Federal Records Management

NARA Bulletin 2010-04

ATTENTION! This page has been superseded. The information listed below is no longer accurate. For NARA's current guidance please visit http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/bulletins. Please note that this page is available only as a technical and historical reference.

September 10, 2010

TO: Heads of Federal agencies

SUBJECT: Guidance Concerning Notifications for Previously Scheduled Permanent Records

EXPIRATION DATE: Expires when revoked or superseded

1. What is the purpose of this bulletin?

This bulletin addresses the use of notifications when an agency implements electronic recordkeeping for records covered by a previously approved permanent schedule item. This bulletin also provides guidance to agencies concerning the disposal of original hard copy records that have been converted to an electronic format (e.g., by scanning).

2. What is a notification?

The term notification refers to information sent to NARA via the attached form when an agency converts previously scheduled permanent records to an electronic format.

3. What regulations allow notifications?

The regulations in 36 CFR 1225.24(a)(1) allow agencies to apply previously approved disposition authorities for permanent hard copy records to electronic versions of the records, with notification to NARA, instead of requiring that the records be re-scheduled.

4. Must an agency use a notification instead of a new schedule for electronic versions of previously scheduled permanent records?

No. It is up to the agency to decide whether to use a notification or a new records schedule (i.e., SF-115, Request for Records Disposition Authority) when it implements electronic recordkeeping in the case of previously scheduled hard copy records that are permanent.

5. Is a notification needed if the permanent records are covered by a schedule item that is media neutral?

If the electronic records replace permanent record that were maintained in hard copy when a media neutral schedule item was approved, a notification may be submitted in lieu of a new schedule. A notification must also be submitted if the electronic records do not replace pre-existing hard copy records but, nevertheless, fall under a previously approved permanent schedule item, such as new electronic systems that are covered by a previously approved big bucket schedule item. Neither a notification nor a new schedule is needed if the records are already being transferred to the National Archives as electronic records or were maintained electronically when the media neutral schedule item they fall under was approved by NARA.

6. Can a notification be used for permanent electronic records that replace multiple previously scheduled series?

Yes. Notifications may be used instead of a schedule for electronic records that are derived from multiple previously scheduled permanent series. Notifications also may be used for electronic records that contain information drawn from both permanent and temporary schedule items.

7. When are notifications for permanent electronic records due to NARA?

In accordance with 36 CFR 1225.24(a)(1), notifications for new permanent electronic systems must be submitted within 90 days after system implementation. However, it is recommended that agencies inform NARA about their plans in advance of system implementation but after they have resolved such issues as the scope of automation, quality assurance procedures, and the basic system architecture that will be employed.

In the case of systems implemented prior to December 17, 2007 (the effective date of NARA's media neutral regulations), agencies should submit notifications as soon as possible.

8. Who may submit notifications to NARA?

Notifications should be submitted by the same agency official who is authorized to submit records disposition schedules to NARA.

9. How must notifications be submitted?

Agencies must use the attached notification form, which is available at http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/media-neutral/perm-electronic-records-form.pdf. Agencies should send completed forms to either the work group leader in the Life Cycle Management Division (NWML) or the NARA regional records management director who oversees the appraisal of their records. (See http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/appraisal/index.html). Forms may be sent to NARA via email, fax or U.S. mail.

10. May a single notification form be used for multiple permanent electronic series/systems?

No, a separate notification form must be completed for each new series or system of permanent electronic records. If multiple electronic systems are derived from a single previously approved schedule item, such as a big bucket item that encompasses multiple file series, a separate notification form must be submitted for each system. However, a single form should be used if the electronic system that is the subject of the notification is derived from multiple previously scheduled series.

11. How does NARA process notifications?

When a notification is received, the NARA appraiser will determine if the permanent disposition authority cited by the agency is appropriate. If the appraiser determines that 36 CFR 1225.24(a)(1) does not apply, NARA will return the notification without action and request that the agency submit a schedule for the electronic records.

After determining that the agency has cited an appropriate disposition authority, appraisers need to:

  • Confirm that the electronic records meet NARA technical standards so they can be preserved and made accessible over time. (See paragraphs 12 and 13 for additional information.)
  • Evaluate the proposed transfer instructions. To ensure their preservation, permanent electronic records should generally be legally transferred to NARA or pre-accessioned within 2-3 years of creation. (See NARA Bulletin 2009-03 for information concerning pre-accessioning.)
  • Determine the scope of the conversion to electronic recordkeeping. Are all records covered by the authority being converted to an electronic format? If not, which records are now electronic and which are still hard copy? It is important for NARA to have this information for planning purposes.

This information, which NARA needs in order to process a notification, is, for the most part, included in the optional portion of the notification form (Questions 9 and 10). NARA urges agencies to provide this information when they submit notifications. If this information is not provided at the outset, the NARA appraiser will gather it after the notification is sent as well as any additional information NARA needs.

Once the appraiser has obtained all the needed information, internal NARA stakeholders will be consulted. When NARA has completed its review of the notification, NARA will inform agencies that action has been completed. This process should usually take no more than 60 days from the date of the notification if the agency provides all necessary information in a timely fashion.

12. What technical standards must be met if an agency wishes to substitute the electronic versions of permanent records for the hard copy?

Standards for permanent electronic records are specified in 36 CFR 1235, Subpart C. Additional guidance concerning email with attachments, scanned images of textual records, records in Portable Document Format (PDF), and digital photographs is available at (http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/initiatives/transfer-to-nara.html). If records include these four specified formats, an agency must complete the applicable certification form(s) available at http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/media-neutral/.

13. How will NARA use the information included on the certification forms for scanned images, email, PDF, and digital photographs?

If the agency has provided appropriate responses to all questions, NARA will not require any additional technical information in most instances. However, there may be special cases where NARA will request additional information (e.g., if the hard copy records contain document types that are difficult to capture in scanned images).

If the agency has not provided appropriate responses to one or more questions or has not answered necessary questions, NARA will follow up to obtain additional information. Depending on the nature of the issue(s) and the underlying records themselves, NARA may accept the electronic versions even though they do not fully meet the standards or may decide to accession the records in a hard copy format instead of or in addition to the electronic versions. These decisions will be made on a case by case basis.

14. After an agency notifies NARA about electronic records that are created from permanent hard copy documents, may it destroy the original paper records?

Pursuant to GRS 20, Item 2(a)(4), agencies cannot destroy the original hard copy records until 60 days have elapsed from the date of the notification. However, if an agency has not submitted the information needed to complete action on a notification, NARA may inform the agency that it must retain any original hard copy documents beyond 60 days, until the information has been submitted.

The 60 day "grace period" allows NARA to confirm that the electronic records meet NARA standards. It also gives NARA an opportunity to determine if the original documents should be retained in addition to the electronic versions. In the case of textual records, such as correspondence or case files, this will only rarely be done. However, there may be instances when the original records warrant retention. Examples include: records maintained by the highest officials of an agency, records where questions involving authenticity may arise, records that are closely linked with major historical events, and documents of potential exhibit use. NARA may also require retention of original documents of extremely high historical value if quality control and image verification are commensurate with the value of the records.

In the case of permanent non-textual records such as still pictures, moving images, sound recordings, maps and drawings, however, the intrinsic value is so great that NARA usually recommends that agencies transfer to the National Archives the original hard copy of the records in addition to or in some cases instead of the electronic version.

Even after all issues stemming from a notification have been resolved, agencies should keep in mind that in some instances, they may need to retain original hard copy records beyond completion of the notification process (e.g., if records are needed for an on-going investigation, FOIA request, or are subject to a court-imposed hold).

15. Where can agencies get more information about notifications?

For additional information, contact the National Records Management Program staff member assigned to work with your agency (see http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/appraisal/index.html).

Archivist of the United States