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Electronic Records FAQ's

Are digital images of paper records legal in court?

Many people believe that digital images of paper records cannot be used as evidence in court. Actually, digital images can usually be used as evidence; however, you will need to be able to prove that the system that maintains the records is secure and maintains accurate, authentic records.

Are electronic records legal in court?

Many people believe that electronic records cannot be used as evidence in court. Actually, electronic records can usually be used as evidence; however, you will need to be able to prove that the system that maintains the records is secure and maintains accurate, authentic records.

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. This grants program is only for local governments; the Archives does not award any grants to state agencies.

Do you have any guidance regarding geographic information systems (GIS)?

The Archives has an Introduction to GIS workshop that is usually given in the fall.

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@nysed.gov.

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 Records Management Consultants (Technical Information Series 44). 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 e-mail at recmgmt@nysed.gov, or find them online at our website.

Is electronic document imaging or scanning a good idea?

Electronic document imaging, what many people simply call "scanning," can be an important records management technology. However, imaging isn't the solution to all problems. If you're trying to save space by scanning records and then destroying the originals, scanning is an inappropriate choice. Microfilming is a cheaper and easier solution to implement. On the other hand, if you are trying to combine paper and electronic information in one place and provide access to those records simultaneously to a large number of people even at remote locations, then imaging is the best solution. If you need help deciding if imaging makes sense for you, contact the State Archives Regional Advisory Officer in your region of the state or (especially if you are an Albany-based state agency) contact the State Archives central office at (518) 474-6926. The Archives also offers an Electronic Document Imaging workshop in the fall.

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 can attend if there is space available. The Archives holds these workshops across the state in three different seasons each year (spring, summer and fall), and we announce these workshops in seasonal catalogs and via our website. You can find a registration form for our current workshop offerings online. The State Archives can also present specialized workshops for individual governments, agencies or associations. For more information on workshops, contact the State Archives Regional Advisory Officer in your region of the state or (especially if you are an Albany-based state agency) contact the State Archives central office at (518) 474-6926.

Why do local governments ask vendors for references?

Local governments often ask vendors for references to obtain additional input regarding their services to local governments with similar records management issues. Such questions usually focus on the quality of the vendor's services and products.