Archives Technical Information Series #22
Effective August 1, 1997 the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education were changed to reconcile and combine requirements for the retention and preservation of electronic records applicable to both State agencies and local governments. The consolidated requirements are now regulation 188.20 Retention and Preservation of Electronic Records. For all intents and purposes, the rest of the regulations affecting local government and State agency records management programs remain unchanged. The motivation for changing regulations affecting electronic records was to:
- increase the ability of local governments to take full advantage of imaging technology;
- reconcile regulations applied to State agencies and local governments.
Previous regulations applicable to local governments distinguished between images of records scheduled for less than ten years and those scheduled for ten years or more. In the case of the latter, local governments were required to retain for the life of the record either eye-readable (paper) or near eye-readable (microform) versions of the digitally imaged records. The new regulation do not distinguish between imaged and other electronic records or between records with short retention periods and those required to be retained for more than 10 years. They simply require both State and local officials to ensure that electronic records are not rendered unusable because of changing technology before their retention and preservation requirements are met. In the case of permanent or archival electronic records, an agency or local government, in consultation with the State Archives, must determine that the records will remain usable and accessible through conversion of the records to new system hardware and software and through the creation of adequate documentation... (full text of Section 188.20 is in Appendix A).
In substance, the changes in regulation only impact digital images of local government records that were originally on paper and which are retained for ten years or longer. The regulations do not specify how a local government or State agency is to accomplish the requirement and do not preclude them from transferring imaged records to other media or maintaining microfilm copies for long-term preservation purposes. The following sections outline guidelines for government officials who choose to maintain records with retention periods of ten years or more in imaged formats. The guidelines represent best practices in the information technology management field and reflect established State information policies and standards.