What is a record?
What records should I keep, for how long, and how do I dispose of them?  
Conflicting Retention and/or Disposition Instructions
Considerations for Records Storage and Access
Creating or Updating Unit-Specific & General Records Retention Schedules
Duplicate Copies of Records
Exceptions to Following the Records Retention Schedule
Handling of Records of Enduring Value
Inventorying Records at the Department/Unit Level
Managing Email
New Record Series
Personal Papers
Records Disposal and Disposition
Records Management During Office Moves or Construction
Regularly Reviewing Your Retention Schedule
Scanning Paper Records
Departmental Annual Purge

What is a record?

At Indiana University, a record is defined as information in any form, created, received, or maintained by Indiana University or its employees or agents pursuant to legal obligations or in pursuit of the University’s mission.

Examples of records include contracts and other official agreements, financial documentation, meeting agendas & minutes, publications, and student records.

What is not considered a record at IU?

Offices may hold various temporary documents without long-term historical or business value. These are not required to follow specific retention periods and may be disposed of at any time. Try searching the records retention schedule before deciding to dispose these, to ensure there are no legal or business needs for retention.

Examples may include convenience copies, correspondence from listservs, “junk mail,” or spam emails.

Note - personal papers may have long-term historical value; see Personal Papers for more guidance.


If you are unsure how to categorize the records you hold, please review the records retention schedule, reach out to your records coordinator, or contact your campus archives.
You can learn more about records management at IU by exploring the our resources at https://libraries.indiana.edu/recordsmgmt.

What records should I keep, for how long, and how do I dispose of them?

Check if the records have been scheduled on an an existing records retention schedule. If not consult your records coordinator. Your campus archives can help determine if the records have historical value and should be transferred.

Conflicting Retention and/or Disposition Instructions

As you inventory your unit’s records and search the Records Retention Schedule Database (RRSD) to find directions for retention and disposal of each type of record you identify, you may encounter discrepancies, such as:

  • A record series in the RRSD whose description matches the record you hold, but provides retention and disposition instructions which differ from or conflict with your knowledge or history of the handling of the record. A CHANGE/CORRECTION to the RRSD may be needed.

  • Two or more entries in the RRSD for the same kind of record, and it is unclear which one matches the record you hold. ASSISTANCE is needed, in order to determine the best course of action.

  • Directions in the RRSD for a record series close to, but not quite matching, the record you hold. ASSISTANCE is needed, in order to determine the best course of action.

You may also learn of new federal or state regulations, governing body guidance, or best practices that reflect a change to past practices for retention or disposal of certain types of records. A CHANGE/CORRECTION is needed.

In all of these cases, see Creating or Updating Unit-Specific & General Records Retention Schedules for directions on how to submit a request.

Considerations for Records Storage and Access

University records should be stored with consideration of their retention period, data classification, and environmental conditions.

General Considerations
Check the Records Retention and Disposition Schedule (RRSD) for the retention period
Records containing institutional data should be stored according to IU’s Data Management guidelines
Who needs access to the records? 
Can they be centrally stored? 
Should they require a key and/or password?
Store records in locations with stable temperature and humidity
Avoid storing records in basements and attics when possible
Do not store records directly on the floor - they are more susceptible to water and pest damage
Do not store directly below pipes or other fire suppression systems


Creating or Updating Unit-Specific & General Records Retention Schedules
Email iurm@indiana.edu to do any of the following:

  • request the creation of a new schedule
  • request a change or correction to a record series
  • request further assistance with the development of a retention schedule

The request will be reviewed by a "quality review and verification" (QRV) team within the University Records Retention and Disposition Committee. This team will consist of the University Records Manager, the archivist from the requesting campus, a representative from General Counsel, and the records coordinator associated with the record(s) in question.

The QRV team will work with the requesting unit to clarify any questions or changes. If the creation or changes are warranted, the team will ensure the schedule is updated accordingly.

Duplicate Copies of Records

A record may be handled multiple times and/or in multiple departments/units in the regular course of business. In some cases, one official copy of the record is transferred between departments. But in many cases, duplicates of the record are made, often by photocopying the record, using triplicate forms, emailing attachments, or creating new formats such as scanning paper copies into electronic copies. 

However, when it comes to retention, one Office of Record is typically responsible for ensuring there is one final location/department/unit holding the officially retained record. It may or may not be appropriate for departments/units to also retain copies, but it may not be appropriate, especially in cases of sensitive documents.

Use the instructions in the IU Records Retention Schedule Database (RRSD) to determine whether you can retain duplicate copies of records, and for how long.


Once the business need for the document has been fulfilled, search the RRSD to identify whether the original version of this document is included in the schedule. Pay special attention to the fifth column from the right, in the expanded, Advanced View, entitled Can Units Retain Copies    

If it has been scheduled, follow the instructions.
If there is no entry for this record series in the RSSD, review and follow the recommendations provided on Guidance Document New Record Series or Type. 

Exceptions to Following the Records Retention Schedule

Litigation Holds

When litigation involving the university or its employees is filed, imminent, or even threatened, the university has a duty to preserve all records that pertain to the issues involved. Once aware that litigation exists or is likely to be filed, University Counsel will inform the affected departments, who will disseminate this information to the appropriate employees and provide direction as to what records are to be preserved and by what method. So-called “litigation holds” override the Records Retention Schedule that may otherwise call for the disposal of relevant records.

No university employee who has been notified by University Counsel may alter or destroy a record that falls within the scope of the litigation-hold notification.

Any university employee who becomes aware of litigation or threatened litigation prior to receiving a litigation-hold notification from University Counsel shall inform University Counsel immediately and shall suspend the records retention schedule (that is, keep retaining the records, even if the schedule indicates it is time to dispose of them) until specific instructions are received.

Source: IU Policy HR-02-80

Open Records Requests, Subpoenas Served on University Employees, Search Warrants

While each situation is different, in the case of open records requests, subpoenas, or search warrants, we may be required to override our Records Retention Schedule instructions. General Counsel is the only office authorized to override the instructions in the Records Retention Schedule. If instructed to act differently by General Counsel, follow their instructions.

Any university employee who is presented with one of these requests directly from anyone other than General Counsel is to follow the instructions on the Office of the Vice President & General Counsel website.

Source: Vice President & General Counsel


Handling of Records of Enduring Value

Once records are inactive, contact your campus archivist if the Records Retention Schedule Database (RRSD) indicates they should be transferred to the campus archives. If the records are not scheduled but you believe they may have long-term historical, research, or legal value, contact your campus archivist for guidance. You can learn more about establishing a new record series here.

Inventorying Records at the Department/Unit Level

Departments/units across the university create and manage records in the course of their day-to-day work. The process of inventorying allows units to identify their records, make a schedule with instructions for retention and disposition of these records, and manage them according to laws & regulations, IU policies, and business need.

The inventorying process includes records in all formats, including but not limited to: paper, electronic, photographs, audiovisual materials, and microforms.

IU Archives can provide an inventory worksheet which can be used to inventory the records of a department/unit.

Each record in the department/unit inventory is then searched in the Records Retention Schedule Database (RRSD) to see if an entry already exists for that record in the database. If so, those instructions are applied to the management of the record. If there is no entry for a record in the schedule, then a request is made to add a new record series with associated instructions for retention and disposition. If the record exists but contains conflicting guidance, review the guidance on conflicting retention and/or disposition instructions.


  1. First, review the RRSD to identify whether or not your department/unit already has entries in the schedule, or whether many of the records you create and manage have already been scheduled by a central department or unit.
    1. Try searching by Records Retention Area, to see if your department or unit already has entries.
    2. Try searching by Record Series, to see if the main records you use every day are already entered.
  2. Contact your ­­records coordinator to discuss the records you wish to inventory.
    1. If you do not have a records coordinator for your area, see step 3.
  3. Email archives@indiana.edu to request access to the inventory questionnaire. Please include your departmental information and area(s) of responsibility. Copy your Records Coordinator on the email, if applicable. If you do not have a Records Coordinator, note that in the body of your email.
  4. Complete one questionnaire form for each type of record. The form includes 18 questions concerning the identification, retention, and disposition of the records.
  5. Once you have finished inventorying your records, the results will be drafted into a records retention schedule. The draft will be made available to you and your records coordinator for review and approval.
  6. Upon approval, the schedule will be approved by the Quality Review & Verification (QRV) team.
  7. The QRV will provide the schedule to the unit for final review and approval prior to publishing it in the RRSD.

Managing Email

Email messages, sent and received, can be evidence of an organization’s decisions, business transactions, and activities, and thus may be considered official University records. IU’s campus archives actively solicit the email of directors, deans, and upper-level administrators (i.e., the National Archives “capstone approach”) to better document the activities of the university. However, employees at all levels will likely have university records in their email and can apply the guidance set forth in this document.

These guidelines set forth archivally acceptable methods of managing email, and may be adopted, in whole or in part, by offices and individuals. Before implementing these email guidelines, please review your record-keeping policies with your campus archives. While these guidelines are intended to apply to records retained for historical research purposes, offices and individuals should consider their applicability to other information retained for short or long-term reasons.

The basics

  • Emails can be a record; review the Records Retention Schedule Database or contact your Records Coordinator for guidance on disposition.
  • Employees should be consistent in managing their email, such as using standard subject heading and Inbox file folder naming standards to be sure that email can be accessed and retrieved in the future.
  • Before employees retire, leave, or change work units, consider transferring or extracting any departmental or university records that may be stored in their email to the campus archives or departmental server for administrative use. Contact your IT Pro for guidance on exporting messages to a .pst file.
  • Establish a “hold” policy for email that may be pertinent to a known or expected legal case or investigation. Read more about Exceptions to Following the Records Retention Schedule.

What to keep

In cases when email has been replied to multiple times, the record copy is usually the last one if all the previous messages are included. The content of an electronic message determines its status, just as it does when the communication is transmitted on paper.

Affirmative answers to the following tests may suggest  that an email is a record:

  • Proves a business-related event or activity did or did not occur;
  • Demonstrates a transaction;
  • Identifies who participated in a business activity or had knowledge of an event;
  • Has legal or compliance value;
  • Addresses a topic specifically covered by University requirement, law or regulation.

Examples of email that could be considered records include:

  • Agendas and meeting minutes including management teams, committees, and governing body
  • Appointment calendars of executive-level daily appointments and activities
  • Business transaction documentation
  • Correspondence related to official business communications at the director level to and from others inside and outside the organization
  • Documentation of departmental and organizational decisions and operations
  • Drafts of documents circulated for comment or approval. Those reflecting evolution of policies or programs and key factors in those decisions may have historical or legal value.
  • Final reports or recommendations
  • Grant proposals, approvals, reports
  • Legal and financial records
  • Organizational charts
  • Policy, program, and procedure directives issued by the organization’s director-level staff addressing organizational operations, key functions, mission goals, or issues of public interest such as manuals, bulletins, orders, rules, directives, policy statements
  • Press releases

Emails generally not considered records include:

  • Announcements of social events, e.g. retirement parties
  • Drafts of documents without substantive changes
  • Duplicate copies of messages
  • Inter or intra-organization memoranda, bulletins, etc. for general information
  • Emails from listservs
  • Personal messages not related to conduct of business (however, these could have historical value depending on the correspondent and subject)
  • Portions of documents sent as reference or information-only copies
  • Published reference materials
  • Requests for information

How long to keep it

In consultation with your Records Coordinator and/or the Records Retention Schedule, each department or unit should determine how long to keep which records based on its particular mission and legal, financial, and regulatory requirements.

It may be useful in making retention decisions to sort types of information into three categories – no value, limited value, and enduring value – and establish time periods to keep each group regardless of their form (paper or electronic). Remember to consider email messages and attachments as one document.

Category 1: Email messages of no value

Retain: 0-30 days


  • Spam
  • Personal
  • Messages to/from distribution lists (Listservs) not business related
  • Copies of publications
  • Routine requests for information or publications
  • Informational e.g. holiday closings, charitable drives
  • Copies of internal messages if the recipient is not the primary addressee

Category 2: Email messages with limited value

Retain: As long as necessary for business

  • Reference use--delete when no longer needed
  • Legal use--until litigation is settled and appeal time expires
  • Administrative use--until administrative need is satisfied


  • Routine correspondence
  • Drafts or working copies of publications or reports for which a final version exists

Category 3: Email messages with enduring value

Retain: Permanently


  • Administrative planning
  • Policy and program use
  • Press releases
  • Reports
  • Directives

If you have email that needs to be transferred to your campus archives, contact your campus archivist or records manager.

New Record Series

If you have searched the IU Records Retention Schedule Database and are unable to find an entry for a record you hold, please request an ADDITION to the RRSD.

If you find an entry in the RRSD for a record series close to, but not quite matching, the record you hold, please request ASSISTANCE, in order to determine the best course of action.

See the section Requesting Additions and Changes to the Records Retention Schedule Database (RRSD) for directions on how to submit a request.

Personal Papers

Papers created by faculty or staff for personal or professional use - e.g., materials that are created or collected for most teaching, outside service, or professional development activities - are generally not governed by university policies. Examples might include lecture notes, correspondence with colleagues within and outside IU about research and service, presentations made at professional conferences, publications, etc. However, your campus archives may be interested in collecting such materials to help further document the university’s people and activities.

Some academic and research documents are official records of the university; try searching the records retention schedule prior to determining if an academic or research document is a personal paper.

Contact your campus archivist for questions and guidance.

Records Disposal and Disposition

When a department/unit is determining what records to dispose of, when, and how, the following procedures are used.

First, review the RRSD to identify whether these records have entries in the schedule, and have already been assigned a retention schedule.

A. Try searching by

  • Record Series, to see if item is already entered.
  • Click the Advanced View box and try searching by Keyword.
    • You may have to scroll to the right as the Advanced View expands from 7 to 24 columns
  • While the search may bring back rows of data, the actual keywords may  not be highlighted. If this is the case, you will need to scroll through the columns to locate the keyword to verify that the record series matches your item.  
    • For example, a search on eligibility brings back at least 13 rows in the records retention areas of Student and Employment & Benefits.  You will need to scroll to locate the record series (item) you are seeking.
  • Review the information in the 12th column (Disposition)
    • Based on the information, proceed with recommendation.
      • Delete - remove from electronic media but do not have to erase
      • Delete/Overwrite - remove from electronic media and/or copy new information over old data
      • Not Applicable - this item must be permanently maintained
      • Recycle/Delete - remove from paper/electronic file but do not have to shred/erase
      • Securely shred - use either a cross-cut shredder or a university-approved service or vendor  that guarantees confidentiality of shredding/disposal
      • Securely delete or erase from electronic media - see Data Management Critical Data Guide for more information, as well as KB articles on securely wiping disks and disposal of old equipment
      • Transfer to Bank - securely transfer media to appropriate financial institution
      • Transfer to Campus Archives - contact your campus archivist or records manager for appropriate method(s)
  • If in doubt how to dispose of the items using the recommended method, contact your records coordinator or campus archivist.

B. If no record series is returned

  • Contact the records coordinator as identified in the Advanced View display, third column from the right, for guidance
  • Also contact campus archivist for determination of historical value prior to making final determination.

Records Management During Office Moves or Construction

A frequent prompt for consideration of existing records is an impending move or construction. It is an excellent time to address inactive records.

  1. Consult the Records Retention Schedule Database (RRSD), which holds official Records Retention Schedules for Indiana University to determine if your office holds records that are due for destruction or transfer to your campus archives. 
  2. If you hold records that are not reflected in the RRSD, see NEW RECORDS SERIES
  3. If you have inactive records to transfer to Archives, contact your campus archivist for guidance

Regularly Reviewing Your Retention Schedule

Every department/unit across the university creates, collects, and manages records in the course of its day-to-day work. Departments/units must manage their records according to laws & regulations, IU policies, and business needs.

Instructions for how long to retain and how to dispose of records are kept in the organization’s official Records Retention Schedule. IU’s Records Retention Schedule Database (RRSD) holds the official Records Retention Schedule for Indiana University.

While every attempt is made to provide the most accurate information, the needs of the business, including its policies and regulations, may change.  Thus each department/unit should review its record retention schedule regularly, and revise it as appropriate.


1. Units should review their retention schedules annually, or not less than every three years.  An anchor point, such as the beginning of the calendar, fiscal, or academic year, may be a good time to conduct such a review. 

2. Any time a major change is introduced into the workplace, the existing schedule should be reviewed to identify whether a new record series is needed (see New Records Series or Types), as well as general adjustments to the existing schedule.  Some examples:

  • Was new technology introduced to replace a paper-based process? If so, are there electronic records that should be considered for a retention schedule, replacing a paper record on an existing schedule?
    • An example might be a workflow application replacing a paper process. How is the authorization now archived?
  • Have changes been made to existing procedures that have introduced new authorizations that might have an established retention need?
    • Examples might be authorization forms, release forms, etc.
  • Have new laws been passed by the federal or state government, requiring new documentation or processes?
    • An example is the recent Indiana state requirement for proof of meningitis vaccinations.
  • Has the professional association governing the work made recommendations to processes or procedures that might affect how or which records are kept?
    • An example might be a revised edition of the American Associate of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Offices (AACRAO) guide Student Records Management: Retention, Disposal, and Archive of Student Records.

3. If you determine that revisions are needed, see: Requesting Additions and Changes.


Scanning Paper Records

While much of today's work is created and completed with electronically, many offices still work within a hybrid environment of paper and electronic records. The decision to digitize paper records should include the following considerations:

  • Legal requirements to retain a record in a particular format; review any relevant laws, regulations, and IU policies
    • consider any requirements for an audit or expected/ongoing litigation
  • Proper, accessible storage environment for the environment for the full retention period of the record(s)
  • Requirements for the storage of institutional data - see datamgmt.iu.edu
  • Available staff and equipment
  • Vendor costs (e.g. would it be cheaper to outsource the work?)


  1. Check the records retention schedule to determine the official medium of the record in question.
  2. Review data storage requirements for any electronically stored institutional data.
  3. Determine if the associated costs (staff, equipment, etc.) outweigh the benefits of storing the records electronically.


Departmental Annual Records Purge

Every department/unit in any organization must manage the paper and electronic records it uses in the course of business on a daily basis. Records are retained or disposed of according to the organization’s official Records Retention Schedules. It is also important for every department/unit to set aside time to do an “annual purge” of appropriate paper and electronic records according to the official Records Retention Schedules. This is typically done either at the end of the fiscal year, or the end of the calendar year, because many retention and disposition instructions follow the format of “at fiscal year end, dispose of all records X years old or older.” Departments/units should choose the time period that works best for their workflow, staffing, and type of records to do this annual purge. Role of the Coordinator for the Annual Records Purge The management of the department/unit will usually assign a person to oversee and ensure that this annual purge is undertaken and completed by the entire department/unit. The person assigned this role could also happen to be the official Records Coordinator for a records retention area/sub-area, in which case that person would also perform that role as outlined above. However, not every person assigned to oversee the annual purge for their own department/unit’s records, is also an official Records Coordinator. Learn more about the role of a records coordinator.