What is Disposition?
Disposition is the transfer of records to their final state; shred, transfer to Archives, or purge.
During each disposition round the Record Custodian will receive an electronic notification that details all material currently eligible for disposition. It will be sent with a return receipt attached, which is returned to Records Management to indicate the Records Custodian has read and been informed of the pending disposition.
Not all disposition is created equal, and not all disposition means "destroy." When the Records Custodian receives a notice of impending disposition this may include a variety of disposition method codes. For reference, here is a complete glossary.
- Shred - Material under this method is processed under strict security. For paper records, destruction is accomplished via secure on-site shredding by a third party vendor who provides certificates of secure destruction. The shredded material is then recycled. Note that non-record material can also be shredded. For digital records, they are deleted using technology ensuring they cannot be recovered.
- Archives - This designation is for material to be processed into the permanent historical records of the College. Note that this processing is done by the College Archives. The Archives works with individual departments during their processing. Records of enduring legal, fiscal, administrative or historical value are retained. Records duplicating information found elsewhere may be discarded.
- Purge - This special designation is for record sets which need to be purged before destruction. Usually this means removing material based on a specified criteria. The remaining material is then re-cataloged under a separate record classification with a longer retention period, and the remaining material is securely disposed.
Circumstances may demand that a particular box must be held beyond its scheduled disposition. This is normally due to litigation, an audit, or a pending project. Should placing a hold become necessary, the Records Custodian must contact the Records Manager or the Records Analyst before a scheduled disposition. The box or boxes can then be placed on a temporary hold, and the Records Custodian will be contacted again at the next scheduled disposition round to review the status of the material.
Records Management asks that material only be placed on hold for valid and specific administrative reasons. It is important from a legal standpoint, should Dartmouth's retention practices ever be challenged, that the institution can document a high level of consistency in applying disposition. If a specific reason cannot be found for holding a particular box, and the Records Custodian is still not comfortable with the disposition, then that may indicate that the retention period needs to be revisited and extended.
Updating our catalog
The final step of the disposition process is to update the Records Management computer system to reflect the disposed material. Even though material may process out of the facility, it remains in the data system, flagged as disposed. This means that Records Management can tell you not only what is currently in storage, but also all files which have been disposed. The exception to this are those records disposed before the digital tracking system was adopted in June of 1994. Box and File data on those records was not retained.