Federal Records Management

Resources - Publications: Moving? Consolidating? Reorganizing?

1999 Web Edition

Table of Contents

Things Are Changing

The Federal Government is constantly changing as agencies consolidate, eliminate, reorganize, or transfer programs and activities. As a federal employee affected by these changes, you are responsible for safeguarding the records and other documentary materials under your control. Records are important, and there are certain steps every employee must take to ensure their appropriate preservation or disposal. In addition, if you are a program manager you must approve disposition actions. This includes the destruction of temporary records as authorized in the records schedule, retirement of records to off-site storage, and transfer of permanent records to the National Archives of the United States.

Who Has Records?

Records are those documentary materials that are used to conduct agency business. Along with virtually all Federal employees, you create and receive records in the course of doing your job, whether you are an executive, scientist, engineer, photographer, computer programmer, claims processor, administrative aide, or guard. Records are not necessarily paper; they can reside on your computer or on disks or diskettes; they may be maps, video or audio tapes, photographs, or microfilm. In short, they can be on any information-containing medium. The records you create and receive while doing your job belong to the agency, not to you. You may also have government-owned nonrecord materials -- extra copies of records, publications, technical reference materials, and the like. Additionally, you may keep at the office personal or professional files and other materials that are your personal property.

Why Care About Records?

Many records contain important information needed to protect the rights and interests of the Government and the people served by your agency. Records provide valuable evidence that supports the Government during lawsuits. They also provide evidence that protects individuals' rights and benefits, such as medical care, pensions, loans, and subsidies. Also, some government records document the history of your agency. They may be used by future generations to understand how government worked and what your agency accomplished.

What Should You Do?

As a Federal employee, you should follow your agency's procedures and guidelines for ensuring that records are properly maintained in a recordkeeping system -- paper, electronic, or whatever format your agency has determined. If you are not aware of your agency's policies and procedures for handling records, contact the records liaison in your office or your agency records officer.

When you move to a new office or workstation or when any of your duties are being reassigned, you should conduct an inventory of records and other materials in your possession and follow the steps listed below.

  • If you have any paper records, microfilm, photographs, tapes, disks, or any other records that belong in office files, follow procedures for ensuring that those records are returned to the appropriate office file so that records are complete before they are moved or retired.
  • Dispose of nonrecord materials as soon as you no longer need them. The records liaison can advise you about the status of documentary materials in your office or workstation -- whether they are records that must be included in agency files or nonrecord materials that you may discard -- and assist you in determining their appropriate disposition.
  • Remove or destroy any personal documentary materials. These are materials that belong to you personally, such as materials accumulated before you came into Government and those that pertain only to your personal business or professional activities. Remember that materials relating to your job cannot be removed without your agency's permission, even though they may be on your desk or elsewhere in your office or workstation.
  • In addition, if you are a program manager, you need to take action to protect the office records and ensure their appropriate disposition.
  • Find out which, if any, of the records in your office have been designated as "permanent" in your agency's records schedule. If the date for transfer to the National Archives has arrived or will occur within a few months of the move or termination of your office, authorize their formal transfer.
  • Pack up older records not needed for day-to-day operations and retire them to an agency storage area or a records center.
  • Identify active records that are needed for current business, and arrange for their transfer to another staff member or to the successor program or facility.

Who Can Help?

Talk to your supervisor, your office's records liaison, or your agency's records officer.

NARA Records Management Assistance

NARA provides advice and assistance to agencies in scheduling records, applying records schedules, or other records disposition matters. NARA also provides assistance on records creation, files maintenance, use of microfilm, optical disk technology, and vital records management. NARA conducts records management training classes and briefings, provides information on other records management training, assists agencies in setting up their own records management training programs, and prepares publications.

For more information about this assistance, write to

    Life Cycle Management Division (NWML),
    8601 Adelphi Road,
    College Park, MD 20740-6001

Call 301-837-2950 or send an e-mail to records.mgt@nara.gov.

Publications and Training
For more information about NARA records management publications and training, visit the following NARA records management web sites:

Records Management Publications

Records Management Training NARA Regional Records Management Assistance
For further information on use of NARA regional archives, records centers, microfilming services, and records management training and assistance in regional offices, contact the facility that serves your region at NARA Regional Records Services Facilities or call 301-837-0660.

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Moving? Consolidating? Reorganizing? Records Management Instructional Brochure, College Park, MD, 4 pp.

Note: Web version may vary from the printed version.