U.Va. to Purge Outdated Records

January 04, 2010

UPDATE, Jan. 5: Due to forecasted cold temperatures and the possibility of snow, the Records management Day has been postponed until Jan. 15.

January 4, 2010 — The University of Virginia is starting the new year with some house cleaning.

Caroline J. Walters, the University's records officer, will help departments at two locations cull their records on Jan. 15. Walters and her team of eight to 12 people from various departments will be collecting outdated records in the parking lot of 400 Ray C. Hunt Drive, in the Fontaine Research Park, from 9 to 11 a.m. and at the visitor parking lot between Carruthers Hall and Michie North from 1 to 3 p.m. Records that have been kept beyond the Virginia Public Records Act's mandated retention schedules are eligible to be destroyed, as are other files not covered by the act.

Walters will provide two shredding trucks to destroy confidential records, and University recycling personnel will be on hand to take other types of files. Prizes will be awarded for the department with the most recycled records at each site.

Department personnel need a completed RM3 form, which is a certificate of records destruction, for the files. Walters will also have the forms available at the pick-up sites for people to fill out on the spot.

Walters launched these in-the-field records collections last May, picking up files from three separate locations in one day. She is now building on that experience.

"I've ordered two eight-ton shredder trucks," she said. "When we did this in May, we had collected eight tons of paper by 11:30 in the morning."

The records office wants ensure that records, in whatever format, are efficiently managed, retained and destroyed in compliance with administrative, legal, financial and historical regulations of U.Va. and the Commonwealth.

Many records have to be retained for varying lengths of time. Financial records, for example, need to be held for three closed fiscal years before they can be destroyed, Walters said.

Files and records not covered under retention requirements, such as duplicates or publication reprints, may be disposed of at any time.

"If you have not used it in a year, you are probably not going to use it again," Walters said, also noting that many such records are archived elsewhere if retrieval becomes an issue. "There is no need to keep 20 years of back copies."

Some records, such as reports within divisions, are preserved at different levels. Department reports maybe incorporated into a dean's report, which would then be preserved.

Walters, who helps managers review their records, said departments should make a list of the files they have, such as financial, student, personnel and research records. These lists should be reviewed and purged on a regular basis, she said.

As several departments move to new quarters, office managers are assessing records they have stored for many years.

"Most new buildings are not designed to store a lot of paper records," Walters said. "They are geared toward electronic storage."

But even electronically stored records have been around long enough to be dumped. Walters' team will collect removable electronic media such as compact discs, diskettes, back-up tapes, and video and audio tapes. A degausser, which decreases or eliminates a magnetic field, will be used to destroy the readability of the media. U.Va. Recycling will have containers for the material.

Walters works with the Special Collections Library on records that should be preserved. She can pull something from the RM3 list if she thinks there is some greater significance to it.

"Sometimes we come across records from the 1950s and '60s," she said. "But they are generally not old enough to preserve."

While she anticipates collecting primarily from Fontaine and Carruthers, Walters said other offices may also bring their records.

For information, visit the Records Management Web site.

— By Matt Kelly