Frequently Asked Questions about Federal Records Management
What are recordkeeping requirements?
"Recordkeeping requirements" are defined as all statements in statutes, regulations, and agency directives or authoritative issuances, that provide general and specific requirements for Federal agency personnel on particular records to be created and maintained by the agency (36 CFR 1220.14). Recordkeeping requirements should be outlined in procedural manuals and other issuances that specify which records need to be included in agency files or other recordkeeping systems.
Clearly articulated recordkeeping requirements are essential for creating adequate and proper documentation. For more information, consult Agency Recordkeeping Requirements: A Management Guide.
Records are defined in various statutes, including the Federal Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act. The definition that follows is from the Federal Records Act that governs agencies' records management responsibilities.
Records include all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of the data in them (44 U.S.C. 3301).
Many of the key terms, phrases, and concepts in this statutory definition of records are defined in CFR Part 1222.12.
A series is the basic unit for organizing and controlling files. It is a group of files or documents kept together (either physically or intellectually) because they relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, document a specific type of transaction, take a particular physical form, or have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, maintenance, or use (36 CFR 1220.14).
Each record series must be scheduled for appropriate disposition. The series concept is a flexible one, and programs should create series by organizing documents in ways that facilitate management of the records throughout their life cycle. For example, each record series in hard copy should be physically separated from all other record series. Electronic records should be managed in ways that link records to their disposition authority, within the context of a recordkeeping system.