Raleigh, NC—The State Archives of North Carolina is happy to announce the culmination of an innovative years-long project. As of December 2017, state agency officials will have just one 16-part retention and disposition schedule to assist them in the management of their public records: the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies. This revamped schedule will supersede both the General Schedule for State Agency Records and the program-specific schedules that state agencies have relied on until now.
In 2015, the Records Analysis Unit of the Government Records Section at the State Archives of North Carolina (SANC) began a project to reinvent the retention and disposition schedules for state agencies in North Carolina. Using the technique of functional analysis, whereby the functions of an institution are defined and the records that document those functions are linked, SANC identified 16 functions of North Carolina state government, listed the associated record types, and developed disposition instructions, all with the constant input of expert stakeholders from both within SANC and around state government.
The overarching goals of the project were to simplify records retention, make the assignment of records dispositions more transparent, and ensure the retention of records with permanent value, either within the creating agency or at the State Archives, which is housed within the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Realizing that an increasing share of state agency records are being created and maintained electronically, SANC also attempted to group records with similar functions in “big buckets” to facilitate the disposition of records that are housed in document management systems.
The functional schedules standardize disposition instructions across state government and focus on the functions of government that necessitate the creation of records rather than on the particular agencies that create or maintain those records. Agency hierarchy is subject to rapid and sometimes sweeping change, whereas the functions of state government tend to remain stable. As the responsibilities of an agency change over time, the appropriate retention and disposition instructions for the records they generate will already be identified within one of the 16 functional schedules developed by SANC, increasing both efficiency and consistency in records management. The Records Analysis Unit will conduct annual records reviews with state agencies to document any new functions or record types that might require new disposition instructions.
The disposition instructions provided in the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies reflect best practices in records management. In the absence of specific state or federal retention requirements, SANC surveyed other records management experts for guidance on the retention of records. The retention periods established in these functional schedules should be interpreted as minimums; if an agency chooses to retain records longer than required in the disposition instructions, this practice should be documented in internal agency procedures. G.S. § 121-5(b) and G.S. § 132-3(a) grant DNCR the authority to regulate the destruction of public records; if a record is not represented on any of these schedules, an agency may not destroy it without explicit authorization from DNCR. In all cases, agencies shall maintain logs documenting destructions.
SANC looks forward to continuing to work with our colleagues in North Carolina state government to make the transition to the new Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies a success.