1. Implementation Procedure
  2. Records Inventory
  3. Record Series Description
  4. Determination of Administrative Value
  5. Records Management Task Force
  6. Appraising Records
  7. Establishing Retention Schedules
  8. Procedures for Initial Records Disposal
  9. Inactive Records
  10. Procedure to Transfer Records to the State Archives

1. Implementation Procedure

The procedure for establishing a records management program within an agency begins with the appointment of an agency records coordinator who is delegated the authority to establish and maintain the records management program. ITD will advise and assist the coordinator in the following steps to implement this program.

  1. A comprehensive Records Inventory (using SFN 2041) and an analysis of the existing records management program must be completed. The records inventory is usually completed by the staff of ITD Records Management.
  2. ITD Records Management will submit a written report to the agency head on the type of records found in the agency and any recommendations for the improved maintenance of all records located within the agency.
  3. A Record Series Description (using SFN 2042) must be completed for each record series identified on the Records Inventory.
  4. The Record Series Descriptions will be submitted to ITD Records Management for review and appraisal by the Records Management Task Force.
  5. A Records Retention Schedule (see SFN 2043 Sample) will be developed by ITD Records Management based on retention period recommendations from the agency and the Records Management Task Force.
  6. The Records Retention Schedule will be approved by the agency and the Records Management Task Force.  This schedule provides guidelines for the disposition process.
  7. The records disposal process will be completed by the agency. 
  8. ITD Records Management will annually provide the agency with a Records Disposal Report (See Records Disposal Report Sample) listing (1) all record series located within the agency, (2) the dates of the records to be transferred to inactive storage, (3) the dates of the records to be microfilmed, (4) the dates of the records to be disposed, and (5) the method of disposal. If the agency only creates and maintains records included on the ND General Records Retention Schedule, they will receive the disposal report for those records.
  9. The North Dakota Subject Classification System should be implemented with the filing system.  This subject classification system is described in Classification System for Records.
  10. ITD Records Management will conduct a periodic compliance review of the state agency’s records management program.

2. Records Inventory

The first step in developing a records management program within an agency is the preparation of a records inventory.  An information management analyst from ITD Records Management will complete the records inventory with the agency records coordinator or employees appointed by the coordinator.  The inventory should be performed by the person within the agency/division most familiar with the records and the filing system.  A records inventory identifies:

  1. The title and description of the record series.
  2. The inclusive years of the record series.
  3. The location of the records.
  4. The classification number.

When completed, the records inventory will identify all records located within the agency and any duplicate storage of the same record series by title and type of filing equipment.

Any records found during the inventory process that are no longer being created or received, will not be added to the Records Retention Schedule and can be disposed by completing a Records Disposal Request (SFN 2044) (See Procedure for One-Time or Early Disposal of Records).

3. Record Series Description

The second step in implementing a records management program within an agency is completing record series descriptions which will be used to develop a records retention schedule.

The record series descriptions will detail the general purpose and content of a record series, or a unit of related records, and recommend a retention period.

For example, a group of employee (personnel) files would be considered as one record series.  A record series may be one or two file folders, or may fill several file drawers, shelves, boxes, etc.

The Records Series Description (SFN 2042) will be used to describe the record series.  This form should be completed using blue or black ink or electronically. The following information must be completed on the form.

  • Agency and division name and number.
  • Type of action requested:  Indicate the record series will be added.
  • Record Control Number:  This number is assigned by the information management analyst and is not completed by the agency.  This space should be left blank.
  • Records Series Title and Complete Description:  The title used on the Record Series Description should be the record name used by the agency and identified on the records inventory.  Include an accurate description of the content of the records series, and the specific forms or materials filed in the folders.  Begin the description with the phrase, "This series contains" and continue with the description.  Give as many details as necessary to properly describe the record series.  Example:  Correspondence covering what kind of information?  Application for what?  Receipts for what?  Minutes, reports, etc.  If forms are a part of the record series, include the state form number of each form.  If part of the record series is "weeded out" for early disposal, it should be inventoried as a separate record series.
  • Media:  Check the appropriate box for the type of media used to record the information.  Is the information (record) stored on paper, microform, electronic, or other type?
  • Inclusive dates of the record series:  The inclusive dates of the record series will be from the oldest item in the file to the most current.  Example:  2006 - 2010.  If the record is still being created, use "Present" instead of a specific date for the "TO" entry.
  • Is the record series confidential/exempt?  If the record is confidential/exempt, cite the state or federal statute, regulation, or court of law decision that makes the record confidential/exempt.  This is in compliance with the North Dakota Open Records Law, North Dakota Century Code (Section 44-04-18).
  • List any applicable state or federal law, requirement, or policy that applies to the retention of the record.
  • Is the record series the original? 
  • Is the information duplicated or summarized elsewhere? 
  • Is the record essential to the ongoing operation of the office in the event of a disaster or accident?
  • Indicate if eight copies are distributed to the State Library in compliance with North Dakota Century Code 54-24-09.
  • If the records are retained in paper format, indicate the size of the paper and type of filing system used to store the records.
  • If the record is a microform, indicate the type.
  • If the records are retained in an electronic format, complete the appropriate questions.
  • Name of the person preparing the description, their telephone number, and the current date.  If there are any questions as the record series description goes through the appraisal process, the members of the Records Management Task Force will contact this employee for clarification.
  • Administrative Value (Agency):  The administrative value will be the length of time the record is actually used in the agency (see Determination of Administrative Value).

Send all completed Record Series Descriptions to ITD Records Management.  The information management analyst will assign a records control number to the record series. 

4. Determination of Administrative Value

In establishing retention periods, the actual or potential value of the record must be weighed against the storage cost.  This requires a realistic appraisal of the records in relation to their period of usefulness and the value to the agency that created them.

Some questions that must be asked while determining retention periods are: How serious would it be if the particular record was not available five or ten years from now?  What are the chances of it being needed?  Is the information available elsewhere?  What would it cost to reconstruct the record if this became necessary?  The answers to these questions allow a realistic approach to determining the retention period for a record.

Records are generally created to help accomplish the functions for which an agency is responsible. These records have value as long as they assist the agency in performing either current or future work.  To establish an administrative value, an agency needs to determine how long the document is actually used.  This assessment involves only the "usefulness" of the record.  It does not include any legal assumptions, audit requirements, or historical values.  Those values are established by the legal, fiscal, and historical assessments.

Administrative values must be assigned as a period of time.  The term "indefinitely" will not be accepted by ITD Records Management when establishing administrative values.

5. Records Management Task Force

After the records series descriptions have been analyzed by ITD Records Management, they will be submitted to the Records Management Task Force for appraisal.

The Records Management Task Force was created to assist agencies in establishing an accurate, legally-approved records retention schedule. The Task Force consists of the State Archivist, State Auditor, Attorney General, and State Records Management Administrator. The Records Management Task Force is responsible for reviewing and assigning the historical, fiscal, and legal values to the record series being submitted by the agency.

When the values have been determined, ITD Records Management will prepare a Records Retention Schedule (see SFN 2043 Sample).  The Records Retention Schedule must be approved by the agency head and then ITD Records Management will submit it to the Task Force for approval.

6. Appraising Records

The third step in establishing a records management program is determining the retention value of the record or how long each record series should be kept in the office and in storage before final disposition.  Records should be retained in the office area as long as they serve the immediate administrative, legal, and fiscal purposes for which they were created.  When they no longer serve these purposes, they should be transferred to an inactive storage center, destroyed, or in some cases deposited in the State Archives.  The following values must be considered during the appraisal of records:

  1. Administrative value:  When scheduling the retention of records, agency personnel should be primarily concerned with the administrative value of the records. 
  2. Legal value:  Records have legal value if they contain evidence of legally enforceable rights or obligations of the state.  Examples are: (a) legal decisions and opinions, (b) fiscal documents representing agreements such as leases, titles, and contracts, and (c) records of legal proceedings.

    A legal retention value for certain records may be established by law.  In these cases, the legal value is determined by the statute.  The Attorney General is responsible for determining the legal value of the record series.

  3. Fiscal value:  Records which relate to the financial transactions of the agency have fiscal value.  After the records have served their primary administrative purpose, they may be retained to document an expenditure of moneys and/or to account for them for audit purposes.  In some instances, the audit requirements of the federal government must be considered.  The State Auditor is responsible for determining the fiscal value of the record series.
  4. Historical value:  Records that (a) have continuing value because they contain information about significant events, (b) document the history and development of an agency, or (c) protect the rights of the state and its citizens, are deemed to have archival or historical value.  These records contain precedents for policies and procedures.  For this reason, they are valuable to the state, to researchers in many fields, and to historians, as evidence of what was actually done.  The State Archives is responsible for determining the historical value of the record series.

The information contained within the record may have any one, any combination, or all of the preceding values.  These values must be determined before a retention period can be established for any record series.

7. Approving the Records Retention Schedule

The final step in developing a Records Management program is the preparation of a Records Retention Schedule Approval (see SFN 2043 Sample) by ITD Records Management.  The final version is returned to the agency for review and department approval by the agency head.  After the agency head approves the retention schedule, it will be submitted to the Records Management Task Force for final approval.  Then it is entered into the records management system and a Records Retention Schedule with Descriptions is posted to the ITD Records Management website for the department to access.

8. Procedure for Initial Records Disposal

Once the records retention schedule is established there should be an accurate and complete disposal of obsolete records.  The agency should continue this disposal of records on an annual basis according to the Records Disposal Report (See Records Disposal Report Sample).

ITD Records Management will provide each agency coordinator with a Records Disposal Report specifying exact disposal instructions for each record series retained in the agency.

The method of disposal will be determined by (a) confidentiality of the record, and (b) requests from the State Archivist for transfer of the record series to the State Archives.

If the record series contains confidential material, the method of disposal will be "shredding".  If it does not contain confidential material, the method of disposal will be "landfill".  Landfill is defined as disposing of records by essentially throwing the obsolete records in the garbage or recycling container.

Records requested by the State Archivist will be noted with a "Transfer to Archives" in the "By the Following Method" section.  Confidential records requested by the State Archivist will be noted with "Tfr. to Arch.* Confid.*" in the "By the Following Method" section.

See the Abbreviations Used for Record Retention Schedules.

9. Inactive Records

Inactive records are defined as "those records referred to less than once per month per file drawer".  Generally, records become inactive when they have fulfilled the immediate administrative purposes for which they were created.

Inactive records should be taken out of the active records area regularly.  This frees up file space needed for active records and eliminates the need to purchase additional file equipment.  It also minimizes the time needed by personnel to file and retrieve active records.

Records moved to inactive storage areas should be placed in boxes or surplus file equipment and labeled with the record control number, inclusive dates of the records, date of authorized disposal, and any special instructions.  ITD Records Management has designed the label found below for use with inactive records storage.  Contact ITD Records Management to obtain a supply of these labels.

10. Procedure to Transfer Records to the State Archives

  1. Offices that are ready to transfer records listed on the Records Disposal Report should contact the State Archives, which will arrange to pick up the materials.  Following is the procedure to transfer paper records to the State Archives.
  2. Records designated for transfer to the State Archives on the Records Disposal Report (See Records Disposal Report Sample) are placed in boxes.  Keep these boxes separate from records to be disposed by shredding or landfill.
  3. State agencies must use sturdy, uniform-size records boxes, such as Banker's Boxes or R-Kive boxes.
  4. When packing records for transfer to the State Archives, maintain the existing arrangement of the files.  Records must not be removed from file folders and the existing arrangement of the files must not be changed.  Boxes must be packed to allow easy removal of files.  Do not stuff boxes or pile extra files horizontally on top of vertical files.  File folders may be stacked horizontally if there are not enough to fill the box properly.  Do not mix record series.

    A box should contain only one record series unless the series is too small to fill a box properly.  Odd-size records, such as bound volumes, maps, and charts, require special handling.  Advise the State Archives of the nature of odd-size records so special arrangements can be made for transfer.  If file inventories, indexes, keys, and other finding aids to the records are retained for office use, make copies of the finding aids and send them along with the records.

  5. Label all boxes in the lower left corner on the front of the box.  Use ink to mark the record series title, record control number (from the records retention schedule), and the box number.  Information, such as file numbers, serial numbers, or alphabetical designations, should be noted on the box. The Records Retention/Disposal Label (SFN 2453) mentioned in item 9 above is available for use.
  6. Contact the State Archives when ready to transfer records.  In most cases, State Archives personnel will remove records from your offices and transfer them to the State Archives in the North Dakota Heritage Center.  Confidential records will remain on confidential status when transferred to the State Archives.  These records will not be open for public inspection.
  7. State law requires certification of records transferred to the State Archives.  The State Archivist completes the Certificate of Transfer section on the Records Disposal Authorization (SFN 2045) or the Certification of Records Disposal (SFN 7694), and returns it to ITD Records Management after the records have been transferred.  The agency must sign the Certificate of Disposal section before the forms are sent to the State Archives.
  8. Electronic records require special procedures for transferring to the State Archives.  Please see the State Historical Society’s website for information related to electronic records with archival value.