Retention Schedule Update Projects

Current retention schedule update projects

College and Departmental General Records Retention Schedule

Currently, UARM is working on a project to create a general records retention schedule for college deans’ offices and academic departments. These units create many of the same records and, historically, have a had a high proportion of duplicated titles across their individual office-level retention schedules. The goal of this project is to create a single retention schedule for use by colleges and academic departments that is more relevant, more consistent, and easier to use than the multiple schedules currently in place. 

We are beginning this project with a reevaluation of the activities and work of a typical college and academic department. Once we have complete this evaluation, we will work to create or adapt records series that reflect current practices and record types.

About the schedule revision process

University Archives and Records Management is currently in the process of reviewing and updating the entire retention schedule for Western Washington University. The goal of this process is a retention schedule that is easy to navigate, consistent across offices and departments, and matches current recordkeeping practices.

To explain this process, it's necessary to define some terms:

Records Series:  Record(s) that result from a common acitivity, that document the activity, and that have an important relationship to one another because of the activity. 

Records Retention Schedule:  A legal document that lists records series and their retention and disposition requirements.  For Washington State agencies and institutions, retention schedules must be approved by the State Records Committee. 

General Records Retention Schedule:  A retention schedule that is generally applicable to more than one unit of an organization.  Typically, a general records retention schedule will apply to an entire organziation or at least to a major subdivision of the organization. 

Historically, the State Records Committee required that every record in each office on campus be compiled into a records retention schedule for that office.  As there are many records that offices hold in common, this led to duplication of records series titles across the university.

Later, a general records retention schedule was created for the university, which included many of the common records series that were previously duplicated on unique retention schedules. However, while this allowed for the elimination of many redundant records series from individual office schedules, not all redundant titles were eliminated. Thus there were multiple entries on the University’s retention schedules for the same record type, and in some cases those separate entries had differing retention periods.

More recently, the State Records Committee began requiring state agencies replace all redundant agency records series with corresponding record series from the state agency general records retention schedule. For (a simplified) example, let's use correspondence, which is a fairly generic type of record that often goes by many names.  Over time, agencies created (and the State Records Committee approved) many individual records series that were all, essentially, correspondence.  While it may be important to identify each instance of correspondence uniquely (e.g., to distinguish "President's correspondence" from "Dean's correspondence"), we really only need one "correspondence" title on a retention schedule. In this case, all state agencies and institutions can use a correspondence title from the state general schedule, and eliminate all redundant correspondence titles locally.

The State Records Committee mandate has thus necessitated a complete review of the University's records retention schedules in addition to mapping redundant records series titles to the State General Schedule. Replacing the applicable records series on the University retention schedule has so far led to about a 50% reduction (from about 1440 series to 732) in the number of record series titles on the University’s schedule. However, there are still many records series at Western that are internally redundant (i.e. duplicated between offices) or that are simply outdated. The revision process continues to streamline and update the retention schedule for the University.