According to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), “Temporary records are those records that NARA approves for either immediate disposal or for disposal after a specified time or event.”
Temporary records are no easier to manage than permanent records, and in some ways, they may actually be more difficult. For example, the time period or event that triggers disposal must be tracked, so that agencies know when they can and should destroy the record.
Altogether, most records are temporary records; only a fraction will ultimately be scheduled for permanent retention. The real challenge is in figuring out which records are which. If agencies are not clear on what they need to preserve, in what format or for how long, they effectively must store everything indefinitely.
This means that agencies must have a good grasp on the records that they are creating and managing. Records need to be accurately and promptly identified, scheduled, and managed. NARA helps agencies to tackle this challenge in a few different ways.
For example, 44 U.S.C. 3303 mandates that all federal records be scheduled by a General Records Schedule or by an agency specific schedule. Either way, the schedule will streamline processing and categorizing records appropriately.
NARA also recommends specific approaches to records disposition that can ease the process of splitting permanent from temporary records. For example, the Capstone approach to managing email makes it easy: certain email accounts, based on job title and role for agency officials, are automatically designated for permanent preservation, while other email accounts are automatically presumed to be temporary. Those temporary emails may still have to be preserved for certain amount of time, but they can then safely be destroyed at the end of their lifecycle.
Note that NARA’s approval is required for disposition. That said, agencies can request that permanent records be made temporary (or vice versa), through a “Request for Records Disposition Authority” that details and explains the changes the agency wants to make.
Automation eases this entire process tremendously.
AS NARA itself says, “Automating records management will not only reduce the burden of records management responsibilities on individuals, but will make federal government records and information easier to access because they are more consistently managed.”
Specifically, automation removes much of the human labor that’s required throughout. The automated solution can ensure that the records are being preserved for the correct amount of time and destroyed only after the mandatory retention period has expired. It can also strengthen accuracy in records disposition by eliminating human error. In other words, with the right solution, management of temporary records can be made nearly painless for human operators.
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