University of Virginia Records Purge Nets 9,500 Pounds

January 25, 2010

January 26, 2010 — Nearly five tons of outdated University of Virginia records were shredded on Jan. 15.

Caroline Walters, director of Records Management, organized a records collection day to help managers across the University clean out no-longer needed files and set up ongoing records purging schedules. Under state law, various public records need to be held for specified times and then may be destroyed.

Purging outdated records saves money in storage and may help safeguard personal information, she said.

Repeating a successful records purge held in the spring, Walters brought shredding trucks to the Fontaine Research Park in the morning and then Carruthers Hall, on Emmet Street, in the afternoon. About 1,500 pounds were collected at the Fontaine Park and 8,000 pounds at Carruthers Hall.

The Office of the Assistant Vice President of Finance, based in Carruthers Hall, purged about 138 boxes of records, amounting to around 4,000 pounds.

"I have been here for 22 years and we were told to save everything," office manager Stacey E. Rittenhouse said. "It's a really good feeling to throw some of these things away."

Rittenhouse said her office was able to clear several storage shelves, which may now be used for other things.

Walters said one department brought leave and payroll records from the 1970s. She said records such as these should be held for four closed fiscal years, meaning the department could jettison all these records from before July 2005.

The Housing Office brought copies of room change requests from the early 2000s, which Walters said only needed to be kept one year.

Many offices hold on to records because they don't know how long to keep them or what to do with them, Walters said. She works with departments to review records and establish schedules of how long they need to be kept and how they are to be handled. Walters reviews the records to be eliminated and the department representative fills out a form documenting the destruction before they are destroyed.

Records with Social Security numbers and financial information are shredded and then recycled, Walters said. Two shredder trucks from Document Destruction of Virginia, from Ruckersville, were on site during the collection day. She said that U.Va. Recycling can also handle confidential documents, shredding and recycling them.

Culling records helps with office efficiency, she said, especially with more modern buildings, which generally do not contain space for paper record storage. And it can open new space in older buildings, as well as make it easier to access the records that have been retained.

"If you have trouble finding the needle, it helps to reduce the size of the haystack," Walters said.

She said many offices across Grounds are re-assessing their records retention.

"There are a lot of offices in Arts & Sciences that are moving and they are now going through their records," Walter said. "Some people don't know they can get rid of their records."

Rittenhouse said that after culling so many years of records, she is more conscious about how long to keep files.

"I think it's wonderful to be able to free up space," Rittenhouse said. "It was nice to have someone like Caroline to motivate us and to come over here and help us."

For information about public records retention, visit here.