What is a Record?

Records are defined as evidence of and information about business activities and transactions, usually retained for administrative or historical value. At Duke, university records document the history and business of Duke University. These records may include paper documents, born-digital records, digitized records, and email. Some records may have significant historical value, and need to be retained permanently. Other records have business or legal value and need to be retained for a specific period time until the University has met federal, legal, or business obligations.

Any Duke employee may create a university record. While historically records were centrally managed, with the advent of electronic records and digital recordkeeping, every employee bears some responsibility for following records management guidelines.

What is Records Management?

Records Management is a field of management which governs how organizations create, receive, store, use, access, and dispose of records, regardless of whether records are in paper or electronic format.

The ultimate goal of the records management program is to get the right information to the right people at the right time, ensuring that employees have the information and records necessary to be successful in their roles at Duke while also limiting potential liabilities and reducing costs by destroying eligible records as needed.

The Records Management program at Duke provides University offices with guidelines and practices to assist them with retaining and disposing of university records.

Why Should You Care about Records Management?

As a Duke employee, you have a myriad of tasks to accomplish. Why should you worry about managing your records?

Good records management is critical to maintain efficient business practices and procedures. By disposing of eligible records, either by defensible destruction or by transferring records to the Archives on a regular basis, offices can free up valuable space. Whether the space saved is physical or digital, departments can save money by implementing records management best practices. Additionally, Duke employees may be asked to produce records to assist with legal proceedings, audit, or review. Knowing what records you are creating and where they are located will help you eliminate wasted time and energy looking for information.

Following records management guidelines also helps offices protect personal information at the University. Many university records, such as student records or health records, are protected by the respective FERPA or HIPAA restrictions, which can limit access to documents. Offices should follow the records management guidelines to ensure that confidential information is protected and access is limited appropriately. By ensuring that eligible records are correctly disposed or properly protected, offices can limit their exposure and risk in a potential security breach.

Finally, following records management guidelines will help you preserve the history and story of your office. By identifying permanent records and transferring them to the Archives for storage, you are preserving your department’s valuable history and ensuring that it will be available for research in future generations.

Records Retention:

Some records which have historical, legal, or administrative value to the university are considered permanent records. These records should be transferred to the Archives when no longer actively used in your office/department.

Other records have business value to the university, but do not require permanent retention. These records should be retained for the minimum retention period listed in the appropriate guideline and then destroyed as needed.

To identify permanent and temporary records, please review the appropriate records retention guidelines. 

Access to Records:

Users may access permanent university records stored with the Archives in the Rubenstein Library Reading Room.

Access to University records may be limited. Please note that Duke administrative records, which include records of university departments, deans, and other official university officers, are automatically restricted for 25 years. Board of Trustee records, including meeting minutes, are automatically restricted for 50 years. During the restriction period, access to these records will only be granted with the permission of the department or the Board of Trustees, respectively. For more information on this and other access restrictions, please visit the Access to Records webpage.

How Do I Get Started?

First, review the Records Retention Guidelines available online and identify the records that you are creating in your office. Then implement the guidelines by destroying temporary records when eligible and transferring permanent records as appropriate. If you have records that are not covered by the guidelines, please contact the Records Manager at 684-8066.

Please note that any investigation, legal action or proceeding, audit or program review that is forthcoming or in progress will suspend the application of the retention guidelines until the investigation, review, or proceeding is concluded.