Managing Records: Starting a Program

Starting a Program:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do I have to keep records?
How long do I have to keep electronic records?
Do you have any grants for records management or archives projects?
How should I go about hiring a consultant in records management?
How can I as a state agency legally throw away records?
Do you provide inactive records storage services?
How should I set up a records center or records storage area?
How can I dispose of large quantities of paper records?
Can I store government records off-site in leased storage space?
I'm just starting out. Where should I begin to address records management issues?
Where can I get help developing records management policies?
Where can I get training in records management and archives?
Where can I find answers to other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)?

How long do I have to keep records?
The legal retention period of records depends on the function of the records, legal requirements and the administrative or other use of the records. If you are a local government, check the retention schedule for your specific type of government (county, school district, municipality or miscellaneous) for retention periods for specific records. If you are state agency, check the State General Schedule for some retention periods. However, most state agencies will need to work with the State Archives to develop retention schedules for their records. Records in all formats (hardcopy and electronic) must be retained beyond the minimum retention period when they are relevant to a FOIL request, audit, or legal investigation.

Contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via email at RECMGMT@mail.nysed.gov for more information on scheduling state agency records. For more information on the retention of records, see Publication #41 Records Retention and Disposition of Records. The Archives also offers a Using State Archives Retention Schedules workshop in the fall. No matter what, be sure to talk to your Records Management Officer before you discard any records.

How long do I have to keep electronic records?
The legal retention period for records is not determined by their format. Instead, retention depends on the function of the records and their legal, administrative, and fiscal value. If you are from a local government, check the retention schedule for your type of government (county, school district, municipality or miscellaneous) for the appropriate retention periods for your records.  If you are from a state agency, use the State General Schedule and your agency-specific records schedules to determine how long to keep your records. (If your records are not scheduled, contact your State Archives representative.) Records in all formats (hardcopy and electronic) must be retained beyond the minimum retention period when they are relevant to a FOIL request, audit, or legal investigation.

For more information on the retention of records, see Publication #41, Retention and Disposition of Records. The Archives also offers a workshop on using State Archives retention schedules every fall. Be sure to contact your Records Management Officer or the State Archives if you have any questions concerning the legal disposition of records. You can reach us at (518) 474-6926 or via email at RECMGMT@mail.nysed.gov.

Do you have any grants for records management or archives projects?
The State Archives oversees the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF), which annually awards millions of dollars for records management and archives grants to local governments across the state. For more information on the LGRMIF grants program, see the grants section of the Archives' website. This grants program is only for local governments; the Archives does not award any grants to state agencies.

How should I go about hiring a consultant in records management?
There are a number of basic issues you should address whenever hiring a records management consultant, including how to choose a consultant, how write up a contract, and how to oversee a project. For detailed information on hiring consultants, see Publication #44 Records Management Consultants. The State Archives maintains lists of consultants who do various types of records management consulting. For a copy of these lists, contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926, via email at RECMGMT@mail.nysed.gov, or find them online our website.

How can I as a state agency legally throw away records?
State agencies can legally dispose of records only if they have approved Records Disposition Authorizations in place for the records. State agencies should work with the State Archives to develop retention schedules for their specific records. Contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via email at RECMGMT@mail.nysed.gov for more information on scheduling state agency records.

Do you provide inactive records storage services?
The State Archives does provide records storage services for a fee to state agencies. For more information contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via email at RECMGMT@mail.nysed.gov.

How should I set up a records center or records storage area?
Before setting up a storage area for inactive paper records, you should carefully plan for it. You need to consider how to provide security, how you will arrange shelving, and how you will locate and retrieve records from the area among other things. For more information on developing and maintaining a records center, contact the State Archives Regional Advisory Officer in your region of the state. Also, see Publication #48 Developing an Inactive Records Storage Facility and Publication #49 Administration of Inactive Records. The Archives also offers an Inactive Records Management workshop in the fall.

How can I dispose of large quantities of paper records?
Figuring how to destroy large quantities of paper records can be a difficult. One good solution is to use the services of a vendor that recycles paper. Such vendors certify the destruction of records and can make special accommodations for confidential records. Any state or local government agency in New York may now use the services of Yank Waste Company Inc. for secure and environmentally acceptable disposal and recycling of bulk quantities of obsolete paper records at no cost. The services include pick-up, secure handling and, if necessary, shredding. The services are provided under the terms of a statewide contract administered by the State Archives' Records Center Services. For additional information about the contract, contact State Archives Records Center Services at (518) 457-3171 or via email at records@mail.nysed.gov..

Can I store government records off-site in leased storage space?
Local governments and state agencies do not have to store their records in their own facilities. They can store their records in commercial records storage facilities, and state agencies can also store their records at the State Records Center on the State Office Campus in Albany. For more guidance on storing records off-site, see Publication #42 Off-Site Storage of Inactive Local Government Records, or contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via email at RECMGMT@mail.nysed.gov.

I'm just starting out. Where should I begin to address records management issues?
One of the most interesting challenges in records management is getting started. If your government or agency has never tackled records management before there can be a lot of work ahead of you. First, you have to start by getting preliminary control over your records. Many government agencies accomplish this by conducting records inventories, developing or implementing retention schedules, and establishing inactive storage areas. Find out more about our services for local governments, state agencies, or historical records repositories. For more information about getting started, see the Starting a Program section of the website.

Where can I get help developing records management policies?
The State Archives can provide a great deal of help to anyone developing records management policies. First, contact the State Archives Regional Advisory Officer in your region of the state and discuss your specific issues and ask for any sample policies. You may also contact the State Archives central office at (518) 474-6926, especially if you are an Albany-based state agency. You also might consider attending our policies workshops, which are usually given in the spring of every year. Many of our publications include sample policies or discuss the development of policies in specific areas, so order publications on topics that interest you.

Where can I get training in records management and archives?
The State Archives provides workshops free of charge to local governments and state agencies, and others are welcome to attend. The Archives holds workshops across the state in two different seasons each year (spring/summer and fall/winter). We announce the workshop and webinar schedule via our website. Workshop registration is an easy and free self-service process that you can do on our website 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The State Archives can also present specialized workshops for individual governments, agencies or associations. For more information or special requests, contact the State Archives Regional Advisory Officer in your region of the state or contact the Training Unit at ARCHTRAIN@mail.nysed.gov or (518) 474-6926.

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