to our democracy in that it lets the public know what records the government creates and for how long those records exist. Therefore, make sure that your retention schedule is descriptive enough so that anyone can read it and understand what the records are. For example, acronyms and abbreviations should be spelled out the first time they are used. Be sure to clearly state the record’s purpose or why that record is created.
- Completeness - Make sure that your retention schedule includes all of your agency records, including paper records, digital records, and indexes.
- Clarity - To avoid any confusion, make sure that the schedule specifically states how long a record is retained and whether it is then destroyed or transferred to the State Archives. For sample retention language, see our suggested language section.
- Be sure to specify whether the schedule draft is superseding or amending an existing approved schedule.
- A new schedule supersedes a previously approved schedule if it is intended to fully replace the previous schedule.
- A new schedule amends a previously approved schedule if it is intended to add to an existing schedule.
- If no previously approved schedule exists for the agency, the new schedule does not supersede or amend anything.
- The language that you use to describe the retention of a record must be clear. The retention statement you use should not leave any doubt about:
- How long a record must be retained
- Whether the record is being destroyed or transferred to the Archives at the end of the retention period.
- Retention is generally based on a specific amount of time passing and/or specified criteria being met
- Specified amount of time
- Examples: 1 year; 10 years; 6 months; etc.
- Specified criteria met
- Examples: Audit requirements are met; Case is closed; Contract expires; etc.
- Here is a retention statement
- Retain for 3 years and until audit requirements met, then destroy.
- Additional permanent record retention statement examples:
- Permanent. Retain [specified amount of time], 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 [specified amount of time] after [specified criteria is met], then transfer to the Maryland State Archives for permanent retention.
- Scanned permanent record retention statement examples :
- More Information: Scanning Guidelines
- Scan to Maryland State Archives standards, then destroy paper. Transfer images every [specified amount of time] to Maryland State Archives for permanent retention.
- Scan to Maryland State Archives standards. Transfer paper and images every [specified amount of time] to Maryland State Archives for permanent retention.
- Non-permanent record retention statement examples:
- Retain for [specified amount of time], then destroy.
- Retain for [specified amount of time] and [specified criteria met], then destroy.
- Retain for [specified amount of time] or until [specified criteria is met], whichever is later, then destroy.
- Retain until [specified criteria is met], then destroy.
- Retain for [specified amount of time] after [specified criteria is met], then destroy.
- Retain at agency for [specified amount of time], then transfer to [Records Management or off-site storage] and retain an additional [specified amount of time], then destroy.
- Scan to Maryland State Archives standards, then destroy paper. Retain images [specified amount of time], then destroy
- Scanned non-permanent record retention statement examples
- More Information: Scanning Guidelines
- Scan to Maryland State Archives standards, then destroy paper. Retain images [specified amount of time], then destroy.
- Retain for [specified amount of time], then scan to Maryland State Archives standards and destroy paper. Retain images [specified amount of time], then destroy.
- Suggested language for paper and electronic (email) correspondence:
- Transitory Correspondence: Incoming and outgoing correspondence related to matters of short term interest. Transmittal correspondence between individuals, departments or external parties containing no final contractual, financial or policy information. This correspondence does not impact agency functions. When resolved, there is no further use or purpose. Retention: Retain until administrative need ends and then destroy.
- Administrative Correspondence: Incoming and outgoing business-related correspondence created in the course of administering agency functions and programs. Administrative correspondence documents work assigned, work accomplished, transactions made, or actions taken. This correspondence documents the implementation of agency functions rather than the creation of functions or policies. Business-related correspondence that is essential to a core function of another series should follow the retention period for that series. Retention: Retain for [x] years and then destroy.
- Executive Correspondence: Incoming and outgoing non-transitory, business-related correspondence of the director or executive. These records document executive decisions made regarding agency interests and provide unique information relating to the functions, policies, procedures or programs of an agency. Retention: Permanent. Retain for x] years and then transfer to Maryland State Archives for permanent retention.
- If you are using the Googledoc forms, "share" the Googledoc with email@example.com with a note to let the Records Management Division know it is ready for review.
- If you are using the Word doc forms, email a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Records Management Division and Archives staff will review your draft. We may contact you with questions or suggested revisions.
- Once the initial review process is complete, you will be asked to print three copies and have it signed by the agency head or appointed Records Officer and mail it to:
Attn: Victoria Chester
Records Management Division
Department of General Services
7275 Waterloo Road
P.O. Box 275
Jessup, MD 20794
- Once we receive the signed copies, they will go to the State Archivist for his approval. When the State Archivist signs it, the retention schedule becomes official. We will return a signed copy to you, keep one at the State Archives, and one at the Records Management Division.
- Over time, schedules must be updated. 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.
- An agency can revise or amend their schedule at any time. At least once every 2 years the Agency must review its retentions schedule to decide whether revisions are needed.
- When schedules need to be updated, agencies should follow the same procedure as drafting and submitting a new schedule, with the following exception:
- Amending an existing schedule: If you are amending a schedule, your submitted draft should include only the items that you are editing or adding to the existing schedule. On the retention schedule cover sheet, be sure to enter in the "Amends Schedule" field the schedule number and the item numbers that you are editing. In the retention schedule, be sure that the item numbers correspond with the item numbers on the existing schedule. For example, if you are editing item 2, you should use 2 as the item number in the new schedule draft.
- Superseding a schedule: If you supersede a schedule, the new schedule replaces the existing schedule in its entirety. On the retention schedule cover sheet, be sure to enter in the "Supersedes Schedule" field the schedule number being superseded. In the retention schedule be sure to include all the record series for your agency. Once approved, the new schedule will be the only active schedule.
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.
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