Records Management Essentials

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1.1. Definitions

The Public Records Management Act incorporates the definitions in GRAMA (Utah Code 63G-2-103). Definitions discussed in this training are those that are most relevant to records management. Definitions provide the legal meaning of terms used within the law. All who work with government records should readily understand the following definitions:

 

Record, 63G-2-103(22)(a)

Because the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) as well as the Public Record Management Act (PRMA) are about records, an understanding of what is meant by the term “record,” is fundamental.

Utah Code 63G-2-103 – Definitions
(22) (a) “Record” means a book, letter, document, paper, map, plan, photograph, film, card, tape, recording, electronic data, or other documentary material regardless of physical form or characteristics:
  • (i) that is prepared, owned, received, or retained by a governmental entity or political subdivision; and
  • (ii) where all of the information in the original is reproducible by photocopy or other mechanical or electronic means.

The law defines a record according to three characteristics. It is documentary material that is prepared, owned, received, or retained by a governmental entity or political subdivision and is reproducible. The listing of many formats and inclusion “regardless of physical form or characteristics” means that records are not identified by format. Although GRAMA does not use the word “information,” the words “information” and “record” are often used interchangeably. ISO (International Standard, 15489-1) defines a record as “information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business.” Presumably, access to records is access to information, and managing records is managing information.

Records are prepared, owned, received, or retained by governmental entities. Records that are prepared include reports, minutes, email correspondence, budgets, and audio recordings. A record that was prepared by a private provider or contractor can be owned or retained by a governmental entity. Records that are received include things like bids, email, invoices, and applications for employment. A record must be reproducible by photocopy or other mechanical or electronic means. Unrecorded conversations contain information that cannot be reproduced and therefor are not records.

In its definition of “record” GRAMA lists some things that a “record” does not mean. This list includes personal communications unrelated to the conduct of the public’s business, temporary drafts, material to which access is limited by the laws of copyright or patent, and junk mail or commercial publications.

 

Record series, 63G-2-103(23)

For purposes of records management, all records are organized into groups called record series.

Utah Code 63G-2-103 – Definitions
(23) “Record series” means a group of records that can be treated as a unit for purposes of designation, description, management, or disposition.

The records within a record series are related in a logical way because they document a particular kind of transaction, function, or subject. They share a relationship based on their creation, maintenance, or use. According to the definition, government records are to be described, managed and disposed of at a record series level. Some examples of record series are: meeting minutes for a municipality, official student transcripts for a school district, and driver handbooks for the Department of Public Safety.

 

Schedule, 63G-2-103(23)

All record series are managed according to approved retention schedules. Scheduling is the process of determining how long records should be retained or the process of creating retention schedules.

Utah Code 63G-2-103 – Definitions
(23) “Schedule,” “scheduling,” and their derivative forms mean the process of specifying the length of time each record series should be retained by a governmental entity for administrative, legal, fiscal, or historical purposes and when each record series should be transferred to the state archives or destroyed.

Scheduling begins with the identification and naming of a record series. The record series is described and appraised or evaluated to determine the appropriate length of time the records in a series need to be retained. The legal definition in GRAMA provides four values to consider when scheduling records.

After considering all of these criteria, scheduling is complete when the State Records Committee or other authorized authority approves the retention period. This establishes the length of time the records in the series must be maintained. According to the legal definition, records must be either destroyed or transferred to the State Archives when that length of time has elapsed. The final destruction or transfer of records to the State Archives is called disposition.