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series with a folder or dossier for each individual case or person. Several courses of action are possible: all folders in such a series may be kept; certain papers only out of each folder may be kept and the rest dis
tain folders selected to present an adequate sample may be preserved and the remainder disposed of; or all may be di sposed of.
Which of these courses is desirable will depend principally on the legal significance of and the kind of possible research interest in the individual transactions. If the transactions recorded establish a contining legal status, all the folders will need to be kept indefinitely, for example, the records of the General Land Office relating to the sale or grant of individual tracts of land. If the transactions recorded establish no legal status and are not of sufficient importance to suggest a research or other interest commensurate with the cost of preserving a record of them, the entire series should be proposed for disposal.
Research interest in records of individual transactions may be of two kinds. Such records may be used principally by people who want the facts about a particular person, business firm, or transaction. For example, records of passengers admitted at various ports are used almost exclusively by persons looking for information about a particular individual. If records are to be kept to serve this particular kind of inquiry, it is obviously necessary to keep the entire series. On the other hand, certain records may be used principally by persons interested in general problems rather than in particular happenings. One might, for instance, uso records of the selective Service System not to ascertain facts about a particular selectee but to gain information on the occupational distribution of males in a given age group. A person seeking administrative precedent or studying administrative history might need to see enough of any kind of case files to see how prescribed procedures worked and what kinds of problems, not always recorded at the policy level, were encountered. The retention of properly selected samples or examples is often sufficient to serve such purposes. The retention of certain papers from each folder and the disposal of the remainder is usually practicable only if the papers to be discarded are clearly identifiable and easily removable.
de of the remetention of or examples
Since the evaluation of operating records presents problems of special difficulty involving generally the careful balancing of probable research uses against the costs of permanent preservation, the assistance of the National Archives may be especially helpful in preparing lists and schedules relating to them.
Statistical records.--Many agencies have significant quantities of questionnaires, schedules, and similar papers representing the raw data from which statistical tabulations or analyses have been made. These ordinarily need to be preserved only if they contain information about individual persons, corporations, and the like of significant interest in itself, regardless of the statistical use of the records, or if there is a definitely foreseeable future statistical use to be made of them. Again the advice of the National Archives in the matter of evaluation may be of special assistance.
Field records.--The evaluation of field records is conditioned by several factors:
1. Field offices generally have only limited discretion in the deter
mination of policy.
in the headquarters files as well as in the field-office files.
in headquarters by means of reports and similar records.
served. All these factors combine to indicate that the proportion of field-office records that should be permanently preserved is ordinarily very low.
Duplicate records. --Records duplicated physically or substantially duplicated in content seldom need to be preserved permanently in more than one form. The duplicates should ordinarily be proposed for disposal whenever the current administrative need for them has ended.
A practical caution. --In the foregoing paragraphs certain general suggestions have been offered for identifying the core of records of any agency that should be kept as the permanent record of its work. In applying them, no attempt should be made to carry discriminating evaluations beyond practical limits. In any classified general file, for example, though it may have obvious permanent value as a whole, there will be thousands of individual papers and probably hundreds of entire folders that are worthless; but unless there are easily segregated blocks of folders that obvs.ously are not worth keeping, it is seldom worthwhile to attempt the separate evaluation of individual parts of the file. Similarly, the appearance of occasional documents that if filed separately might be worth keeping need not affect an adverse judgment of the value of the file as a whole. It is frequently desirable to evaluate as a unit the entire body of records of a particular small office or the entire body relating to a particular function within a larger office.
Determination of Retention Periods
Once a determination has been reached as to records that should be preserved permanently, it may be assumed that all the rest are disposable, now or later, and the only question remaining is how long they will need to be retained before they are destroyed. This must be determined principally by the agency itself, usually on the basis of one or more of the following considerations:
The internal use of the records in the agency. 2. Statutes of limitations affecting claims. 3. The possible use of records in investigations and in the audit
Presumably all records are created or filed because the agency thinks it may later need to use the information in them. It is generally easy to determine when that need has passed if the purpose for which the records
are kept is clearly understood. Statutes of limitations affect the retention of a very wide variety of records of possible utility in connection with claims against the United States and provide a precise basis for the determination of retention periods. The retention of fiscal records is governed in part by the provisions of section 9 of the Federal Disposal Act of July 7, 1943, as amended (for the text of the act see appendix I), which require, in essence, that the permission of the Comptroller General be obtained for the disposal of any records relating to unsettled claims or accounts, even though the records may be covered by approved lists or schedules. Only sound judgment can determine how long records need to be kept for possible use in connection with congressional or other investigations.
PREPARING AND CLEARING LISTS AND SCHEDULES
When the survey and the evaluation of a body of records have been completed, the records officer can proceed to the preparation of disposal lists or schedules for those he believes not to have permanent or enduring value. The various forms provided for this purpose by the National Archives and the official instructions for their use are reproduced in appendixes IV and V of this manual, and no attempt will be made here to repeat what is contained in the formal instructions. With the approval of the Archivist, an agency may use its own forins instead of those provided by the National Archives. Such forms, however, must have the appropriate National Archives form as a cover sheet.
Use of Disposal Lists
In almost any agency there are numerous accumulations of now valueless records of kinds that are no longer accumulating. Authority to dispose of such records may be obtained by submitting lists of them to the Archivist. It will be noted from appendix IV that four different forms are provided for disposal lists:
Form 8, the general form used for ordinary classes of records.
of photographic records and for sound recordings.
microfilmed or otherwise reproduced photographically. It is important that the correct form be used. Items covering maps, photographs, or microfilmed records should not normally be included in a general list but should be placed on separate lists prepared on the appropriate forms.
Filling Out Di sposal Lists
The instructions reproduced in appendix IV give the information needed for filling out the various forms used for disposal lists. Attention, however, may be called to two points on which confusion sometines arises:
l. The heading of the form should show the department or independent agency of the Government that is submitting the list, for example, "Department of the Interior," and the subdivision or subdivisions records of which are covered in the list. These subdivisions shown may differ from those that have the physical custody of the records as indicated after "Location of the records" on the form. For example, records of the Bureau of Ships in the Navy Department may be located in a naval records management center controlled by the Executive Office of the Secretary. In such a case, the heading of the form should read: "Navy Department, Bureau of Ships," and the name of the depository should be entered under "Location of the records." If each item in a list applies to records of all offices of a given class, that fact should be shown in the heading, thus: "Selective Service System, All local selective service boards." If not all items in a list apply to records of the same subdivision or class of subdivisions of the agency, center headings should be inserted in the list itself to indicate the offices to which each group of items is applicable. For example, the heading of a list might read: "Department of the Interior, Geological Survey." Above the first item on the list might be the center heading, "Office of the Director," which would indicate that the items that followed relate to records of that particular office only. Below that group of items, a second center heading, "Geologic Branch," would introduce the next group and indicate its applicability.
2. If the agency proposes to dispose of all copies of the records described in an item that are in the office or offices to which the item applies, no specification of "kind of copies" need be made. If it proposes to dispose of certain copies only and to retain others that are within the coverage of the item, the kinds of copies that are to be disposed of should be specified clearly. Any appropriate language may be used for this purpose, for example: "Unsigned carbon copies only," or "All copies except those in individual personnel folders."
If the existence of copies of records described in an item elsewhere than in the office or offices to which the item applies significantly affects the evaluation of the copies proposed for disposal, the existence of the other copies should be indicated; for example: "Other copies of these records are retained in the Division of Accounts," or "The originals of these vouchers are filed with the General Accounting Office."
Disposal Lists of Photographed or Microphotographed Records
The use of microphotography with a view to the disposal of records involves a number of rather highly specialized technical and administrative problems beyond the scope of this manual. Generally, however, it may be said that a microfilm project should not be undertaken until the value of the records to be filmed has been determined. For example, it would not be economical to microfilm a group of records that could be disposed of after a relatively brief retention period or records so complex or disarranged that putting them in good order and providing devices to aid in finding the records on the film would be more expensive than the actual photography. Before microfilming records with a view to disposal, it is highly advisable to consult with the National Archives. Advice and assistance may be obtained by calling the chief of the records division or office that has liaison with the agency, the Director of the Photographic Records Office, extension 316, or the Records Appraisal Officer, extension 347.
Disposal Lists of Photographic and Cartographic Records
Although the instructions reproduced in appendix IV (Forms 9a and 10a) cover adequately the preparation of Forms 9 and 10 for the listing of photographic and cartographic records for disposal, the variety of technical problems involved is such that it is advisable to consult the National Archives in connection with the preparation of lists on those forms. Advice relating to photographic records and sound recordings may be obtained from the Photographic Records Office, extension 316, and advice relating to cartographic records from the Chief of the Division of Maps and Charts, extension 362.
Use of Disposal Schedules
Disposal lists, though simpler to use than schedules, serve only to clear out existing accumulations of useless records. A continuing program of records retirement must be based on approved schedules authorizing the regular disposal of designated classes of records after the lapse of specified periods of time. National Archives Form 108 is used for scheduling all kinds of records except photographic records and sound recordings, which are scheduled on Form 109. Copies of these forms and of the official instructions for their preparation are reproduced in appendix V.
The actual filling out of the prescribed forms is relatively simple and is thoroughly covered in the appended instructions. The comments above with respect to headings and the designation of kinds of record copies apply to schedules as well as to lists. The preparation of schedules on Forms 108 or 109 differs from the preparation of lists on Forms 8, 9, or 10 only in that it is necessary to state a retention period and that the requirements for the description or identification of the records covered are somewhat more stringent.
Statement of Retention Period
The retention period is the period of time that must elapse before the records may be disposed of. This may be specified as a fixed period of time, for example, "3 years," which is understood to mean 3 years after the records are filed, or after they are created or received if the date of filing is not evident; as an elastic period ending with some specific future event, for example, "until the employee is separated from the service"; or as a fixed period following a future event, for example, n6 months after the unit is discontinued." Alternative periods of time may be used, as "3 years or until the office is closed." If a future event is used to determine the retention period, it must be one the date of which can be determined objectively; such expressions as "until the records have become inactive" are not acceptable. Neither may the expression muntil photographed or microphotographed" be used as a statement of a retention period unless an alternative fixed period of retention is specified, such