State Archivist and Records Manager:
Conley Edwards, Acting State Archivist
804-225-3889 fax: 804-371-2617
Nolan T. Yelich, State Librarian
The Library of Virginia
11th St. at Capitol Square Richmond, VA 23219
804-786-2332 fax: 804-786-5855
Richard M. Harrington, Information Imaging Branch Mgr.
804-786-3078 fax: 804-371-2617
the direct address is:
THE LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA
GUIDELINES FOR MANAGING ELECTRONIC RECORDS
The State Library Board has been given the responsibility of
regulating the creation, preservation, storage, filing,
management and disposition of all records, including
electronic records. These duties are expressly outlined in
Sec. 42.1-82 of the Code of Virginia. Under Sec. 42.1-85,
each agency or locality is required to cooperate with The
Library of Virginia (LVA) in the implementation of
procedures regarding the management of public records.
This document is designed to provide comprehensive guidance
for the management of electronic records. If you have any
questions about these guidelines or any records management
matters, please contact the Records Management Section at
Other pertinent publications include:
“A Manual for Public Records Management in the
Commonwealth of Virginia”, 1992, The Library of Virginia.
“Maintenance, Retention and Disposition of Electronic
Public Records – Guidelines”, 1991, The Library of Virginia.
“Maintenance, Retention and Disposition of Public
Records on Optical Disk – Guidelines”, 1991, The Library of
“Guidelines for Electronically Filed Data Including
Digital Imaging: Legal Considerations”, 1994, The Library of
COV ITRM Guideline 91-2, “Imaging”, 7/8/91, Council on
COV ITRM Policy 90-1, “Information Security Program”,
Revised 12/9/91, Council on Information Management.
COV ITRM Standard 90-2, “Contingency Management:
Procedures for Development, Implementation, and Review”,
12/14/90, Council on Information Management.
COV ITRM Standard 91-1, “Information Security”,
12/9/91, Council on Information Management.
“Virginia Public Records Act”, Sections 42.1-76
through 42.1-91 of the Code of Virginia.
“Virginia Freedom of Information Act” Sections 2.1-340
through 2.1-346.1 of the Code of Virginia.
“Privacy Protection Act of 1976” Sections 2.1-377
through 2.1-386 of the Code of Virginia.
General Records Retention and Disposition Schedules
published by The Library of Virginia.
The following definitions are for words as used in the
context of this publication:
Archival – refers to information having enduring
historical or research value, or designated permanent by
Archives – a facility designed for the maintenance and
preservation of archival records, and for the display and
use of those records.
Archiving or Data Archiving – data processing terms
that refer to the off-line storage of electronic
information. Not the same as “archival” as used in this
Backup – the process of making duplicate copies of
active electronic records, usually for security storage at
an off-site location.
Conversion – the process of changing electronic
records from the electronic format required by a specific
program, computer, storage type or system to the electronic
format required by another specific program, computer,
storage type or system.
Data Archives – any facility used for either temporary
or long-term off-line storage of electronic records. Not
the same as “archives” as used in this publication.
Deleting – the act of removing electronic information
(data) from a record, file, database or directory. Note:
Most computer programs merely erase the electronic index or
locator for the deleted record and do not physically remove
the record from storage. In many cases deleted records can
be retrieved by special programs and security can be
compromised. See “Wiping”.
Discovery – the legal process of obtaining and
disclosing or disseminating information during legal
Electronic Records – information or records that are
produced, manipulated, stored or retrieved by electronic
means. This includes, but is not limited to, computer
records, audio or visual recordings, and optically scanned
records. Also known as machine-readable records.
Public Records – as identified in Sec. 42.1-77 of the
Code of Virginia, “means, recorded information that
documents a transaction or activity by or with any public
officer, agency or employee of the state government or its
political subdivisions. Regardless of physical form or
characteristic, the recorded information is a public record
if it is produced, collected, received or retained in
pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of
public business.” “The medium on which such information is
recorded may be, but is not limited to paper, film,
magnetic, optical or solid state devices which can store
electronic signals, tapes, mylar, linen, silk or vellum.
The general types of records may be, but are not limited to
books, papers, letters, documents, printouts, photographs,
films, tapes, microfiche, microfilm, photostats, sound
recordings, maps, drawings, and any representations held in
Purging – the act of removing records or parts of
records from a file or database for the purpose of reducing
file size, creating new records, or removing and separately
storing or destroying outdated, obsolete or superseded
Reformatting – the process of changing the physical
format of records, i.e., microfilming paper records,
printing electronic records, or optically scanning
Records Retention and Disposition Schedule – an
approved timetable listing types of records and regulating
their minimum retention periods and eventual dispositions.
Also called schedule or retention schedule. There are two
types of retention schedules, general schedules which apply
to common functions found in most agencies or localities and
specific schedules which apply to unique functions of an
agency or locality. Forms for ordering general schedules
are located at Appendices A & B.
Sunset Provision – the automatic removal of
confidentiality, privacy protection or other restrictions to
the access of records after a specified time period has
Vital Records – records absolutely needed to conduct
business the next day or to preserve the rights of the
state, its employees or its citizens. These may also be
Wiping – the physical removal of electronic
information from a storage medium. Wiped records can not be
recovered by any means at all. See “Deleting.”
Storage and Preservation of Electronic Records
Electronic records present complex problems in matters of
storage and preservation. The costliest and most perplexing
problem with electronic records is preserving the ability to
access the information. An almost equally important problem is
the relatively short lifespan of electronic storage media.
Other considerations for the storage and preservation of
electronic records are:
1. Agencies and localities must either maintain the
hardware and software needed to retrieve electronic
records until the expiration of the records retention
period, or electronic records must be converted to
work on newer electronic formats, standard electronic
formats and/or another format.
2. Each agency and locality is responsible for
maintaining an inventory list of “archived” or stored
records which includes, at a minimum, a description of
records, operating requirements including
system/software documentation, media types, locations
and date due for recopying, refreshing or disposal.
3. Each agency and locality must ensure that backup
copies of vital records are made and stored off-site.
In general, The Library of Virginia recommends that the
disposition of records is the same whatever the format, whether
paper, film, or electronic. If electronic records are not
already listed in paper format on general schedules or other
schedules, they must be included in a records retention and
disposition schedule written for the agency or locality
(agency/locality specific schedule). Management of electronic
records is considered as a functional part of the management of
Each agency is responsible for recopying or “refreshing”
electronic recordings scheduled for long-term retention in
accordance with the expected life of the storage medium. See
appendices C and D for specific details . Each agency or
locality also is responsible for maintaining the hardware and
software necessary to access the data until expiration of all
retention periods or converting the data into currently
available programs or other types of formats.
Each agency and locality is responsible for the performance of
routine backups of any vital electronic records. Disposal
reporting of the destruction of backup records is not required.
Each agency and locality is also responsible for including
electronic records in its disaster planning and recovery
Since there are no national standards for permanency of the
medium on which electronic records are maintained (the medium is
not considered permanent), records in electronic formats are not
acceptable for archival storage. If or when standards for
permanence of electronic media become a reality, this policy
will be revised accordingly. Until that time, electronic
records appraised as archival must be maintained in the agency
or locality or converted to paper, microfilm or another
acceptable medium that meets national standards for permanent
archival retention before being transferred to the Archives.
Eventually, as standardization increases, technical capability
improves and fiscal constraints allow, records may be taken into
the Archives in electronic format.
Some electronic mail, is official correspondence and is subject
to the same retention requirements as all (paper)
Each agency or locality is responsible for thoroughly
documenting how each system producing electronic records is
operated and used. Documentation should include identifying
hardware and software, formalizing operating procedures
including file naming, updating and security
procedures,identifying sources and uses of information, and
outlining quality control procedures, audit procedures, storage
requirements and backup procedures.
When designing an electronic records system, the possible
research use and historical implications of the records must be
considered, not just the operational purpose(s).
All electronic records are subject to the provisions of the
Virginia Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Protection
Act of 1976.
All electronic records can be used as evidence (see Sec. 8.01-
391 of the Code of Virginia).
Electronic records are subject to the legal discovery process.
If electronic means are used to produce paper original
documents, the original paper document is the preferred
evidence. If the original document has been officially
destroyed, the electronic record, if not also destroyed, is
still subject to discovery. Agencies and localities may be
required to bear the cost of converting electronic evidence into
acceptable paper copies for both sides of any legal dispute.
Agencies and localities may be responsible for establishing the
validity and accuracy of their electronic records in court.
Agencies and localities must take similar security precautions
required of paper records when destroying or reusing recording
media that contain privacy protected or confidential electronic
Electronically Filed Data including
Digital Imaging: LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS
Rev: January, 1996
Both Federal and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s laws recognize the legal
status of copies made from various sources including electronic data stored
on optical disks. This recognition is stated in Virginia’s “Uniform
Photographic Copies of Business and Records as Evidence Act” 8.01-391:
If any business or member of a profession or calling in the regular course of business
or activity has made any record or received or transmitted any document, and again
in the regular course of business has caused any or all of such record or document
to be copied, the copy shall be as admissible in evidence as the original, whether the
original exists or not, provided that such copy is satisfactorily identified and
authenticated as true copy by a custodian of such record or by the person to whom
said custodian reports, if they be different, and is accompanied by a certificate that
said person does in fact have custody.
Copy, as used in this section, shall include. . .reproductions of electronically stored
data, or copies from optical disk, electronically transmitted facsimiles, or any other
reproduction of an original from a process which forms a durable medium for its
recording, storing, and reproducing.
The creation or conversion of long-term and permanent public records to
digitized images for alternative data storage raises questions about the ability
of these media to satisfy legally-mandated retention periods, access
requirements, and the admissibility in evidence. According to the “Code of
Virginia” 8.01-391 as quoted above, electronically stored data are
acceptable copies of public records provided the records were created during
the regular course of business or reproduced at a later time if done in good
faith and without intent to defraud and the records are satisfactorily
identified and authenticated by a custodian.
The Library of Virginia cannot accept records for permanent storage on
digital media at this time due to the lack of hardware and software
standards. This policy does not make electronically stored data any less
legal, but does require that all digital records on optical disk meet the
requirements as stipulated in Retention, Maintenance & Disposition of
Digitized Visual Public Records, 1996, The Library of Virginia.
Under Virginia’s version of the Freedom of Information Act “Code” 2.1-342,
public records not exempted by law are required to be made accessible to
Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, all official records shall be open to
inspection and copying by any citizens of this Commonwealth during the regular
office hours of the custodian of such records. . .Official records maintained by a
public body on a computer or other electronic data processing system which are
available to the public under the provisions of this chapter shall be made reasonably
accessible to the public at reasonable cost….Public bodies shall not be required to
create or prepare a particular requested record if it does not already exist. Public
bodies may, but shall not be required to, abstract or summarize information from
official records or convert an official record available in one form into another form
at the request of the citizen. The public body shall make reasonable efforts to reach
an agreement with the requester concerning the production of the records
requested. Failure to make any response to a request for records shall be a
violation of this chapter and deemed a denial of the request.
Areas of concern regarding access to electronically stored data and digital
public records are: 1) segregating exempt and nonexempt information, 2)
providing long-term access, 3) ability to make copies.
Digital images can store information exempted from public disclosure on the
same media as information open to public access. In many forms of imaging
media such as WORM optical disks or CD-ROM systems, it may be
impractical to retain separate systems for data which is privacy protected
and that which is open to the public. A brand new disk would have to be
created by copying on to it only the information open to the public (this disk
would be used for public access and the original disk would be retained as
the office use copy only), a paper printout of only the requested information
could be made or a software solution could be used which allows certain
fields or records to be masked from view or access can also be restricted by
limiting the database index to only the records which are open to the public.
However, whatever solution is used must maintain the integrity of the record
and ensure that the material exempted from disclosure is not either
inadvertently or intentionally made available.
Records custodians are committed to providing access to these records for
as long as they are required to be maintained as stated in the retention and
disposition schedules authorized by the Library of Virginia. Digital imaging
and optical storage technologies are still relatively new. Hardware, software,
and storage media change frequently and national standards do not cover
most imaging system components. Custodians are required to transfer
information from current or old systems to new ones in order to ensure
accessibility of that information. This requirement ensures that records are
not lost before their retention periods are met or their usefulness has ended.
Custodians who are committed to public access must ensure that copying
policies are fair and equitable to all requestors, including those without
access to technology or technological knowledge. Records custodians may
make copies of records in a requested form if the record already exists in
that form or can be easily made available in that form. Electronically stored
data and optical storage media provide for copies to be produced in paper,
magnetic, as well as optical formats, making it easier to provide a record
copy on a media acceptable to the requester. In optical or magnetic form,
the data may be meaningless without the proper hardware and software to
Although the “Code of Virginia” explicitly states that electronic and optical
image copies have the same legal status as any other original records,
certain precautions reduce the chance that these electronically stored public
records will be challenged as evidence.
There are several basic issues on which the legal acceptance of electronically
stored images may be challenged: 1) the relevance of the information to the
case, 2) the accuracy of the information offered as evidence and 3) the
creation of the public record by a public agency during the regular course of
business. The final arbiter of both one and two is the presiding judge.
However, in the second issue concerning accuracy, by following certain
practices the evidence can be demonstrated to be accurate to the
satisfaction of most judges and legal counsel.
These practices are:
1) Operations which create the public records are part of the daily routine
2) A procedural manual is created which describes how the information
is imaged, maintained, retrieved and stored. The system’s hardware
and software characteristics should be fully documented. The
documentation should indicate the type, brand names, and model
numbers of all hardware components including recording media which
are used in the system together with the dates that specific
components were put into or taken out of service. Technical
specification sheets provided by vendors will typically provide
sufficient detailed information to satisfy documentation requirements.
Documentation should also include a description of all systems
software and application programs used in document imaging. The
software descriptions should indicate version numbers and
implementation dates for all software upgrades. If application
software was developed on a customized basis, flowcharts, source
code, and other developmental documentation should be included.
Document scanning, data entry, and quality control procedures should
be fully documented for each optical storage application. Written
instructions shall be prepared for operators of all equipment used in
document scanning, index data entry, and image inspection. Periodic
training and routine checks should be instituted by managers to ensure
that the procedures are known and being followed.
3) Access control procedures, such as password protection and privilege
authorization, should be fully documented. A list of all users and their
access privileges should be maintained and audited regularly. The list
should differentiate users who are authorized to record or edit images
from those who can only read or retrieve them. If changes are made
to documents stored in an imaging system, those changes should be
recorded on a list along with the person who performed the change
and reasons for doing so.
4) An audit should be performed periodically which includes a review of
all informational changes, practices, and system security.
5) Copies made from the system are verified against the original image
and can be authenticated by the custodian of the records or the
6) There is at least one person designated as the system administrator
with responsibility for system operation. This person would be able
to give knowledgeable testimony about the system if required in a
court of law.
7) The imaging system is periodically checked for meeting all relevant
national and state standards.
Properly designed, implemented and maintained information technology
systems are capable of producing records that are more reliable and accurate
than paper-based systems. By following these practices, copies made from
an imaging system or the original electronically created record itself will
stand an excellent chance of being accepted as evidence in legal
Additional information can be obtained by purchasing the following technical
“Performance Guideline for the Legal Acceptance of Records Produced by
Information Technology Systems: Part I: Performance Guideline for
Admissibility of Records Produced by Information Technology Systems in
Evidence” (ANSI/AIIM TR31-1992).
“Performance Guidelines for Acceptance by Government Agencies of
Records Produced by Information Technology Systems: Part 2: Acceptance
by Federal or State Agencies” (ANSI/AIIM TR31-2 1993)
“Performance Guidelines for the Legal Acceptance of Records Produced by
Information Technology Systems: Part 3: User Guidelines” (ANSI/AIIM
“Performance Guideline for the Legal Acceptance of Records Produced by
Information Technology Systems Part 4: Model Act and Rule” (ANSI/AIIM
These four technical reports are available for $30 members, $39
Association for Information and Image Management
1100 Wayne Avenue, Suite 1100
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-5699
Tel: 301 587-8202
Fax: 301 587-2711
Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) International Home
Other pertinent publications which can be obtained from the Library of
Virginia or from the State Council on Information Management (CIM) include:
The Library of Virginia
“Guidelines for Managing Electronic Records”, The Library of Virginia,
“Maintenance, Retention and Disposition of Electronic Public Records –
Guidelines”, 1991, The Library of Virginia.
“Retention, Maintenance & Disposition of Digitized Visual Public
1996, The Library of Virginia
“Virginia Public Records Act”, Sections 42.1-76 through 42.1-91 of
the “Code of Virginia”.
Council on Information Management
COV ITRM Guideline 91-2, “Imaging”, 7/8/91, Council on Information
COV ITRM Policy 90-1, “Information Security Program”, Revised
12/9/91, Council on Information Management.
COV ITRM Standard 90-2, “Contingency Management: Procedures for
Development, Implementation, and Review”, 12/14/90, Council on
COV ITRM Standard 91-1, “Information Security”, 12/9/91, Council
on Information Management.
RETENTION, MAINTENANCE & DISPOSITION
OF DIGITIZED VISUAL PUBLIC RECORDS
Information contained in public records must be accessible
for administrative, fiscal, legal, and historical purposes.
It is the responsibility of The Library of Virginia to
develop and monitor the adherence to policies which ensure
that public records are accessible, protected and preserved
for future generations. Under the Virginia Public Records
Act, Code 42.1 et.al., the definition
of a public record is:
…recorded information that documents a transaction or
activity by or with any public officer, agency or
employee of state government or its political
subdivisions. Regardless of physical form or
characteristic, the recorded information is a public
record if it is produced, collected, received or
retained in pursuance of law or in connection with the
transaction of public business.
The medium on which such information is recorded may
be, but is not limited to paper, film magnetic, optical
or solid state devices which can store electronic
signals, tapes, Mylar, linen, silk or vellum. The
general types of records may be, but are not limited to
books, papers, letters, documents, printouts,
photographs, films, tapes, microfiche, microfilm,
photostats, sound recordings, maps, drawings and any
representations held in computer memory.
With increasing frequency, digital technology is being
utilized to create, capture and store public records. A
digital record can be text in a binary code like ASCII,
scanned images in a bit-mapped form, sound or video. A
digitized record is the product of a computer imaging
system which captures a record by scanning or by creating
it as binary code which is translated by the computer into
human readable language. Both of these types of records can
then be stored on various media such as magnetic tape,
optical disk and CD-ROM.
The information on these types of media can only be
read using an imaging system which may require proprietary
computer hardware and software. These imaging systems are
used to reduce the handling and storage of records on paper
or microfilm and to increase accessibility to the
information in them. They can be extremely efficient in
handling heavily used files accessed by many people at
However, current industry standards for scanned records
have still not reached a common level of general acceptance.
Although there are many technical standards which have been
issued and are being worked on by various standard
organizations such as the Association of Information and
Image Management (AIIM), the American National Standards
Institute (ANSI), and the International Organization for
Standardization (ISO), there is still no general consensus
or standard on a universal format for reading digital
documents which allows them to be accessed on any vendorşs
imaging system. In addition to the compatibility problem,
there is no agreement on the permanence of the media itself.
According to various sources, longevity of digital media can
range from as little as 5 years to as long as 200 years.
The durability of digital media is compounded by the
problems of hardware and software obsolescence. Usually,
computer hardware has a life expectancy of 5 years or less
and versions of software change yearly. This poses
significant problems for the retention of and accessibility
to future public records. The following policy exists to
minimize the risk of premature disposition of public
records, to ensure their long-term accessibility, to retain
the ability to make copies, and to preserve them for future
POLICY FOR THE
RETENTION, MAINTENANCE & DISPOSITION
OF DIGITIZED VISUAL PUBLIC RECORDS
1. Digital imaging systems that create, use, maintain, and
store the record (original) copy of any public record
shall meet the following minimum requirements:
a. Label and index any digital record in such a
manner as to enable authorized personnel to
retrieve, protect, and implement approved
dispositions for all records in the system.
b. Provide a standard interchange format, when
required, to permit the exchange of records and
information between agencies, departments or
personnel that utilize different software and/or
c. Provide for an approved disposition of the
records, including when appropriate, their
transfer to the Library of Virginia (LVA) on
archival film or alkaline paper. Permanent public
digitized records which are required to be
transferred to the LVA as authorized in the
appropriate retention and disposition schedule,
are to be transferred either on archival film or
alkaline paper. Film meeting archival standards
can be created directly from the digital images by
various vendors. The digital image can then be
retained for use in the office environment and the
film can be stored as a permanent backup copy.
1. The output onto film or paper must conform to
the indexing scheme used by the computer
program and must be produced in a logical,
sequential order. A hard copy index must
accompany the paper printout or film copy.
2. In some cases, the intrinsic value of the
original record as determined by the LVA, may
require the transfer of the original record
to the LVA for permanent retention.
3. Disposal of any originals after
digitalization or of original digital media
must comply with the requirements in this
policy and also with the established
retention and disposition schedules using the
RM-3 form (Certificate of disposal) which is
available from the Records Management
Division, Library of Virginia.
d. The LVA will accept digital media for storage only
as a security backup copy, not as a permanent
2. Agencies, local governments, and political subdivisions
shall ensure that no information is lost prior to the
expiration of stipulated retention periods due to
changing technology or deterioration of the storage
media by converting such media and taking any other
action as required to provide compatibility with
existing hardware and software. The migration
strategy used for upgrading equipment shall be
documented and include the following:
a. Periodically recopy to the same digital media as
required and/or transfer all digital records to
new media. Digital data shall be recopied as
necessary or when the error rate becomes
unacceptable when tested. The digital media kept
in storage should be sampled a minimum of every
two years in order to determine if any degradation
has occurred. The sampling method used should be
similar to that used for film in section 4 of
ANSI/AIIM MS45 Recommended Practice for
Inspection of Stored Silver Gelatin Microforms for
Evidence of Deterioration.
b. When systems are upgraded or replaced, the newer
system shall be backward compatible with the
existing system or as an alternative, all records
and applicable indexes in the existing system
shall be transferred/converted to the newer
3. Rewritable and WORM optical disks, CD-ROM, or other
types of digital storage media may be utilized for
maintaining public records regardless of their
retention periods provided that the above items, and
those following, are adhered to:
a. Ensure proper documentation procedures and audit
controls are established and maintained. This
documentation should be in the form of a manual
(if in digital form it should be accessible
through printout to hard copy) which includes
system security, authorized access privileges
(read and write), and a record of all rewrites,
changes, additions, and deletions to any original
record. The latter should be maintained for the
life of the record. Audit control points include
Control points in an image system where audit
techniques can be applied to help identify areas of
potential exposure in a typical LAN-based image system
are illustrated in figure 1 below.
Control point 1 – If the original paper or
microform is kept for legal …