FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a Record?

In the course of conducting business your department likely produces and handles a great deal of material. However, not all of this material is considered a "record". Many people mistakenly assume that anything on paper or saved to your computer is a record and should be managed as such. As Records Management can only deal with actual institutional records, it is necessary to differentiate between record and non-record material.

A record is defined as:

  • A record is information created, received and maintained as evidence, and as an asset by the College; or its faculty or staff, in pursuit of legal obligations or in the transaction of business. This information, regardless of physical format or characteristic, must be maintained to meet the administrative, fiscal, legal or historical needs of the College.

A non-record is defined as everything else.

To provide some typical (but by no means exhaustive) examples, the following would be considered records:

  • Fiscal data
  • Outgoing and incoming correspondence
  • Reports and statistical compilations
  • Student files
  • Minutes and other records of College meetings

By contrast, the following are examples of non-record material:

  • Magazines or newspapers
  • Non-substantive emails
  • Books or any other published information
  • Blank paper or other supplies
  • Purchased research or other data from outside sources
  • Newspaper clippings or article copy files

 Typical record formats include:

  • paper
  • microfilm
  • digital storage media (tapes, disks, optical media, etc.)*
  • active data storage in administrative data systems

*Please note that magnetic tape (VHS, cassette), optical disc (CD,DVD), and static memory (USB drive) are information storage mediums that cannot be stored indefinitely with the expectation of future retrieval of the recorded information.  Long-term retention is neither practical nor feasible due to the limited storage stability and hardware/software dependence of these mediums.  The handling, usage, and storage environment of the medium will affect the life expectancy as well.  Migration of information from an older storage medium to a newer one is advisable.

If you have any questions about a particular type of material, and whether it is considered a record of Dartmouth College business, contact the Records Manager or the Records Analyst.

What is a Retention Schedule?

A retention schedule is a simple document that lists the names of the record series produced by your office, along with their agreed upon retention periods and disposition methods.  A full Retention Schedule will list not only the Record Series (physical records) but also the retention policies applied to digital records in the department's File Plan.

What is Disposition?

I received a notification about Disposition... Now what?

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 is the process of identifying and removing unwanted materials from a larger body of materials.

How do I order empty Records Center boxes?

Boxes for your records can be ordered through the RMS Online System. Only boxes ordered directly from Records Management (and with the Records Management Box ID bar code already applied) can be used for sending records to storage.  The packing guidelines are printed on the side of each box.

How should I pack boxes being sent to the Records Center?

Pack only one record series in each box. If you have any questions about how best to separate your material, contact Records Management. Keeping the material separate allows material to be disposed based upon record series retention policies.

  • Pack material facing the front of the box. The front of the box is the smaller end with the bar code affixed to it. Files should be readable when viewed from this end.
  • Do not send Pendaflex hanging folders. Hanging folders eventually destroy the box, often within the first year of storage. If you must include Pendaflex, pack the files lengthwise in the box to avoid them hanging on the cardboard edges.
  • Do not put any markings on the box. Records Management is a secure facility. Boxes have no labels other than the computer numbers assigned. Any writings you put on the box must be taped over. This is done so that in the event of a security breach no material could be found by browsing the labels on the boxes.

What is a box transfer and how do I do one?

A Box Transfer is completed electronically using the RMS Online system when a department is sending physical records for storage at the Records Management Center.

How do I send material for shredding?

Boxes of confidential materials for shredding will be picked up on the first Wednesday of every month. (There is never a pick-up scheduled for June.) There is no cost associated with this service. College Records Management pays for all the FO&M charges for this important service.

How do I request/return a file? & When do you make pickups/deliveries?

Requests and returns for files are completed electronically using the RMS Online system.

Records Management makes one delivery run each day, using drivers provided by Central Stores. Any requests made before 4:00pm will be delivered the next business day. Requests made after 4:00pm will be delivered in two business days.

What does a Records Custodian do?

The Records Custodian is a single individual, appointed by the department head, who satisfies the following conditions:

  • understands the record systems of the office.
  • is able to make decisions on retention and disposition of these records.

Since departmental directors are frequently not intimately involved in the day-to-day records maintenance in each office, they are often not the best Records Custodians. Rather, the primary Administrative Assistant is often the better choice, as this is usually the person who has more direct knowledge and control of the records being produced. However, the decision of who is to become Records Custodian for any office is left to the discretion of the departmental director.

NOTE: It is highly recommended that the Records Custodian work closely with their departmental director and other staff, especially in all decisions made regarding retention and disposition.

What are the responsibilities of the Records Custodian?

The Records Custodian has six primary duties:

  1. Help determine retention and disposition policies. The primary responsibility of the Records Custodian is to work closely with the College Records Manager in the determination of retention and disposition policies for all records. In other words, the Records Custodian must decide "how long should we keep it" and "what should happen to it when we don't need it anymore".
  2. Work with the Records Analyst and other stakeholders in developing a departmental File Plan.  This is the primary instrument for classifying records, and is a critical component to any digital records keeping strategy.
  3. Make decisions about who can access records. Each department will have varying needs regarding confidentiality and security. The Records Custodian is responsible for determining who (either within the department or institution-wide) should have access to departmental records.
    • NOTE: Records Management never releases information or material to parties outside the institution. Such inquiries are referred to appropriate College departments. 
  4. Provide guidance to departmental personnel in all records related issues. The Records Custodian is the "resident expert" on records produced by the department, and the primary source of information on how to use Records Management. In addition, the Records Custodian should provide guidance to departmental personnel who are involved in packing or preparing records for storage.
  5. Work with Records Management to ensure proper handling of all material. Records Management will rely on the expertise of the Records Custodian for all handling and maintenance issues.
  6. Review material scheduled for disposition. Periodic disposition rounds will require the review of the Records Custodian to ensure that all material scheduled is no longer needed, and is eligible for disposition.