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Investigative Journalism

Retention Schedule Overview

Retention schedules provide such details as the kinds of records an organization has and how long the organization retains these documents before disposing them. Some public institutions and government agencies are required to have and adhere to certain retention schedules; other institutions, such as non-profits and businesses, may also have retention schedules because having one in place can help control the costs of records retention and minimize legal risk, among other things.

Finding Retention Schedules

Retention schedules for public institutions and government agencies can often be found online. For example, the State of Indiana has retention schedules online for state institutions and for county and local institutions. With respect to other kinds of institutions, you may have to ask the institutions in question for a copy of their retention schedules.

Using Retention Schedules

  1. The length of time during which records generally have practical, legal, or economic value
  2. How to know when a record should be transferred from active to inactive or closed status
  3. When a hard-copy file should be transferred off-site to either firm-managed or commercial storage
  4. Which legal, ethical, and operational retention requirements affect the organization's records
  5. How the process of notifying clients that the records are due for disposition is to be handled
  6. How records should be destroyed once destruction is approved
  7. How records are to be transferred to another entity if such a transfer is approved
  8. How the schedules are to be updated
  9. How to conduct compliance audits
  10. Provisions for identifying and managing exceptions to retention periods
  11. The application of the retention program to all forms of records: originals and duplicates, paper, microform, and electronically stored records
  12. Under which circumstances specific records might be considered of historical value