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Records Management

Frequent Asked Questions



RM is new to me. How do I begin?

Contact the Records Manager for advice of any sort.  If you aren't sure what to keep and what not to keep, or the records require extensive sorting and culling, then schedule an appointment with the Records Manager for a records survey. Any records created or processed by your office are eligible for a records survey.  A records survey identifies vital records, nonrecords, records management-eligible records, and archival records; it also makes recommendations about records retention and disposition. The next step is to start boxing up the temporary inactive records you have identified to transfer to the Records Center.

Which records are eligible for records management?

Inactive temporary records. Inactive temporary reocrds are records that are no longer actively used, have fulfilled their original purposes, but are being retained for a finite period for other administrative, fiscal, legal or historical purposes.

The state sets the basic guidelines for the retention and disposition of records. General Schedule 111 (GS 111), which provides the retention schedule for the records of state universities, and all other retention schedules are available online, as well as from the University Records Manager, who is happy to help explain exactly how to decode the state retention vocabulary.  It is incumbent on university schools, offices, or divisions to contact the Records Manager to initiate record management for eligible records.


Are there records that  should not be sent to records management? 

Yes.  They include

  • Vital Records include any records still are under active use or are otherwise needed for daily operations. You must continue to retain all active (vital) records until they become inactive.
  • Nonrecords may be disposed of once you no longer need them; the George Mason University Record Center cannot store nonrecords.
  • Archival records must be maintained permanently. The George Mason University Archives, operated by the Special Collections & Archives Department (SC&A), University Libraries, is the campus repository for archival records. Contact the Records Manager or other Special Collections staff for advice regarding archival permanent records.

  • Do records management requirements apply only to paper records?

No.  All temporary university records, including electronic records, microforms, and audio-visual materials, are subject to records management.  The Library of Virginia's General Schedule 110 provides a retention guide for electronic records. If it is necessary to reformat or migrate university records (such as converting electronic data to microfilm, paper to microfilm, or paper/film information to optical disk), please refer to the Library of Virginia's guidelines on Records Reformatting Options

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What about born-digital records?

According to the Library of Virginia's Electronic Records Guidelines, "Information maintained in electronic format does not have a different records status just because it is electronic." Electronic records are subject to the records retention schedule that applies to how the record is used: email is classified as correspondence, an electronic travel request has the same retention as paper travel documentation, etc.

According to recently passed amendments to the Virginia Public Records Act, an electronic record is "a public record whose creation, storage, and access require the use of an automated system or device.  Ownership of the hardware, software, or media used to create, store, or access the electronic record has no bearing on a determination of whether such record is a public record" and each state agency, such as Mason is "responsible for ensuring that its public records are preserved, maintained, and accessible throughout their lifecycle, including converting and migrating electronic records as often as necessary so that information is not lost due to hardware, software, or media obsolescence or deterioration. Any public official who converts or migrates an electronic record shall ensure that it is an accurate copy of the original record. The converted or migrated record shall have the force of the original." Contact the Records Manager to discuss strategies to manage your electronic records.

What type of boxes should I use to pack up my records?

Records Management will provide you with free records center boxes. Records center boxes are the only type of boxes in which records can be stored in the George Mason University Records Center. Safety and storage reasons make it mandatory that all boxes in the Records Center be of a uniform size. If any non-record center boxes are sent to Records Management, they will be returned, and you will be asked to repack your records into record center boxes.

Is there a charge for record center boxes?

No.  They are free. Records center boxes are provided at no cost by the Records Management Office to any office or academic unit that has inactive records that are ready for records management.

How much does a record center box hold?

A records center box (15"x12.5"x10") holds approximately one-half of a filing cabinet drawer.  Whenever possible, only place a single type of records in each box. Please do not put any hanging file folders in records center boxes; the metal hangers destroy the boxes.

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How do I obtain labels for the record center boxes?

Contact the Records Manager  for a paper copy of the box label form, or download labels. Please fill out the label completely.

What do I do with the box labels?
  • Make a total of three sets of the box labels: 
    1. one set to attach to the boxes;
    2. a second set to forward to Records Management (MSN 2FL); and
    3. a third set to retain for your records.

  • Affix the box labels to one of the short sides of the box's (12.5” x 10”) sides--the sides with handles, so that the labels will be clearly visible when the boxes are stacked in the Records Center.

What's next after I have boxed and labeled my records?

  • Mail  one copy of the completed box labels to University Records Manager, at MSN 2FL or  fax to the attention of the Records Manager at: 3-8911
  • If you have an inventory or spreadsheet of the box contents, please send a copy along with the box labels to the Records Manager. Retain another copy for your files. 
  • Be sure to note:
  • Where the boxes are located (building and room number), for pick-up.
  • If there are any special rules governing any of the records, such as the Privacy Act (FERPA), or factors that may require retention of the records for longer than usual.
  • The name, telephone number,  and e-mail address of the contact person.

Am I required to transport my boxes to the Records Center?

If you have a small number of boxes, RM staff will pick up your boxes in person. In the case of large quantities of boxes, the Records Manager contacts Physical Plant Work Control to arrange transportation of the boxes to the University Records Center.  If you provide your e-mail address, a copy of the work order will be e-mailed to you from Work Control.

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How long must a temporary university record be retained?

As long as the appropriate retention schedule specifies. Refer to General Schedule 111 for information regarding mandatory retention time periods before the disposal of university records can take place.  If you have unique records, or if there are special circumstances that make it necessary to retain your records beyond the normal retention period (such as records involving in an ongoing or pending lawsuit, records with special audit requirements, and certain records involving federal funds), please contact the Records Manager so a customized retention schedule can be devised for the records in question. 

After all requirements have been met, including the completion of any pending audits or litigation, then the disposal of university records can take place.

Why can't my records be retained longer than the general schedule specifies?

Unless there are special circumstances rules that make it necessary to retain your records beyond the normal retention period, temporary inactive records should be disposed of promptly and in accordance with the appropriate disposition schedule issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  There are disadvantages, including storage costs and also certain legal risks, associated with random and/or undocumented divergence from a records management schedule.  Please notify the Records Manager in advance if you will be sending any records for records management that have special scheduling or disposition requirements.

Can I borrow a record back after it has  been transported to the Records Center?

Yes. There is a process for the retrieval of records. Contact the Records Manager.


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University Libraries | Special Collections & Archives | Records Management

Fenwick Library, Room C204. MSN 2FL. TEL 703.993.2201. FAX 703.993.8911. Email