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HOW TO DISPOSE OF RECORDS:
A MANUAL FOR FEDERAL OFFICIALS
Records produced, received, and maintained in the course of operations of agencies of the Federal Government are the property of the Government and can ordinarily be disposed of only after authorization has been obtained from Congress. Such authorization is obtained by the submission of di sposal lists or schedules to the Archivist of the United States, who is charged with the responsibility of appraising the records and reporting thereon to Congress, or through general schedules initiated by the Archivist and approved by Congress. This manual, however, deals principally with disposal lists and schedules prepared and submitted by other agencies of the Government.
Disposal lists are submitted when authorization is sought to dispose of noncurrent records of a kind that are no longer accumulating. They are particularly valuable in clearing out records of types that have been discontinued and in disposing of records of organizational units that have been abolished or are in the process of liquidation.
Schedules are submitted when continuing authorization to dispose of records that are already in existence and will continue to accumulate is sought. There are two kinds of schedules: disposal schedules, which are used to cover only records that will have no further value to the Federal Government after the lapse of specified periods of time; and comprehensive schedules, which are used to cover not only records that after specified periods of time will have no further value to the Government but also all other records with notations as to periods of retention before transfer to the National Archives or to an intermediate agency depository.
. The use of schedules whenever possible instead of lists obviates the necessity of making requests to Congress year after year for authorization to di spose of successive installments of the same kinds of records. Not only is scheduling more economical but the comprehensive schedule provides an overall control of the records of an agency or branch thereof that is fundamental for an effective records retirement program.
BEGINNING A DISPOSAL PROGRAM
When lists or schedules are to be prepared for an agency one official should be given authority and held responsible for their preparation. The person chosen for this job should have knowledge of the organization and
1See appendix I for the provisions of the act concerning the disposal of records approved July 7, 1943 (57 Stat. 380), as amended by the act approved July 6, 1945 (59 Stat. 434), and the regulations of the National Archives Council, promulgated on August 15, 1945, on the disposal of records. functions of the agency and an understanding of the relationship of records of various divisions. In addition he should know, or early obtain a knowledge of, the best techniques and the basic procedures for the organization, maintenance, and disposal of records.
Before the preparation of lists or schedules is undertaken five matters should be attended to if the success of the program is to be assured. The records officer charged with the responsibility for directing di sposal v'ork in the agency should:
1. Make a detailed plan of action,
Make the program official. 3. Obtain National Archives forms and instructions. 4. Train personnel in techniques and procedures of disposal work. 5. Obtain agency-wide cooperation.
Adopting a Plan of Action
A plan of action with major outlines of work to be accomplished should be made before listing or scheduling is begun. The records officer will need to have information on the volume and location of every current and noncurrent records series in the agency or the part of it being covered, on the character and use of housekeeping and operational files, and on the use of the different records series at various levels in the organization and in the several divisions. If he has such information he is in a position to start the listing or scheduling of records immediately. If this information is not available, he should plan at once to undertake a survey to locate and identify all the records series in his organization as a basis for determining what lists or schedules should be prepared. In a large agency it is generally desirable to undertake the survey by bureaus or other units rather than to attempt to cover the whole agency at once. In addition, personnel, equipment, supply, and instructional needs should be checked, and any problems that arise in regard to the work should be discussed with officials of the National Archives.
Making the Program Official
The program should be made official through an authoritative directive from the top management of the agency. The success of the program may depend upon the backing it receives from high officials. The authority and responsibility of the records officer should be clearly defined and every effort should be made to enforce the program. Examples of such directives are given in appendix II.
What To Get From the National Archives
The records officer should obtain from the National Archives:
National Archives forms:
8 - Disposal List (papers, etc.).
| - Di sposal List (cartographic records).
sound recordings). 8a, 9a, 10a, 40a, 108, 109a - Instruction sheets for forms with
corresponding numbers. 100 - Continuation Sheet.
Forms created in the agency may be substituted for National Archives forms, but they must be approved by the National Archives prior to submittal and when submitted must have the appropriate National Archives form as a cover sheet. The records officer may obtain forms and advice by communicating with the Records Appraisal officer, the National Archives, DI strict 0525, extension 347, or with the records division or office of the National Archives with which the agency has liaison.
The records officer should inform the personnel working on the project of the objectives to be attained. He should give them detailed and applied instructions in the techniques and procedures of surveying, listing, and scheduling records. Brief manuals and illustrative guides should be prepared when such training tools are necessary. Records description is a simple task, but uniformity, clear and concise description, and accuracy are absolute necessities for the proper prosecution of this work.
Records management must be a cooperative job. It is therefore essential that the records officer should be able to use the knowledge that various employees have of the records and their uses. Close contacts with responsible officials and file supervisors in every bureau or division and their appreciation of the objective of the program are essential.
MAKING A RECORDS SURVEY
Before a records officer can prepare lists and schedules he must know what records there are to be listed or scheduled. This information can best be obtained by a series-by-series survey. The survey should ultimately cover all records of the agency; but, unless the agency is very small, it is usually best to survey the records of one bureau or division at a time and to prepare the lists and schedules for that bureau or division before passing on to the next. Certain exceptions to this general statement are presented below in the sections on surveying "housekeeping" records and field records.
The surveys can probably be made most thoroughly by the records officer himself and his immediate staff, but when speed is essential and the
volume of records to be covered is large, it is necessary to use a questionnaire form that can be filled out by the people who actually have charge of the records. This approach requires careful planning, detailed instruction, and close editing but it makes participants of file supervisors and clerks throughout the agency and permits completion of the work far more rapidly than would be possible if one person undertook to do the job alone.
Examples of records survey sheets used in different agencies are given in appendix III.
Information Needed From the Survey
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The survey should show for each series of records the following facts:
Location and present custody of the records.
1. The office that filed or originally kept the records should be shown in full, for example:
Statistics Branch, Operations Division.
Small Arms Section, Office of the Chief of Ordnance. This office may be very different from the office that now has charge of the records. For example, the records of Camp X of the Army may now be in the hands of The Adjutant General's Records Administration Center in St. Louis, but they would still be reported as records of Camp X because that camp filed them. Sometimes an office will be abolished and another office or division will take over its activities and records and continue to file papers in them. In such cases the records should be reported as records of the last office that actually added to them.
2. The location and present custody of the series should be shown, as, for example:
Room 211, Walker-Johnson Building, Division of Mail and Files.
3. The records series described on the form should be identified clearly, and its nature, content, and purpose should be shown. This infor