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Managing Records FAQs

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.

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 New York State Archives' records center on the State Office Campus in Albany. For more guidance on storing records off-site, see the publication Off-Site Storage of Inactive Local Government Records (Technical Information Series 42), or contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via e-mail at recmgmt@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. 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.

Do you provide inactive records storage services?

The State Archives does provide records storage services for a fee to state agencies. The Archives' website has a list of annual flat rates for different media types. For more information contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via e-mail at recmgmt@nysed.gov.

Does the State Archives provide any services related to eGovernment and websites?

The State Archives has a number of workshops related to eGovernment and website development. See our online catalog for more information. Grants for local government eGovernment activities are eligible for grant funding through the State Archives. For more information on related services, contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926, via e-mail at recmgmt@nysed.gov.

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 e-mail at recmgmt@nysed.gov for more information on scheduling state agency records.

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 Confidata/Empire Recycling Corporation 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@nysed.gov.

How do I estimate the costs of microfilming?

Cost considerations include format, condition of original records and the amount of preparation time needed, whether or not the preparation will be done in-house, type of camera, and size of film used. For more information, see State Archives Technical Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects. The Archives also offers a micrographics workshop in the summer.

How do I prepare records for microfilming?

Preparation is considered to be all the activities that are performed prior to filming. After a selection of records collections have been made, a records collection is examined folder by folder, and many times item by item. Many archival collections need to be arranged and described in-house, as well as made camera- ready. In certain situations, this work can equal or exceed the cost of filming. For more information, see State Archives Publication #9, Producing High Quality Microfilm, pgs. 17-19, and Publication #11, Introduction to Microfilm, pg. 9-11, for more information.

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 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@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 the Records Management Officer for your state agency or local government before you discard any records.

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.

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 the State Archives' publications, Developing an Inactive Records Storage Facility (Technical Information Series 48) and Administration of Inactive Records (Technical Information Series 49). The Archives also offers an Inactive Records Management workshop in the summer.

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. For more information, see the "Getting Started" section of the 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.

Is microfilming or micrographics an obsolete technology?

Many people now seem to believe that microfilming is no longer a viable records management technology because imaging has replaced it. However, microfilming remains a useful technology alongside imaging. Microfilming is a better solution for the permanent storage and protection of permanent records, especially if those records are not used too frequently.

Should we use a microfilm vendor or start our own in-house filming program?

A government needs to determine which option is more cost effective. Factors to consider include the volume of records and size of your organization, as well as the dedication of resources, including staff. Consult State Archives staff for advice regarding your specific situation. For more information, see State Archives technical Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects. The Archives also offers a micrographics workshop in the summer.

What filing system should I use to improve access to my records?

The appropriate filing system for any set of records is determined by how people need to access the records. You have to decide how people usually look for information in the records, then you design a system that can meet those needs.

When should microfilm be considered? What types of records should be filmed?

Microfilm should be considered when you have a large volume of records that needs to be retained for a long period of time. Consider it also when you need to protect important records and want to improve access to them. For more information see State Archives Technical Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects and #76, Inventory and Planning: The First Steps in Records Management. The Archives also offers a micrographics workshop in the summer.

Where can I find HSE/GED information?

For information on HSE/GED testing, results, or to obtain a copy of a transcript or high school equivalency diploma, contact the State Education Department HSE Testing Office:

89 Washington Avenue
PO Box 7348
Albany, NY 12224-0348
phone - (518) 474-5906
email - hse@nysed.gov
website - http://www.acces.nysed.gov/hse/duplicate-diplomas-andor-transcripts

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 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.

Where do I obtain birth, death, marriage, and divorce records?

Contact DOH Vitals (Vital Records Section, NYS Department of Health, Empire State Plaza, Albany NY 12237, tel. 855-322-1022 [toll free]) for such records from outside NYC. Also try their website: http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/consumer/vr.htm For New York City events, contact the NYC Department of Health (Vital Records, NYC Department of Health, 125 Worth Street / Box 10, NY, NY 10013, (212) 788-5300) for such events in the city.

Where do I obtain records from a closed college or professional education (nursing, dentistry, etc.) school?

As a general rule, contact the SED Office of Higher Education. Higher and professional education schools which close are required to (1) transfer their student academic records to another school or agency for permanent preservation and to notify SED of that arrangement, or (2) transfer the records to SED which then maintains them permanently. In practice, there are several units within SED which become involved. For colleges and similar higher education schools, the contact should be the Office of College and University Evaluation at (518) 474-2593 or via email at ocueinfo@nysed.gov in the Office of Higher Education. For nursing schools, contact the Office of Professions, Office of Professional Education Program Review, at (518) 486-2967. For closed professional schools in other professions, try the appropriate board office in the Office of the Professions. For example, the State Board for Dentistry maintains records of one closed dental school.

For a list of the locations of student academic records of closed institutions of higher education in New York, see the following website maintained by the State Education Department, Office of Higher Education:

http://www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/spr/closedInstDirectory.htm

Where do I obtain student records from a closed private elementary or secondary school?

Contact the public school district in which the private school was geographically located. Private elementary or secondary schools which close are required to either (1) place their student academic records with another school or "agency" for permanent preservation and notify the public school district in which the school was geographically located of that arrangement, or (2) send the records to that public school district which is then responsible for their continued permanent preservation. SED has no student records from public or private elementary or secondary schools.

Where do I obtain student records from a closed proprietary school?

"Non-degree granting" proprietary schools come under the jurisdiction of the SED Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision. Proprietary schools are required by 8 NYCRR 126.11 to maintain student academic records for 20 years after the student completes his/her program at the school. After that, the records may be destroyed. If a proprietary school closes, it is required to (1) transfer its student academic records to another school or agency for the indicated retention period and notify the SED Bureau of Proprietary School
Supervision of that arrangement, or (2) transfer the records to that SED Bureau which then maintains them for the indicated period.

However, some proprietary schools have Regents authority to award degrees. Such institutions therefore come under the jurisdiction of the SED Bureau of Higher Education and are required to maintain student records permanently. For a list of the locations of student academic records of closed degree-granting proprietary colleges, as well as of other types of closed colleges and universities, see the following website maintained by the State Education Department, Office of Higher Education:

http://www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/spr/closedInstDirectory.htm

Which is cheaper: storing the microfilm or storing the paper records?

A rule of thumb is that usually filming is cheaper if the records will be kept for at least another 10 to 15 years. It may be cheaper for state government agencies to store materials at the Records Center with a 30 to 40 year break-even point. The Archives also offers a micrographics workshop in the summer.